Aaron Prosper

Aaron Prosper

Workshop Facilitator

Aaron Prosper is a Mi’kmaq student from the Eskasoni First Nation, enrolled in his third year of the Bachelor of Science (Medical Sciences) program at Dalhousie University. Aaron is currently working as a student research under the supervision of Dr. Amy Bombay of Dalhousie University.

Aaron’s main fields of research include behavioural neuroscience, epigenetics, and indigenous health. He has worked within Mi’kmaw communities as a youth mentoring the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey Red Road Project, the Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselling Association (NADACA), and other Mi’kmaw organizations. Being an ambassador for Mi’kmaq education, culture, and language, and continuously helping to bridge the gaps between the Mi’kmaq communities and mainstream society, Aaron is the President of Campus Affairs for the Dalhousie Indigenous Students Collective (DISC) and sits on a number of committees throughout Dalhousie University, the Halifax Regional Municipality and throughout Nova Scotia. He is also an active Lifeguarding and First Aid Instructor within Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Lifesaving Society, and is an assistant coach of the Team Nova Scotia NAIG swim team.

On his spare time Aaron sings with the Eastern Eagle Singers a Mi’kmaq powwow drum group based out of Sipe’kne’katik First Nation. He also is a researcher in historical Mi’kmaw culture and language.

WORKSHOP TITLE : Epigenetics of Indigenous Mental Health

DESCRIPTION : Epigenetics is a newly developing field of study which is in line with traditional ways of knowing that can be implemented into concepts of “two-eyed seeing”. Epigenetics is the study of phenotypic variations (variations in gene expression) from individual-to-individual that are not as a result of variations within the genetic sequence itself, but as a result in variations within each individual’s environment and how these variations in an individual’s environment effects the way in which genes are expressed. Likewise, many Indigenous peoples share this understanding but in a spiritual sense. That variations in an individual’s environment has an effect on that individual’s ability to express themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and economically. Epigenetic also gives evidence that patterns of gene expression can be passed through generations. The passing on of gene expression patterns is an important concept in understand how intergenerational trauma is manifested through our genomes. Our research takes particular focus on the expression of genes in the brain that effect behaviour, and how environmental cue especially at an early age effect how these genes are expressed later in life. This presentation seeks to help build an understanding between relationship of indigenous ways of knowing and concepts of epigenetics and gives consideration to the ethical challenges of studying epigenetics with Indigenous peoples