The Health Centre developed an Indigenous Strategy Committee in 2020 to look at how we can better serve our Indigenous clients and better support Indigenous staff. We conducted a needs assessment and developed a proposal around the idea of forming a working group to create a welcoming environment, strengthen relationships with Indigenous organizations, connect our staff to learning opportunities, and increase awareness about Indigenous programs and services.
In 2021, the Health Centre developed an Inclusion and Anti-Oppression staff committee which the Indigenous Strategy joined as a sub-committee. There are five areas of work which this sub-committee identified:
- Inclusive policy development
- Education and awareness initiatives
- Addressing status card barriers
- Traditional medicine distribution
- Land acknowledgment and commitment to reconciliation.
In the spring of 2023 the Committee rebranded to “All My Relations: Walking Together for Indigenous Health & Wellbeing” to better represent the holistic ethos of the group and it’s work.
“All my relations” is the English equivalent of a familiar phrase among North America’s Indigenous people. It is first a reminder of who we are and of our relationship with both our family and our relatives. It also reminds us of the extended relationship we share with all human beings as well as the of kinship to animals, to the birds, to the fish, to the plants, to all the animate and inanimate forms that can be seen or imagined.
More than that, “all my relations” is an invitation to accept the responsibilities we have within the universal family by living a harmonious life.
Across Ontario, Community Health Centres are rooted in working from a health equity lens. Our Health Equity Charter reminds us that, “To achieve health equity, we commit to collective action to eliminate health inequities and inequitable access to health care, advance better health outcomes and address barriers that prevent certain populations from living a healthy life, including, but not limited to, Indigenous people, Francophones, Black and racialized communities, those who are Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and/or non-binary (2SLGBTQ+), people living with disabilities and/or mental health challenges, isolated seniors, new immigrants and refugees, migrant workers and those without a documented status, people who use drugs and those experiencing homelessness, as well as low-income and underserved communities in both rural and urban areas. We will achieve health equity by improving our own practices, working closely with the communities we serve, challenging other institutions, and facilitating change within the broader community, province and country.”
NEWS & INFORMATION
Six southwestern Ontario First Nations to see provincial cash for Thames stewardship projects (April 14, 2023, Global News)
Indigenous stereotypes are roadblocks to reconciliation (April 13, 2023, The Record)
First Nations researcher exploring psychedelics as healing tool for intergenerational trauma (March 27, 2023, CBC)
Micro galleries highlighting MMIWG stories aim to reconcile through knowledge and art (March 23, 2023, CBC News London)
Expert insight: To improve drinking water quality in First Nation communities, a collaborative approach is important (March 7, 2023, Western News)
EVENTS & ACTIVITIES
The Committee is pleased to present periodic events and activities throughout the year including lunch-and-learns, traditional medicine distribution training, staff and community events as well as programming in collaboration with our community partners. Future events will be posted here as they are confirmed.
Women of the World – Indigenous Women’s Group – April 20, 2023
Drum Making Workshop: A drum is more than an instrument in Indigenous cultures and needs to be respected, just like a living being. Indigenous cultures believe that the spirit of the animal needs to be awakened when using the drum and using it as decoration diminishes its voice. Drums are traditionally made from cedar tree bark and animal hide and tied seven times to represent the seven Indigenous teachings; love, wisdom, courage, respect, honesty, humility and faith. And out of this respect for the animal who gave its life for the drum, it should be played even if a person doesn’t know Indigenous songs. Special thanks to Dan Pelletier of Bear’s Den Native Crafts for leading this extraordinary workshop and for his teachings, to Heather MacDonald and Shelley Ritchie for facilitating and leading the healing circle, and the our colleagues at Argyle for hosting.
Tobacco Tie Making Workshop for Health Centre Leadership – May 4, 2023
Tobacco is one of the four sacred medicines used in many First Nations cultures. There are many different teachings on tobacco, which can vary depending on the community, Elder, or knowledge holder. In a tobacco tie, tobacco is placed in a piece of cloth along with a person’s prayers and intentions and then tied into a small bundle. Tobacco ties can be gifted as a sign of respect, hung on a tree, or laid on the earth or in water to give back to Mother Earth. It can also be put into a fire to allow those intentions to go to the Creator and to Mother Earth.
