‘Indigenizing space’: Deninu Kųę́ medical student turns heart into art

Laney Beaulieu is an advocate for Indigenous health care and hopes to one day return home to serve her community in Fort Resolution. (Photo courtesy of Laney Beaulieu)

Inspired by the heart – Indigenous medical student brings nature back into the body through a passion project.

Laney Beaulieu is a 21-year-old student from Fort Resolution and she’s in her first year of medical school.

Beaulieu stresses the importance of having Indigenous imagery in medical settings to create safe, inclusive spaces for everybody.

“I feel like there’s a lot of art in medicine.”

Looking through her textbook, she noticed the human heart shared similarities with rivers and ponds.  So, she decided to blend Indigenous symbology and ideology into her studies.

What started out as a way to relax and “decompress” turned into a passion project for Beaulieu.

“A lot of natives especially in urban centers, and even in small communities, feel isolated and alienated,” she says, “We get mistreated when we go to the hospital and when we go to the doctors, we aren’t really taken as seriously.”

Many residents, she says, have trouble accessing health care, to begin with.

“It would be nice to see things from the community and see things that indigenize the space, would make you feel more comfortable,” she says.

The piece was created digitally and is called Denedzie, which means a person’s heart in Chipewyan, and it highlights Métis flowers, fish, rivers and streams in this form.

Beaulieu is one of the few in her class that identify as Indigenous – she says, it’s a lot of pressure being a young woman, so far away from home pushing this work.

“I feel like I have this really big duty to my community, to do well and to come back and be a good doctor for everybody,” she says.

She says her art is inspired by Norval Morrisseau, a renowned Ojibway artist who founded the Woodland style movement. Woodland art is also known as Medicine Painting, which explores the relationship between all living things.

“When I think about Indigenous health, I think about the entire person… a more holistic approach,” she says.

For Beaulieu that includes community.

“You can’t just heal the individual you have to heal the entire community,” she says, “because they’re not going to be able to thrive unless they’re living in a healthy community.”

The heart, in this case, acts as a host for community, holding a diverse ecosystem in its arteries, valves, and veins.

In the coming months, Beaulieu says she’ll be learning about the respiratory system and hopes to draw up a pair of lungs, sharing similar themes.


About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. On her spare time, you can find her at your local coffee shop writing songs, poetry and prose or at the gym out-lifting men. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com or call 867-766-2552 Ext 108