June 23, 2008

National Aboriginal Day Celebrated in Winnipeg Health Region

National Aboriginal Day Celebrated in Winnipeg Health Region

On Friday, June 20 the Winnipeg health region celebrated National Aboriginal Day in honour of First Nations, Métis and Inuit health care workers and patients at Winnipeg health region sites.

"Today we enjoy the opportunity to share some of the things that have so much meaning to us," Dr. Catherine Cook, Executive Director of Aboriginal Health Programs for Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said.

Dr. Cook, who is Métis, made the opening remarks at celebrations held at St. Boniface General Hospital along with Dr. Michel Tétreault, President and CEO of St. Boniface General Hospital, who added that National Aboriginal Day is part of annual nation-wide festivities held from June 21 to July 1 in Canada. The festivities begin with National Aboriginal Day, and are followed by St-Jean Baptiste Day, Canadian Multiculturalism Day and conclude with Canada Day. "These celebrations are about telling each others' stories . . . reflecting on how we are all human beings and together all form a community," Tétreault said.

Elder-in-Residence, Louise Lavallee led the crowd gathered in the atrium of St. Boniface hospital in a traditional First Nations prayer. Marlow the Magician from Fisher River Cree Nation wandered the crowd doing card tricks. Buffy Handel performed traditional Lakota hoop dance – the dance of the medicine man - and Carol James calmly worked finger weaving of eight traditional Métis sashes, that when completed, will be used by the Manitoba Museum for educational purposes.

At Health Sciences Centre the celebrations in the auditorium of the Isabel M Stewart building included traditional bannock and jam, with artists and crafters showcasing jewelry, carvings and pottery, and Aboriginal dancers of all ages performing traditional drumming.

"This day is about courage, respect and integrity," Elder-in-Residence Roger Armitte said of National Aboriginal Day.

June 21 was chosen as National Aboriginal Day for the cultural significance of the summer solstice (first day of summer and longest day of the year) to Aboriginal groups and because many Aboriginal groups consider summer solstice as a time to celebrate their heritage.

Beyond Aboriginal day celebrations, the Winnipeg health region aims to respect and honour Aboriginal peoples by working with the Aboriginal community and organizations on developing health care services that meet the health care needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit patients and their families in a culturally appropriate way. 

Several Aboriginal Health Services are available, including: Advocacy Services that work with patients and families within the hospital system and at a regional level to ensure holistic healing plans; Elder or Healer services for Aboriginal patients who request them as part of their healing plans;  Discharge Planning for coordinating services for Aboriginal patients returning to rural or remote communities; Interpreter services to facilitate communication between health providers and patients by providing interpretation in Swampy Cree, Ojibway and Oji-Cree/Island Lake dialects, and an Aboriginal Traditional Wellness Clinic is available at the Health Sciences Centre providing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people the opportunity to seek healing using a traditional healing approach.

Click here for more information on Aboriginal Health Services or Aboriginal Cultural Programs and Aboriginal Human Resources in the Winnipeg Health Region.

- Kathryn McBurney

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
Click here to read more about the WRHA's efforts towards reconciliation

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