National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – May 5, 2023
May 5th is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ Peoples (MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+). This day is also known as Red Dress Day with respect to Jaime Black’s REDress art installation which helped inspire the red dress movement. On May 5th, many people across North America hang red dresses in private and public spaces to remember those who are missing and murdered.
For more information and an itinerary of events, please visit us online at: https://lihc.on.ca/mmiwg2s/
Bear Witness Day – May 10, 2023
The Health Centre honours Bear Witness Day, in tribute to Jordan to Jordan River Anderson. Jordan’s love of stuffed bears has made them emblematic of his legacy – Jordan’s Principle: requiring that Indigenous children health care when and where they need it regardless of funding arrangements between the Federal Government and the Provinces. Jordan was born in 1999 with multiple disabilities and stayed in the hospital from birth. When he was 2 years old, doctors said he could move to a special home for his medical needs. However, the federal and provincial governments could not agree on who should pay for his home-based care. Jordan stayed in the hospital until he passed away at the age of 5. In 2007, the House of Commons passed Jordan’s Principle in memory of Jordan. It was a commitment that First Nations children would get the products, services and supports they need, when they need them. Payments would be worked out later.
Today, Jordan’s Principle is a legal obligation, which means it has no end date. While programs and initiatives to support it may only exist for short periods of time, Jordan’s Principle will always be there. Jordan’s Principle will support First Nations children for generations to come. This is the legacy of Jordan River Anderson.
Indigenous Nurses Day (Ontario) – May 14, 2023
On May 14 we celebrate Indigenous Nurses Day. Indigenous Nurses Day highlights the achievements of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis nurses and recognizes their invaluable work improving the health and well-being of Canadians.
Edith Andreson Monture is credited as being the first First Nations woman to become a registered nurse in Canada. Monture was born on April 10, 1890 in Six Nations reserve in Ontario. Unfortunately, she struggled to be accepted into a Canadian nursing school as at the time, First Nations people faced involuntary enfranchisement, which is loss of their Indian status for pursuing higher education.
Due to this, Monture moved to New York and enrolled in the New Rochelle nursing school and graduated first in her class in 1914. Following graduation, she worked in the US as a public health nurse until 1917, when the First World War began. During the war, she volunteered as a nursing sister with the American Expeditionary treating injured soldiers in France.
Following the war, she returned to the US then back to Six Nations in Ontario shortly after, where she worked as nurse and midwife until the 1960s. Monture was also one of the first Indigenous women to gain the right to vote in a Canadian federal election. Sadly, Monture passed away at the age of 105 on April 3, 1996. Monture broke many barriers for nurses, especially BIPOC nurses that came after her.
The Healing Journey Towards Mino-Bimaadiziwin (The Good Life) – June 9, 2023
Dennis Windego is from the traditional lands of the Anishinabeg community of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation in northwestern Ontario. His Anishinabeg name is Zoongwebines, and he is a member of the Lynx clan. Dennis follows the teachings of his late father which guides his decolonizing approach to mental health, addictions, grief, and healing of trauma. He holds an MSW from Laurentian University. He is a former student of St. Margaret’s Indian Residential School in Fort Francis, Ontario. Through his own personal healing journey, coupled with his academic training, he brings his experience and knowledge to assist other survivors in healing of direct and intergenerational trauma. He lives the lifelong wisdom of his late mother’s teaching, “don’t forget who you are and where you come from”.
The Elders: Grandmother’s Voice
Grandmother’s Voice is an Indigenous Women-Lead organization unifying Indigenous voices while welcoming all people from the four directions. The universal wisdom of Grandmothers Voices has been the heart and healing of communities since creation. We are now in a time to reignite and rekindle these understandings and values that have been preserved for the coming faces. Individuals, corporations and organizations in public, private and non-profit sectors, are invited to engage and be in relationship with Grandmother’s Voice to share in the knowledge of the Ancestors and Grandmothers so that collectively we create a new kind of HOPE, HEART and healing for all.
