Aboriginal Cultural Room In Wetaskiwin Hospital

Pipestone Flyer

Driving approximately 20 km south of Wetaskiwin on Highway 2A the green highway sign will indicate you are entering the community of Maskwacis. The community is comprised of 6097 residents living on the Samson reserve and 1685 off-reserve; 3334 in Ermineskin and 950 off reserve; 1714 in Louis Bull and 395 off-reserve and 746 in Montana and 217 off reserve. Many of the 11,891 aboriginal neighbours living on the reserves, their relatives or their friends seek access to health services in Wetaskiwin. http://www.aboriginal.alberta.ca/InteractiveMap.cfm.

On February 5th, 2015 representatives and voices from both worlds came together in the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre to participate in a ceremony including a traditional Aboriginal pipe ceremony to officially open the newly dedicated Aboriginal Cultural room in the Wetaskiwin Hospital. The room will provide a place of spiritual healing for Aboriginal patients and their families.

Claudette Yellowbird, Aboriginal Health Coordinator in the Wetaskiwin Hospital stresses the importance of having a space such as this. “Having a place like this was a major request from the First Nations clients, families and staff. Before, staff would try to provide an available space for smudging and meditation and give families a place to have quiet debriefing time with their loved ones. This is a historic moment for us here at the Hospital, especially for our First Nations people.”

Planning for the space began in the summer of 2014 following collaborative efforts between the Hospital, the Aboriginal Health Program’s Central Zone team and the federally funded Maskwacis Health Services.

Brenda Zilkie, Manager at the Wetaskiwin Hospital places a great deal of importance on the Aboriginal Cultural Room. “We are very pleased to be able to show our support and respect for the health and traditions of our surrounding Aboriginal communities through the dedication of this space. It is exciting to see that the Aboriginal people we serve will have a safe space where traditional cultural values and beliefs can be practised.”

Tracy Lee, Aboriginal Health Lead with the Alberta Health Services’ Aboriginal Program in AHS Central Zone understands the need for such a space. “Aboriginal populations believe health is holistic and comprised of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Aboriginal families are large and cultural adoptions between families can make the family even larger. This room will allow those families to provide support in a culturally meaningful way.

It can be a bit of a culture shock to Aboriginal patients when they walk into a hospital, so having this room here also helps us in creating a culturally safe home away from home. This room is a place that can help provide a balance between the highly clinical world of a hospital and spiritual wellbeing for patients.”

All the representatives and guests at the official opening ceremony were united about the importance of having the Cultural Room in the Hospital. The room is strategically located in a quiet zone of the Hospital. It is tastefully decorated with Aboriginal artwork and comfortable furniture that provides an appropriate setting where patients and their families can partake in traditional ceremony and prayer. The room will be accessible 24 hours a day through nursing staff as well as through Aboriginal Health coordinator, Claudette Yellowbird.

Patients in the Wetaskiwin Hospital now have a space where they can smudge (the traditional practice of burning dried herbs) and to pray in private with their families and friends.

Understanding Aboriginal smudging

As the smoke rises, it becomes the messenger, carrying our prayer words and thoughts to the Spirit World, where the prayers will be heard and processed by the Grandfather Spirits to our Creator. The connection (joining) is to try and create a balance between human activities and natural element process. The purpose of the smudge is to take away or lift any negativity that might interrupt the praying process. A participant should remain focused and concentrate so the negative energy form the hands, mouth, eyes, ears and body are lifted away. The aroma of the burning medicines stimulates our brain to produce a natural healing process to the mind, body, spirit and emotions. When the smudging ceremony is over, your expectations are to be protected from any negativity and a sense of wellbeing.

The Pipe Ceremony

The Cree Elders say, ‘the understanding and significance is that the pipe is the messenger that opens the connection with the spirit world’. The pipe must be treated and handled with great humility and great respect because it symbolizes the unity, peace and harmony. The pipe ceremony is a sacred ritual to seek blessings upon a selected place or activity. The pipe ceremony is a link between the earth and sky and a reminder that the bond between the humans and elements (fire, water, air and earth) is not broken. The pipe is kept in a sacred bundle that is owned by the pipe carrier who is usually a person who is worthy, has knowledge of ceremonies, conducts prayer lodges, and is recognized by the spirit world. The ‘pipeman’ (Ospwakannewiniw) is allowed to open the bundle to prepare for the ceremony. The pipe ceremony participants must place a high value on modesty to understand and respect the traditions/customs of the pipe carrier.

Late 1800’s and Aboriginals practising medicine in Wetaskiwin (Trust and Caring History of Wetaskiwin Hospital)

The natives had themselves always practiced a traditional medicine, which the white settlers would avail themselves of in times of need. Native and white women alike acted as midwives, learning their trade from experienced midwives or by necessity. The first white child in the Wetaskiwin area, Frances, the daughter of Frank and Margaret Lucas, was delivered with assistance of a native midwife in February, 1885.

Skilled native women helped ensure the safe delivery of many of the newborns until homesteaders’ wives developed the necessary skills. In 1894, Wetaskiwin had is first recognized medical professional, Dr. Edward Sharpe, a graduate of McGill Medical School.

Pictured: The feather was passed around the circle with each of the participants offering comments. Photo by Barry McDonald. See more photos from the event in this week’s paper.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 deaths increase to five

New COVID-19 death in the City of Wetaskiwin despite decrease in active cases.

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Maskwacis RCMP regular members, Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA) members and support staff proudly wore pink in support of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, 2021. Supplied/ Maskwacis RCMP.
Maskwacis RCMP embraces Pink Shirt Day

Maskwacis RCMP engage in virtual presentations with schools on anti-bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Be kind and wear pink for Pink Shirt Day

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Todd Hirsch. (Image: screenshot)
ATB vice president gives financial forecast to Ponoka chamber

Predictions for reopening of the economy and recovery outlined

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

(Canada Post-Special To The News)
Ontario Canada Post worksite hit by major virus outbreak excluded from inspections

Just this year more than 300 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and one person has died

Most Read