Sinai Health and the Toronto Central Regional Indigenous Cancer Program (TCR-ICP) have partnered to improve the care and experiences of First Nations, Inuit, Métis patients and their families who are on the cancer journey.
Each hospital has been gifted a Bundle, which includes a hand drum, rattle, copper cup and medicines to incorporate traditional healing practices – and it’s the second time that the drums were brought together for a Bundle Feast – embodying a bridge between care and Indigenous healing.
“These sacred helpers (drums) all have a spirit,” said Joanna Vautour, Regional Indigenous Cancer Lead. “When someone hears the drum, their heart opens up with overwhelming love. The sound of the drum is healing.”
The ceremony commenced with a warm welcome from Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO of Sinai Health and Susan Blacker, Senior Director of Cancer and Palliative Program Planning and Performance.
“Cultivating an inclusive care culture for Indigenous communities remains a paramount focus at Sinai Health. We are committed to providing ongoing support to Indigenous patients and their families, ensuring the delivery of comprehensive and compassionate care,” said Dr. Newton.
Then Clay Shirt, Traditional Knowledge Practitioner, shared a few words, speaking on his personal connection to the drum and the collective importance of healing.
“You need community to heal,” said Clay. “We are here to serve the community. No one is excluded from our ceremonies.”
Jenny Blackbird, Hand Drum Singer, lead the ceremonial song. The beating of the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The song was followed by prayer to the natural world and ancestors, calling on the spirits of healing and unity.
The Bundles were then smudged and the drums were offered water to thank them and prepare them for the next cycle. Attendees, drawn from diverse walks of life shared stories of how the Bundle and its sacred items have supported Indigenous patients, families and staff across the region, weaving a tapestry of experiences.
Everyone then made their way outside of the hospital to visit the sacred fire. As flames danced, the fire became a symbol of strength, resilience and collective spirit.
A spirit dish containing traditional foods of salmon, fish, berries and tobacco was offered to the sacred fire to give thanks to the Bundle for the medicine it brings to Indigenous patients and families, a homage to the interconnectedness of physical and spiritual well-being.
To provide support that truly understands and respects the specific needs of the Indigenous communities we serve as health-care providers, an Indigenous Ceremony Bundle Toolkit is available to Indigenous patients, their families and staff at Mount Sinai and Hennick Bridgepoint Hospitals. You can request it by reaching out to Spiritual Care.
As part of the Sinai Health and the TCR-ICP collaboration, there is also an Indigenous Patient Navigator to provide support to Indigenous patients getting cancer care at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Here are some more photos from the Bundle Feast Ceremony: