First Nations unite over Traditional Healing Centre at Pine Falls Hospital

Sagkeeng FIRST NATION — A new traditional healing centre is under construction at a Manitoba hospital. The centre, which will be shared by three Manitoba First Nations north of Winnipeg, held it’s inaugural celebration this week.

“Almost 10 years ago, in 2006, a vision of a traditional healing centre was received through our ceremonies. The centre would reflect our identity and traditions as a People,” said Elder Dave Courchene, leader of the Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation. “The spirit and intent of the healing centre is to ensure our People will have greater opportunities to find healing within the traditions of our culture and our understanding of Minopimatiziwin.

After many years of discussions the Traditional Healing Centre received the go-ahead for construction in 2010. First Nations communities of Hollow Water, Black River and Sagkeeng have been meeting regularly with a commitment to work together in ensuring that the Traditional Healing Centre will provide full support to all communities surrounding the Pine Falls Hospital.

The Traditional Healing Centre will be called Giigewigamig (KEE-GAY-GAH-MIK) – meaning “Place to heal”. It is part of a provincial $10 million dollar renovation to the Pine Falls Hospital.

“The health of our People is in a state of crisis,” said Chief Derek Bushie of Hollow Water First Nation. “Through this traditional healing centre, we also hope to advocate for our community members in need of greater support. We have invited the University of Manitoba to work in partnership with us to research, document and share our process so that other communities can learn from our experience.”

“This is long overdue. This initiative can also help bring back the spirit of our communities working together as we succeed in our efforts to offer greater support to our People,” said Black River First Nation Chief Frank Abraham.

“The voices and perspectives of our People have been ignored for too long,” said Elder Ernest McPherson from Black River. “This time our People will be at the forefront of that change.”

“We look forward to taking the lead in managing all aspects of the traditional healing centre,” said Chief Derrick Henderson of Sagkeeng. “As leaders, we position our Elders from our three communities to have full control and a shared responsibility in managing the centre to provide the best possible care and top quality support for our People.”

Elder McPherson led a recent community initiative in naming the traditional healing centre, attended by the Chiefs and Elders of all three communities. The name of the centre will be shared with the public at the celebration this week.

“With the Elders from all the local communities leading the traditional healing centre, the bigger goal will be peace and healing for all,” said Dr. Sabina Ijaz, a doctor at the Pine Falls Hospital.

We look forward to embarking on a journey of working together with the IERHA and federal and provincial governments to benefit all People,” said Elder Courchene.

“The key is to do things from the heart,” said Kookum (Grandmother) Aldeen Mason. “We will operate from the spirit of respect and kindness. Working together, we will get stronger,” she added.

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