Dennis Windego, with the Grandmothers, will provide a day of exercises and Ancestral knowledge designed to work through and heal activated and re-surfaced colonial and spiritual wounds after recent events in Canada. This history and present colonial processes towards the Original People of this land, continues to reveal trauma not only for Indigenous people, but for the people of this land. It has leached into our society creating a society in trauma, pain, addiction, severe mental health suffering and inequities. the day will move individuals forward in identifying their personal trauma and how it appears in their body through the lens of sacred Indigenous teachings.
Ska-Nah-Doht (from the Oneida words Ska nah: tote which mean “the village stands again”) Village and Museum celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2023. Ska-Nah-Doht was conceived by four educators during a road-trip to Toronto in 1966. It features a recreation Longhouse Village, Heritage Log Cabins, and an indoor museum. Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum is owned and operated by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.
The Village is reflective of those inhabited by the Haudenosaunee along Antler River (or the Thames River) close to 1,000 years ago. Find your way through the palisade maze. Then enter a longhouse and imagine cooking supper in a clay pot over a roaring fire. Pretend to grind corn into flour in a wooden mortar and pestle.
The Village has undergone many changes over the years but, as always, the information we share is based upon knowledge shared with us by local First Nations community members and archaeologists who continue to conduct research into the history of this area 1000 years ago. Though the Village is not built on an actual site, three Haudenosaunee Villages were located within proximity to our recreation in the years 800 to 1200 CE. Two sites, the Kelly site (AfHi-20) and the Yaworski site (AfHi-21), excavated in the early 1980s, are located within Longwoods Road Conservation Area.
National Indigenous History Month – June 2023
In 2009, June was declared National Indigenous History Month in Canada. During this month, we celebrate and honour the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada. This month is also a time for all Canadians to learn about, appreciate and acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples of Canada’s immense contributions, both past and present.
National Indigenous People’s Day – June 21, 2023
On June 21st, we pay special attention to National Indigenous People’s Day, a day for all Canadians to honour and celebrate the legacy, diverse cultures and exceptional contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Although these groups share many similarities, it is important to acknowledge that they each have their own unique heritage, language, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs. National Indigenous Peoples Day was formerly known as National Aboriginal Day when it was established in 1996 through a proclamation signed by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc.
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – August 9, 2023
August 9th is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day is celebrated around the world and marks the date of the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations in 1982. Indigenous Peoples are holders of a vast diversity of unique cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems. There are over 476 million Indigenous Peoples living in 90 countries across the world, accounting for 6.2% of the global population.
More than 70 per cent of the world’s population is living in countries with rising income and wealth inequality, including Indigenous Peoples who already face high rates of poverty and acute socio-economic disadvantages. High levels of inequality are generally associated with institutional instability, corruption, financial crises, increased crime and lack of access to justice, education and health services. For Indigenous Peoples, poverty and gross inequities tend to generate intense social tensions and conflicts.
Powley Day – September 19, 2023
On September 19th, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and Métis communities across the country mark Powley Day to remember the recognition of Métis rights in the R. v. Powley case. While other Métis rights cases had been fought in the courts before, Powley was the first to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision on September 19th, 2003, the Supreme Court finally affirmed what the Métis people have been saying for over twenty years – section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, is a substantive promise to the Métis which recognizes their distinct existence and protects their existing Aboriginal rights.
National Day for Truth & Reconciliation – September 30, 2023
As of June 2021, September 30th is now officially recognized as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This day is a federal statutory holiday, which allows employees in the federal public service to observe and participate in this important day. This holiday also addresses one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
National Day of Truth and Reconciliation coincides with Orange Shirt Day, a day on which people create awareness of the individual, family, and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools and promote the concept of Every Child Matters.
Orange Shirt Day – September 30, 2023
September 30th is Orange Shirt Day, a day that recognizes the harm Canada’s residential school system inflicted on Indigenous children and their families, and the ongoing trauma that remains today. It is a day to remember and honour the life of every child. The goal of Orange Shirt Day is to create awareness of the individual, family, and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools through Orange Shirt Day activities, and to promote the concept of Every Child Matters.
