Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 21 is National Aboriginal Day

Alberta Health Services South Zone - Celebrations will be taking place this month across the country to commemorate and remind Canadians of the unique contributions Indigenous people have made to the landscape of Canada. This year will be the 21st year since the former Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc, declared National Aboriginal Day annually on June 21.

The Northwest Territories took it a step farther, and declared National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday. June 21 was chosen since it coincides with the Summer Solstice. Indigenous philosophy asserts the summer solstice as a sacred and spiritual time of the year since the sun is at its closest to the earth and therefore at its strongest. Indigenous people believe all things are animate, imbued with a spirit and in constant motion. The cyclical view of the world emphasizes the importance of renewal, as with cosmic cycles, seasons, migratory patterns and renewal ceremonies. The Blackfoot have sacred ceremonies that will start during this time of year and happen throughout the summer.

National Aboriginal celebrations will be held in various communities throughout southern Alberta. The South Zone Indigenous Health program will hold a celebration on June 22 at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, featuring singers, dancers and drummers coming together in recognition of all the contributions to Indigenous health.

The AHS YouTube channel, titled AHS Indigenous Health Playlist, has a repertoire of Indigenous Health and educational resources for AHS staff and communities.

“Celebrating Indigenous wellness is an important part our work,” says Sylvia Ann Fox, the new Blackfoot Traditional Wellness Counsellor at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge. “Recognition of how culture plays a role in Indigenous health and wellbeing is a positive movement to holistic healing. Helping Indigenous people get reconnected back to the health care system is having a positive influence. Recognizing how the spiritual components of health and healing contributes to the patient’s journey. Indigenous people need to find their ways of health and healing.”

At the time of contact, Indigenous societies had self-sustaining nations with developed institutions such as health, justice and education. Indigenous practices related to health and wellbeing were integral components of a communal society. Healing traditions addressed emotional and spiritual wellbeing, utilizing remedies such as physical cures using herbal medicines and other remedies, individual counselling, involvement of elders, ceremony and tribal grandmothers and grandfathers.

Accounts of early explorers frequently document the excellent health and stature of Indigenous people. The Blackfoot were known for being fierce warriors; some accounts referencing them as “The Lords of the Plains” in relation to their tall and large stature.

The contemporary life and health of Indigenous people relies heavily on the resurgence of culture and maintaining continuity within the continuum of care. Incorporating Indigenous cultural approaches into health care delivery provides apparent health benefits. Looking at the whole person from an Indigenous perspective asserts health care delivered from an integrative perspective that seeks balance of the mind, body, spirit and emotions in a healthy community environment.

To contact members of the AHS South Zone Indigenous Health Team, e-mail

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