In photos: Indigenous Health Learning Lodge welcome gathering celebrates a transformative new space
Interpretive dance performances, organized by JP Longboat of Circadia Indigena, started with the Jingle dress dance. (All photos by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University).
In advance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, a welcome gathering was held at the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge (IHLL), also known as Tsi nón:we ayakonniyóhake táhnon aonsayakota’karitehake (The place of good life and return to health) and Mino Bimaadiziwin Mishkiki Aapjishnik Gamik (The good life; medicine recovery healing lodge).
Speaking about the Indigenous Health Learning at the welcome gathering on Friday evening, McMaster Chancellor Santee Smith recognized the inspiring work of Bernice Downey, associate dean, Indigenous Health, in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the IHLL team. They have built a transformative space where everyone is invited and welcome.
Downey expressed how meaningful the welcome gathering is, as a coming together and a “high point in the relationships that have been established, both within the faculty and across the university, a celebration of our Indigenous ways of knowing, our culture, our ceremony, our songs.”
On the momentous evening in L.R. Wilson Hall, IHLL’s Executive Director, Lori Davis Hill, spoke about the pathway to the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge, which is dedicated to Indigenous education and curriculum, student support and services, and an Indigenous way of knowing that fosters an ongoing collaborative relationship with Go di we na wa she/Shkaabewis – Knowledge Helpers and their networks.
The Lodge is also focused on enhancing awareness and cultural safety skills for non-Indigenous learners, faculty, staff and community members.
Below are photo highlights of the welcome gathering that took place in L.R. Wilson Hall.
The Indigenous Health Learning Lodge welcome gathering opened with the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address by Tehahenteh (Frank) Miller, teacher and knowledge holder from Six Nations of the Grand River.
A teaching from Indigenous Knowledge Keeper, Nisitange Liz Akiwenzie, included a hand drum performance.
Bernice Downey, associate dean, Indigenous Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences presents Chancellor Santee Smith with the gift of a soapstone sculpture.
Chancellor Santee Smith acknowledged “all of the work that went into creating, visioning and planning this space called the Learning Lodge.” She said, “it’s going to be a site at McMaster for transformation, and a safe place for Indigenous people and allies to discuss really important topics of health, wellbeing, connection and belonging and to fuel ongoing research and collaboration.”
Knowledge Helpers Advisory Council Chair Wahsonti:io Hill is supported by Bernice Downey as she celebrates her mother and speaks to the importance of the IHLL for spiritual and emotional support in an Indigenous way.
Rick Monture, associate professor, English & Cultural Studies and one of the first Indigenous faculty members at McMaster, shares teachings about the wampum belt agreements to foster good relationships.
Interpretive dance performances included the Eagle dance by JP Longboat of Circadia Indigena.
Circadia Indigena is comprised of professional and community artists from a variety of Indigenous communities who bring their artistic experience, expertise and knowledge to projects of a cultural, collaborative and creative nature.
Lori Davis Hill thanks the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge team and partners who helped organize the inaugural event.
David Farrar, president of McMaster University, Bernice Downey, and Mark Crowther, chair, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, enjoy the welcome gathering reception.
Left to right: Lori Davis Hill, Chelsea Gabel, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Well-being, Community Engagement and Innovation, and Indigenous scholars Rick Montour, Renae Watchman and Robert Innes, chair of Indigenous Studies.
McMaster Chancellor Santee Smith with Steven Hanna, vice-dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences and associate dean of Graduate Studies (in Health Sciences).
Tehahenteh Miller, with Bernice Downey, emphasized giving thanks and showing greetings, love and respect to all. In that same spirit, the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge is a safe space where everyone is invited and welcome.
About the event, Downey expressed, “I’m overwhelmed because when I can sit in an institution and see our own culture, and our own dancers and our singers, it’s moving. It grounds me. It makes the space safe for me. I feel joyful just to have the opportunity to bring together all of these amazing people.”
In 2017, McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences began collaborative work with partners on and off campus to develop a comprehensive Indigenous Health Initiative, to better integrate Indigenous cultural knowledge into educational and research programs. The Indigenous Health Learning Lodge was born from that process and intention to make a welcoming place for all to walk a path of reconciliation together, and ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of Indigenous people.
Learn more about the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge, as well as events taking place on and before Sept. 30, on their website. Classes have been cancelled at McMaster on Sept. 30, providing the campus community time to reflect on the broader issues related to truth and reconciliation.