Indigenous house post raising creates welcoming space at Vancouver General Hospital
Vancouver, B.C. - The look and feel of the Diamond Family Courtyard in the Jim Pattison Pavilion at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) is notably different now that three traditional Indigenous house posts have been installed. Each of the house posts represents one of the three Nations whose unceded and traditional territories provide a home base for VGH: the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Today, representatives from the three host Nations came together to bless the house posts and, together with the carvers and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) officials, mark their raising as an important step on the journey towards reconciliation and the creation of culturally-safe care for Indigenous people. Initiated in Fall 2019, the house post installation is the first phase in a redesign of the Diamond Family Courtyard.
"Raising these traditional house posts is an essential acknowledgement that this land belongs to the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. These house posts will be an everyday reminder of our deep commitment to improving the care and health experiences of all Indigenous people in our region," says Vivian Eliopoulos, interim CEO at Vancouver Coastal Health. "This is an important piece of our larger journey towards reconciliation. In light of the revelations from the In Plain Sight report, we humbly recognize we still have a long way to go."
House posts (or Kaken in Squamish language) are typically part of the interior structure of longhouses in Coast Salish communities, used to support crossbeams. Most often carved from red or yellow cedar, house posts feature crest figures – many of which represent supernatural beings or ancestors who encountered supernatural beings – from whom hereditary rights and privileges were obtained.
"The house post carvings are an important way to recognize the stewardship of the land," said Health Minister Adrian Dix. "They signify our efforts to improve the health-care experience by offering culturally safe and respectful care, and for government as a whole towards reconciliation."
Each house post was created and designed by a local carver from each of the three Nations: Brent Sparrow Jr. of the Musqueam Indian Band, Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) of the Squamish Nation and Zac George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
"For far too long, First Nations have been invisible in our own lands," said Chief Ian Campbell of Squamish Nation. "These three house posts will serve as a visible reminder that First Nations have strong ties to these lands and have been here for thousands of years. It's time to celebrate that our history is your history and we can stand together in strength today."
VCH, with the support of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, has been working with the Knowledge Keepers of the three host Nations to transform the Diamond Family Courtyard into a healing gathering space that recognizes the link between VCH and the Indigenous people in VCH’s care.
Working in partnership with First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to advance cultural safety and humility, the Aboriginal Health team has implemented a strong foundation of programs and services, including an Indigenous Cultural Safety training program that has been completed by more than 3,300 VCH staff over the past four years. The work of the VCH Aboriginal Health team is guided by the Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility in Health Services signed by all B.C. health authorities in 2015 and the Mandate Letter from Premier Horgan that outlines the priorities for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority as well as the calls to action from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is responsible for the delivery of $4.1 billion in community, hospital and long-term care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides specialized care and services for people throughout B.C.