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s experience at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in the 1970s. The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that was given to Webstad by her grandmother for her first day of school. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt. It was never returned. To Phyllis, the colour orange has always reminded her of her experiences at residential school and, as she has said, “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
Inuit Day – November 7, 2023
Inuit Day is a celebration set up to acknowledge and celebrate Inuit culture and contributions, but most importantly to affirm the voices of Inuit across the circumpolar world. At the 2006 Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) General Assembly in Barrow, Alaska, November 7th was proclaimed as Inuit Day to honour the birth date of ICC founder Eben Hopson. Hopson was one of the Arctic’s greatest leaders who called on Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka to work together in order to defend Inuit Rights and to make certain no Inuit community is left behind as change and development increases in the Arctic.
Indigenous Veterans Day – November 8, 2023
Every year on November 8th, we honour Indigenous Veterans Day by paying tribute to the important contributions and sacrifices made by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in service to Canada. Even before Canada was a country, Indigenous Peoples have fought to defend our country and our values. Where there has been conflict, where peace, security and safety have been threatened, Indigenous Peoples from across Canada have answered the call. On this day and throughout Veterans’ Week, we thank the thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis who have served and are serving.
Louis Riel Day – November 16, 2023 (Ontario)
Louis Riel Day is a non-statutory* holiday that occurs on November 16th across the Métis homelands. This date is the anniversary of Riel’s execution in 1885. During that year, Riel led Métis people in the Northwest Resistance, which was a stand against the Government of Canada because it was encroaching on Métis rights and way of life. He was eventually put on trial where he was convicted of treason and executed. Although Louis Riel Day commemorates one of the greatest tragedies of Canadian history, it is also a day to celebrate Métis culture and the continuing progress that Métis people are making in fulfilling Riel’s dream of Métis taking their rightful place within Confederation.
National Indigenous Languages Day – March 31, 2024
Today, we mark National Indigenous Languages Day with a promise of ajuinnata. This is a word in Inuktitut that means to never give up, no matter how difficult the task ahead might be. In Canada, there are more 70 Indigenous languages, spoken by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Many of these languages are in danger of disappearing entirely. We cannot let that happen—we need to encourage communities not only to speak the language of their ancestors, but also to pass it down to their children and grandchildren, both in the home and at school. This requires support, hard work and perseverance. It requires ajuinnata. See our 2023 Webpage.
We acknowledge that the London InterCommunity Health Centre is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek (Ah-nish-in-a-bek), Haudenosaunee (Ho-den-no-show-nee), Lūnaapéewak (Len-ah-pay-wuk) and Attawandaron (Add-a-won-da-run), on lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796 and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. We would also like to recognize the three First Nations communities neighbouring the City of London: Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Munsee-Delaware Nation. With this, we respect the longstanding relationships that Indigenous Peoples have with this land, as they are the original caretakers.
Only once true sovereignty for Indigenous people and adequate resource allocation exists can we begin to work cooperatively to establish and maintain a mutually respectful framework for living together, with a view to fostering strong, healthy, and sustainable Indigenous nations within Turtle Island (North America).
We invite those who read this statement to reflect upon this Land Acknowledgment and what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action mean to you, your workplace, and your community.
COMMITMENT TO TRUTH & RECONCILIATION
The Land Acknowledgment pays respect to the Original Peoples of the territory upon which the Health Centre is located. Inspired by the 94 recommended calls to action contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Land Acknowledgements are a necessary first step toward honouring the original occupants of a place. They also help Canadians recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples’ inherent kinship beliefs when it comes to the land, especially since those beliefs were restricted for so long.
The London InterCommunity Health Centre is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and communities. As a healthcare organization, we have a responsibility to reflect on our past and what this means for our present realities. Indian hospitals were developed in the early 1900s and many still existed into the 70s and 80s. These hospitals were a method of segregation and restriction, and operated the same as residential schools, as part of the colonial system.
