Elder Little Brown Bear with Sarah Downey tying ribbons at Sacred Fire.

Michael Garron Hospital to commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 with Sacred Fire

A message on behalf of Sarah Downey and Elder Little Brown Bear

Dear colleagues and community members,

In recent years, Canadians have begun working towards Truth and Reconciliation with First Nation, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) communities for past injustices and crimes. While there is much left to do, all Canadians should be committed to working towards resolving the harm and traumas of Indigenous peoples and communities by listening, learning and working together to take meaningful action.

September 30: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The Federal Government recently announced that September 30 is a federal statutory holiday – the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (Note: This is not recognized as a statutory holiday in Ontario.) The intent of the day is to reflect upon and commemorate the legacy of residential schools, murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and to become more aware of our collective responsibilities to Truth and Reconciliation with FNIM communities.

FNIM peoples were historically displaced, and experienced the damaging legacy of residential schools and the sixties scoop, where their children were forcibly taken away. In Canada, FNIM women and girls are disproportionately affected by various forms of violence. Our colonial past has contributed to the social, historical and health inequities and injustices that Indigenous communities have encountered and continue to face today.

Acknowledging and educating ourselves on these various injustices is part of the path to reconciliation. We invite our Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) community to recognize the devastating history and harmful policies of our governments which continue to harm FNIM peoples, and commit to action so that we can build a new and shared path forward.

A Day of Observance: Join MGH for a sacred fire and sign the pledge

On September 30, 2021, Elder Little Brown Bear and community members will offer a sacred fire at the Bear’s Den All Nations Traditional Medicine Sweat Lodge on hospital grounds from sunrise to sunset. There will also be four pipe ceremonies throughout the day, one for each of the four directions represented by the Medicine Wheel. This event will provide an opportunity for our community to reflect and take action towards Truth and Reconciliation.

The pipe ceremony is used to open conversations between different nations and communicate with the spirits. The pipe is wrapped in a cloth bag and is usually part of a sacred bundle that is owned by the pipe carrier.

sacred fire is an important part of spirituality and wellness. It is a sacred practice considered to be a spiritual doorway to communicate with our ancestors in the spirit realm. As part of this tradition, there is a firekeeper who maintains and tends to the fire. A sacred fire allows one to heal, feel grounded, and connect with community. (Traditional medicines will be available for those who wish to send prayers through the sacred fire.) 

Elder Little Brown Bear with Sarah Downey tying ribbons at Sacred Fire.
Elder Little Brown Bear with Sarah Downey tying ribbons at Sacred Fire.

Join us on Sept. 30 – here are a few ways you can participate:

  1. Sacred fire: Stop by the sacred fire at any time during the day or join the pipe ceremonies which will occur at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m.
  2. Sign the Pledge: Sign MGH’s Pledge Board on-site at the Bear’s Den All Nations Traditional Medicine Sweat Lodge or contribute a virtual pledge by sharing your act of commitment to Truth and Reconciliation on social media using the hashtag #OrangeShirtDay and tag @email on Twitter.   
  3. Tie an orange ribbon: Elder Little Brown Bear will personally cut and supply 1,000 pieces of orange cloth for community members to tie to the Sweat Lodge or fence to acknowledge the unmarked graves of those children recovered on the properties of government funded Indian Residential Schools across Canada.
  4. Educate yourself: Learn more about Canada’s colonial history and the injustices faced by Indigenous communities. To become better allies to FNIM communities, we must learn and educate ourselves. We encourage everyone in the MGH family to learn more about how you can actively take steps in your journey towards Truth and Reconciliation. A few resources are shared below.

We hope you will join us in engaging and bringing awareness by signing the Pledge Board, presenting sacred tobacco in the sacred fire and tying an orange ribbon to remind us what we can do as a community to honour the spirit of reconciliation today, and every day.

With gratitude, Chi Miigwetch,

Sarah Downey
President & CEO
Michael Garron Hospital

Elder Little Brown Bear
Director of Aboriginal Education, Programs and Culture and The Aboriginal Healing Program

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