This month, the BC Women’s Indigenous Health program held a totem pole unveiling ceremony to mark its Indigenous Outdoor Sacred Healing Space.
The outdoor sacred space provides a dedicated area for women and their families to gather and carry out healing ceremonies of their own traditions and values. It is important to recognize that healing not only encompasses medical treatment, but can also include healing practices that are part of individual cultural traditions.
Patients, staff and community members came out to celebrate the event as a demonstration of BC Women’s commitment to Indigenous Cultural Safety. The event also honoured Cheryl Ward for her vast contributions to Indigenous cultural safety. Cheryl played a key role in leading the development of the Provincial Health Services Authority’s (PHSA) San’yas Indigenous cultural safety training program. Since its inception in 2010, over 27,000 British Columbians have taken the training in addition to requests from other health organizations outside of BC seeking to participate.
Cultural safety is to treat people with dignity and respect to ensure they feel accepted and safe from discrimination in health care environments. Chief Robert Joseph of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, spoke at the event and noted that this was a monumental moment and was a step towards Reconciliation. Dr. Jan Christilaw reiterated her and BC Women’s commitment to cultural safety and cultural humility. “It is a continual learning process, in which we can always do more. Our main priority is to provide the best care possible to our patients,” said Dr. Christilaw.
The event closed with Indigenous song and dance to bless the area as a safe refuge for all our patients across all cultural backgrounds.
The totem pole was carved by Indigenous artist Calvin Hunt of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. It characterizes a Woman Warrior adorned with a double-headed serpent that symbolizes protection to represent the Indigenous women and their families who receive care at BC Women’s. The eagle mounted above the totem embodies intelligence, power and extraordinary vision, which is a prevalent crest across the First Nations of BC.
The event was made possible through the support of Central City Foundation and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre Foundation.