“We acknowledge historical and current systems of power, rooted in white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy and capitalism, have created conditions where certain populations have been treated as expendable, are marginalized and excluded from decision-making, and have inadequate access to resources in society. We recognize that the effects of more than five centuries of colonization – including genocide, dispossession and displacement from traditional lands, forced assimilation and disengagement from ancestry, culture and language, residential schools and the Sixties scoop the Indian Act, among many other oppressive colonial policies, practices and legislation – have resulted in disproportionately poor health outcomes for Indigenous people across Canada.” – AHC Healthy Equity Charter
Discrimination and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples are still prevalent in our healthcare system today resulting in low levels of engagement and poor health outcomes. We see the effects of past and current traumas in the high levels of poverty and homelessness experienced among Indigenous peoples. The Health Centre recognizes our role in improving health outcomes of the Indigenous people we serve. We work in close partnership with Indigenous organizations and Aboriginal Community Health Access Centres to serve Indigenous clients. The Commitment to Reconciliation is a public statement to Indigenous communities the actions we are taking as an organization to better serve them.
In Indigenous communities, the process of ethical thinking begins at birth with storytelling as the primary learning process. Storytelling is used to guide behaviour and solidify belonging and responsibility to the family, community, and larger world. Through stories, a child develops identity and learns about moral responsibility.
In Indigenous communities, the process of ethical thinking begins at birth with storytelling as the primary learning process. Storytelling is used to guide behaviour and solidify belonging and responsibility to the family, community, and larger world. Through stories, a child develops identity and learns about moral responsibility. Through stories, the community articulates and embraces its shared valued system or mindset.
“The natural world is suffering and we can make a difference by uniting all people to make that happen. I believe the earth is powerful and we can help and get help from the great mysteries that exist.
If the problems of the world are hate and greed, then the antidote is being kind and giving.”
– Isaac Murdoch
HEALTH CENTRE ACTIONS
The Health Centre recognizes the importance of raising awareness about Indigenous cultures, the impact of trauma and violence, traditional healing practices, and the ongoing stigmatization many people from this community face. Through our work, we are committee to:
- Providing opportunities for Indigenous representation on our Board of Directors.
- Incorporating the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training through our new staff onboarding training.
- Developing initiatives through our Inclusion and Anti-Oppression staff committee to examine our policies, procedures, resource allocation, and staff training meet the linguistic, cultural, and other needs of the diverse communities we serve and to develop our capacity to deliver equitable, trauma-informed, people-centred, and culturally safer care.
- Recognizing Every Child Matters/National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and Indigenous Peoples Day with educational activities and opportunities for dialogue.
- Strengthening partnerships with Indigenous organizations to develop collaborative programing.
- Distributing traditional medicines to our clients as part of their healing journey.
- Supporting Indigenous clients who are applying for compensation through the class action lawsuits and national settlement programs.
- Supporting Indigenous-led organizations and health partners to promote client-led Indigenous health. This includes ensuring funding and resource allocation is invested in Indigenous-led programs, services, and initiatives.
TRADITIONAL APPROACH TO HEALING
Traditional wellness is central to the goal of improving and transforming the health of our Indigenous Clients. Traditional wellness is an important part of a healthier future.
Our goal is to support Indigenous communities in protecting, incorporating and promoting their traditional medicines and practices into their health and wellness routine.
The vision of traditional wellness is to improve the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing of Indigenous people, while strengthening the traditional health care system through a partnership between traditional healer practitioners and the Western medical system.Traditional Teachings
WHAT IS SMUDGING
Smudging is a cultural ceremony practiced by a wide variety of Indigenous people in Canada and other parts of the world. Smudging is the practice of burning various medicinal plants to cleanse ourselves and connect us with our spirit and with the Creator.
It may also be used to cleanse, purify, and bless the part of our mother earth. For example, we may smudge around the sweat lodge or powwow and our homes to purify or bless special objects like ceremonial objects or totems, such as jewelry, rattles, or clothing. When you smudge your home, start from the left side of the walls, windows, doorways, and corners of the room and open the window and door to let negative energies out.
Of the four sacred medicines* given to us by the Creator, sage* is most often used in most smudging ceremonies. However, traditional teachers and knowledge keepers from various Indigenous Nations will have more specific teachings that go with each medicine. Non-Indigenous people should consult with these Indigenous experts about how to properly acquire, use, give, or ceremonially include the medicines in any cultural practice.
RATIONALE & STEPS TO SMUDGING
Elders and Knowledge Keepers have taught steps and rationale for this cleansing process called smudge.
