Last week the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto opened an Aboriginal sweat lodge, the first of its kind in any hospital in Ontario.
Now, Indigenous patients at CAMH will be able to combine traditional healing practices with modern medicine and therapy. Sweat lodges are places of spiritual healing and refuge, where ceremony participants cleanse their spirits, minds and bodies.
“It’s important that clients are mentally and spiritually ready for the Sweat Ceremony and that they are engaged in recovery that includes cultural knowledge,” said Diane Longboat, Elder with CAMH’s Aboriginal services, in a statement. “There is deep emotional and psychological healing when clients release the negative patterns in their lives and begin to understand their gifts—the whole person they are meant to be.”
It’s no secret that colonization has had lasting negative effects on Indigenous communities. And because of this, many Aboriginal people struggle day-to-day. For so long, the medical system hasn’t paid attention to Indigenous traditions and culture, but bringing these things together offers hope and a chance for patients to reconnect with their culture as they heal, in a space that’s sensitive to and respectful of their culture.
Along with the sweat lodge, new ceremonial grounds at CAMH include a Sacred Fire and medicine garden. Staff and volunteers will also be increasing their cultural knowledge to prepare them to help with the fire keeping and ceremonies.
“We are at a point in time when Canadians are much more aware of the historical trauma experienced by Aboriginal peoples,” said Renee Linklater, director of Aboriginal engagement and outreach at CAMH.
“We also need to recognize that part of that trauma is the loss of culture and traditional healing practices,” she added. “This is why it’s so important to offer services that are culturally relevant and appropriate.”
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