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Sacred Smoke


I'll never forget the first time I encountered the scent of smudge in a health centre.

As I walked in the door, my nose immediately detected the scent of burning material. I experienced a moment of alarm, and commenced searching for the origins of the smell, concerned to smell smoke in the building. My search ended as I arrived at the Mental Health Clinician's office, who had just completed the process of smudging her space for the day. Over the past nine years, this is a practice I've encountered frequently in my work, and now that I understand the significance, I am filled with gratitude to smell the now familiar scent. This week, Len Pierre of Katzie First Nation, eloquently shares the reason smudges are used to prepare spaces prior to work being done.


"As Indigenous peoples, we interact with the world around us with the profound understanding that we are spiritual beings. We know we share this knowledge and awareness with many cultures around the world. That is why prayer and ceremony are essential cultural practices in everything we do, including smudging physical spaces before we use them for important events, even in healthcare settings."


Len goes on to share, "As spiritual people, we can sometimes pick up negative energy and spiritual vibrations in spaces if we have not cleansed the place first. Very much like how we sterilize medical beds and equipment before the next patient arrives, we want to make sure the place is clean and free of viruses etc.. Spiritually this is why we smudge spaces; to make sure that the people who will be using the space do not pick up negative energy, like unwanted fear, anger, anxiety, sadness, or hopelessness. Our cultural protocols require us as "hosts" to do this work before our guests arrive as spiritual, social, emotional, and cultural courtesy and guest safety."


It truly is a privilege to witness the weaving together of traditional and western practices in a healthcare setting, and reminds me of Call to Action number twenty-two of the The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which states:


"We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients."


It is hopeful to see Indigenous clients being offered a holistic service model that is in alignment with the TRC recommendations. Whether it be smudging, drumming, singing, the integration of traditional medicines, allowing space for large families together - these are all examples of how to integrate Call 22 into practice. Have you witnessed a version of this dual-lensed care in your practice? I'd love to hear about it - please consider hitting the reply button and sharing your experience.


In learning,

Kim at Culturally Committed


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