- We smudge to clear the air around us.
- We smudge to clean our minds so that we will have good thoughts of others.
- We smudge our eyes so that we will only see the good in others.
- We smudge our ears so that we will only listen to positive things about others.
- We smudge our mouths so that we will only speak well of others.
- We smudge our arms to do the good work that we do in a loving and caring way.
- We smudge our feet so that we walk in a good way.
- We smudge the bottom of our feet to cleanse the connection between ourselves and Mother Earth.
- We smudge our heart to cleanse it of negativity.
- We smudge our hair to cleanse away any negativity we may be carrying.
- We smudge our back to release any negativity we may carrying and let it go (turn clockwise and complete the circle once back is done).
- We smudge our whole being so we will portray only the good part of our self through our actions.
- We smudge to cleanse negative energy within our own being or any negative energy in a space.
Once you have finished your smudge, the person that is doing the smudge must let it burn out completely. You can take care of it right away or empty the bowl in a metal can and at a later date take it outdoors onto the land and find a tree. Empty the can at the base of the tree or dig a hole and empty it into the hole. Location should be away from schools, homes, or parks where it can be left undisturbed.
MEDICINE DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM
Individuals at the Health Centre are trained to support the distribution of traditional medicines – both immediately and in-person (smudging in a private, safe space with or without staff assistance) as well as the provision of traditional medicines for personal use away from the Health Centre. Medicines are harvested and prepared in a culturally sensitive manner following the customs and traditions of generations of medicine providers.
Traditional medicines are not used the same way by every elder, medicine keeper, or band. For this reason, it is necessary to confirm that the person receiving these medicines has a cultural understanding of their use. If an awareness is not present, referral for a status person can be made to Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC) or for non-status and urban services N’Amerind, London’s Friendship Centre.
THE RIGHT TO SMUDGE
The Health Centre recognizes the right of Indigenous-identified peoples to engage in their cultural and spiritual ceremonies at work. Smudging is one such ceremony.
Smudging is always voluntary. It is acceptable for a person to indicate that they do not want to Smudge. The person who chooses to refrain from the Smudge may stay in the room while others are Smudging or they may choose to quietly leave the room until the Smudge has been completed.
Historically, the intent of colonial policies implemented by the Government of Canada was to ‘assimilate’ Indigenous peoples by forcing them off their lands, removing children from their parents and homes and placing them into residential schools. Indigenous peoples were forced to abandon their cultural and spiritual practices when these practices were outlawed. It is within this historical context that Indigenous peoples have asserted their rights. The Ontario Human Rights Code, Canadian Human Rights Act, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples include legal protections for the fundamental right of Indigenous peoples to freely practice their religious and spiritual traditions, and to be treated equally and with dignity.
The provinces’ Smoke Free Ontario Act 2017 (Section 19) makes exemptions for smudging and acknowledges the traditional use of tobacco as part of Indigenous culture and spirituality.
The Ontario Human Rights Code (Section 11) notes that every person has a right to equal treatment without
discrimination because of race, creed, sex, etc.
Elders teach us that all smudging ceremonies must be entered into or begun with good intent. During the ceremony, the smoke rises, and prayers rise to the Spirit world of our grandfathers, grandmothers, and the Creator.
The smudging ceremony helps participants centre or ground themselves. Negative energy, feelings, and emotions are lifted away and used for healing of mind, body, and spirit, as well as balancing energies. Smudging also unifies the energies and the people within the circle. When we smudge, we normally inform participants to remove any metals such as watches, jewelry, and eyeglasses because it is believed that metals hold too much negative energy.
You must also be cautious to not add anything to the smudge to contaminate it. This includes how we smudge with the smoke. For example, once the sage is lit, we use an eagle feather or plume to disperse the smoke. We never directly blow on the medicine because it risks transferring any negative energy.
RIBBON SKIRT LIBRARY
Atlohsa Family Healing, in partnership with the London InterCommunity Health Centre are excited to announce the opening of their Ribbon Skirt Library. The Library will provide access to cultural attire for women who need it with the aim of adding ribbon shirts for men as well as teaching workshops to assist individuals to make their own in the future.
For more information, visit our Ribbon Skirt Library Page.