5 Questions with Katsistohkwí:io Jacco, Research Trainee for the Making it Work Project

Katsistohkwí:io is a former staff member of PAN.

We’re happy to introduce Katsistohkwí:io Jacco, who has recently joined the Making it Work Research Project as Research Trainee. Katsistohkwí:io is currently completing her Masters in Political Science and a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Nationhood at the University of Victoria. Read the Meet the People at PAN series.


What first piqued your interest in the HIV/ hepatitis C sector?

My interest in all aspects of human health came about recently in both my professional and academic careers. I am currently a graduate student at UVic studying Political Science, and my research interests are highly concentrated on Indigenous health. As an Indigenous person, my own personal research interests in this sector has led me to take interest in advocacy work for the improvement of the challenging health conditions of which Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by.

When I first learned about the mandate and functions of the Pacific AIDS Network and the Making it Work Project, I felt that it was a project that was engaged in advocacy work that aligns with my values and interests. I was intrigued to learn more about HIV and hepatitis C as health challenges, but also to get involved in a project that seeks to contribute to the improvement of people living with these health conditions to access better services, and overall, strive to improve the quality of their lives.


What role do you think HIV and hepatitis C research plays in the “real world”?

I believe that research on HIV and hepatitis C illuminates the ongoing inequities in both health issues as well as the health care system, as well as the ongoing stigmatization of both of these health conditions. I also feel that by contributing to research on HIV and hepatitis C, there is opportunity to make real, profound changes in the lives of those who live with these health conditions. It is important to include people with lived experience as well as support persons in this type of research in order to produce profound and positive changes in the real world.


How do you engage the community in your work?

Prior to returning to academia to study for my Masters at UVic, I was employed by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke as a Political Project Leader. Kahnawà:ke is my home community, and is located just outside of Montreal. In this role, I was responsible for several projects that involved community engagement, such as co-coordinating a plan of action for those affected by the Indian Day School settlement, which has had lasting impacts on mental and even physical health for many elders and other people in my community. It was during this time where I acquired so much valuable experience in engaging with community members to get their feedback on issues that had direct impacts on their lives.

Through these experiences, I believe that the most effective way to engage community in my work is to allow the actual process of engagement and data collection to be led by the group that you seek to engage with. For myself as a researcher, this means that I must be adaptable and flexible to the schedule of the target group/community, allow the target group/community to choose the setting in which they would feel comfortable to participate (i.e. open community engagement sessions, small group discussions, one-on-one interviews, kitchen table discussions with family, etc.), and rewarding or compensating the target group for their valuable time and contributions to the research.

I believe that when you allow the target group or community you seek to engage with to direct this process, it gives them senses of comfortability, trust and empowerment, all of which are essential for positive relationship building and overall participation.


If you had unlimited funds, which areas of research would you invest in?

I would definitely invest an unlimited amount of funds in researching mechanisms to restore traditional food practices for Indigenous nations throughout Canada. As we are currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that most people living in Canada, including Indigenous peoples, do not have the skills to be fully self-sufficient in terms of securing food to feed themselves and their families. I believe that it is now more important than ever to research and create innovative programs that encourage the revival of ancient food practices and to empower a new generation of people by exposing them to these skills and teachings early on in life.


If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with?

A natural talent that I wish I could be gifted with is plant and natural medicine identification. I really enjoy spending time outdoors and exploring, and as I have recently moved to BC, much of the natural wildlife and plants are unfamiliar to me. I always wish that I had the knowledge and ability to identify all of the plants and wild foods I come across. It would be really convenient and helpful to have this as a natural gift, not only for my own personal knowledge and consumption, but to be able to pass this knowledge on to others.