Horizon Health now provides sacred medicines to patients in seven New Brunswick Hospitals. The medicines offered are traditionally used in smudging ceremonies, and each hospital is equipped with a guide for how to perform a smudging ceremony.
The seven hospitals will now have sweet grass, sage and cedar at their facilities to provide ceremonial smudging to calm and ease anxiety of Indigenous patients before a medical procedure.
Shelley Francis, co-chair of the health network’s Indigenous liaison committee says these medicines are essential for the cultural needs of Indigenous people in health care. She has been working towards providing this care for the community for over 30 years.
“It’s pretty much the highlight of my career to see the transformation of the health-care system,” Francis shares in an interview to CBC.
The process for bringing this initiative into the hospitals has been a challenging one. Horizon Health has been working towards an official smudging policy in their hospitals for about a year and a half, but there is a lot to the process. It requires support from local fire departments and Indigenous leaders across the country.
This policy has the potential to lead to allowing the fourth sacred medicine, tobacco, in hospitals as well.
“This medicine helps to ground us and helps provide healing for us so that maybe we can be strong in helping somebody else,” Francis shares.
Offering these services in the general hospitals is a step in the right direction towards meeting the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation commission.
Number 22 of the 94 calls to action offered in the 2015 commission states : We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.
“I think this is a great step forward in understanding that there could be possible needs beyond Western medicine,” Francis said.
Locally, Sault Ste Marie offers similar services through the local band resources:
Garden River offers traditional healing methods at the Dan Pines Healing Lodge.
The Sault Ste Marie Indian Friendship Centre has a variety of services available to ALL Indigenous peoples and their families through N’Mninoeyaa Health Access Centre.
Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services also has a number of resources for Indigenous people along the North Shore seeking traditional healing knowledge.
Non Dway Gamig is a Health Care resource through Batchewana First Nation for local residents.