Profile in Craft: Nel Wieman 1st Indigenous Female Psychiatrist in Canada

Craftsmanship refers to something made with the highest quality. It requires a distinct mindset and approach. Values like durability, integrity, and calling are often associated with craftsmanship. But it’s more than that. Craftsmanship—to live a life and perform work with craft—is the struggle for individual agency in a world telling us to fit in. More than finding a calling, it is about understanding how to fully utilize ourselves and our unique ability to solve problems of every kind. My goal is build a bridge between the principles of craftsmanship in the traditional sense and apply it to our own lives and work.


Listen to Dr. Cornelia Wieman, Canada's first Indigenous psychiatrist, and current Senior Medical Officer, Mental Health & Wellnessas at FNHA as she speaks about Indigenous perspectives in psychiatry and her own personal story. - via aboriginalhealthVCH

Nel Wieman is one of the survivors of the '60's Scoop'. She was taken from her biological parents at the age of three and adopted by a non-Indigenous family in Ontario. Nel Wieman went on to become the first Indigenous female psychiatrist in Canada.

Nel works with people in intensely distressing periods of their lives. She uses her training, but also who she is as a person to help and support her clients. When she got to medical school she learned she was the first female aboriginal psychiatrist in Canada.

She works at the Center for Addiction and Mental Heath and feels that in order to make an impact “you need to give something of yourself to the interaction.” Her patients are depressed and suicidal and have been in the emergency room for some type of crisis. She works intensely with people over a short period of time and finds her rewards in the gains they are able to make in that time frame.

Nel also teaches at McMasters University where she recruits students into the health sciences professions and helps nurture them through their education. She appreciates hearing people’s stories as it reinforces her culture’s oral tradition.

As she became more aware of indigenous health issues, she became more aware that mental health was a tremendous need. She hoped she could make an impact. Now she meets children in indigenous communities across the country and serves as a model of someone, like themselves, who has walked the path before them. She shows the meaning and importance of creating a path of support and guidance for others.


Christine Haskell’s research focuses on individuals dedicated to the craft of their professions, in pursuit of excellence, sustainability. Craftsmen and women use those principles to raise standards toward a better world. In the Profiles in Craft Series, you’ll find a trove of profiles of intriguing artisans and innovators across the globe that illustrate her research and links to the full articles. Christine’s book Craft Your Life is due in late 2019.