One of the next steps for the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital is to create an Indigenous courtyard, complete with a teepee, a Métis Red River cart, an inukshuk, and a garden to grow medicine. Len Auger, Co-Chair of the Indigenous Engagement Committee for Grande Prairie Regional Hospital, says it’s part of their efforts to make the facility more inclusive.
“Once the weather is warmer, we will start planting the garden in the courtyard. We also intend to bring in a full-size teepee and see if we can get someone to build an inukshuk for us. I’d like to bring in other artifacts as well once things start to come together.”
The committee was created as part of larger efforts in the City of Grande Prairie to honour the 94 calls to action, outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Auger says he is committed to making the facility one Indigenous people feel safe in because hospitals can be a difficult place for them to visit.
“Our goal is to make the new hospital more Indigenous, welcoming, and friendly. We want Indigenous people that come to our hospital to feel comfortable, feel like they have amenities, and want to come back anytime they are in need of medical services.”
The hospital is also fit for smudging ceremonies, which is a process of purifying or cleansing the soul of negative thoughts of a person or place. The practice usually involves prayer and the burning of sacred medicine, such as sweetgrass, cedar, sage, and tobacco.
“Before the hospital opened up, we asked if there would be smudging available and the answer was yes,” Auger explains. “The hospital is designed so that they can isolate any room and turn certain heat and ventilation systems on or off to allow for smudging in all the patient rooms. That was probably one of our biggest achievements because in the old days smudging was not allowed in any rooms. The only place it was allowed was outside.”
One of the other features of the new hospital is an Indigenous family gathering room, which Auger says is another important aspect in efforts to make the hospital more inclusive and welcoming.
“Families can gather in this room, sit and wait, and pray while waiting with their immediate family members that may be in the hospital.”
Three Indigenous liaisons are also working at the hospital, which is up from one at the old QEII Hospital.