BCNU Joins the Call to Declare April 10 BC Indigenous Nurses Day

March 29, 2022
BCNU’s Indigenous Leadership Circle celebrates in honour of Edith Monture, Canada’s first Indigenous nurse

The BC Nurses' Union is proud to join the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canadian Nurses Foundation, First Nations Health Authority and Thomson Rivers University with an endorsement from Canadian Federation of Nursing Unions in declaring and celebrating the inaugural BC Indigenous Nurses Day on April 10 in honour of Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, Canada's first Indigenous nurse.

In 2020, during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the New Zealand Nurses' Organization (NZNO) stated, "the historical figures whom we choose to venerate say a lot about who we are" becoming the first national nursing organization to publicly choose not to celebrate Florence Nightingale on May 12. At the height of the British Empire, Nightingale played an active role in colonial legacies.

On April 10, BCNU's Indigenous Leadership Circle will honour Monture, this remarkable matriarch of Indigenous nursing, by co-hosting activities to celebrate Indigenous Nurses Day 2022. In doing so, the union celebrates the contribution of all past and present Indigenous nurses while consciously disconnecting from International Nurses Day on May 12.

Born on April 10, 1890, in Six Nations of the Grand River, Monture attended nursing school in the United States because of the racist and colonial policies that denied her access to nursing schools in Canada. At the time, had Monture been able to pursue higher education in Canada, the federal government would have revoked her Indian status, leaving her without her identity as an Indigenous woman.

A student at Rochelle Nursing School in New York, Monture graduated in 1914 at the top of her class. During World War I, Monture was stationed in France where she provided nursing care to wounded soldiers. Following the war, Monture returned to her Six Nations community and continued to work as a nurse, midwife and became a mother to four children. Monture died in April 1996, one week shy of her 106th birthday.

By understanding the past, we gain critical insight and a richer understanding of how the relationship between nursing and Indigenous peoples has evolved. BCNU stands with Indigenous nurses in addressing truths, reconciliation, calls to action, anti-racism work, cultural humility and safety in our union and workplaces.

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