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“Our people: we are responsible for each other and ourselves”

– Sugpiaq/Alutiiq Value [1]

Last updated May 2021

What is Self-Care?

Self-care means taking care of the whole self − physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is the foundation on which we build our care and love for the world. Without a strong foundation − where we learn to identify our needs and honor them − we may feel drained and find it hard to show compassion for others.

Practicing self-care and self-compassion can help grow our mental resilience, which can have a big impact on our quality of life, relationships with others, and how much energy we have to give to the world.

Self-care is a fluid concept, meaning that it looks different from person to person. Some people might see self-care as eating ice cream while watching Netflix, taking a bubble bath, lighting a scented candle, or going out for a jog or to the gym. But did you know that it is possible to incorporate culture into self-care?

Indigenizing Self-Care

In the process of North American colonization, many Indigenous peoples were banned from practicing traditional forms of self-care. Today, the traditional knowledge and worldviews that were once undermined by colonizers are being recognized as very valuable as more and more researchers find that Indigenous self-care leads to better health.

For Indigenous communities and our non-Native allies, engaging in certain traditional practices can have a deeply healing effects.

Traditional Healing Practices

Plant Medicine

The act of harvesting, grinding and creating traditional medicines made from plants is a great way to get the body moving and to spend some time outdoors! Different berries, flowers, trees, and other plants have different soothing properties. Check out this page on how to harvest a plant, called Devil’s Club, to make a joint-soothing salve. Other plants, like sage, are harvested to help heal or cleanse the mind, emotions, body or spirit. What kinds of plant medicine do you see in your community?

Blessed Water

Water is an important and sacred element in many Native communities. Combining the important significance of water with personal religious views to create sanctified, or sacred, water may significantly help to ease any emotional or spiritual worries. Ask an adult or elder how water was traditionally made sacred for personal or ceremonial use in your community! 

Traditional Dance

Traditional dance gatherings are typically held for celebrations, but that doesn’t mean practicing is off the table! Practicing traditional dance is a great way to get the body moving while learning the moves, stories and language of the community. Try joining a local practice group! Or, take a look at some videos on YouTube. Here’s one video to start: Tarvarnauramken: Blessings in a Time of Crisis

Honoring the Past

Understanding the way that Indigenous elders and ancestors lived can lead to a deeper understanding of the self. In many Native communities, newly born babies are given the names of people who recently passed away to signify that these people are ‘born again’. Understanding the way our community’s ancestors lived may also help us learn about and heal from intergenerational trauma.


BCcampus. (n.d.). Section 1: Understanding Indigenization. Pulling together: A guide for curriculum developers. Reference:

Southern New Hampshire University [SNHU]. (2020). What is Self-Care and Why is It Important for You? Newsroom. Reference:,is%20meant%20to%20be%20enjoyed.

[1] UAF. (2021). Alaska Native Values for Curriculum. Alaska Native cultures. Reference:

United Nations. (n.d.). Culture. Mandated areas. Reference:

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