If you visit Deer Lodge Centre (DLC) these days, you may notice some new artwork hung on the Centre walls. Thirteen new paintings by Winnipeg-based artist Gayle Sinclaire have recently been hung on a “journey” from the front entrance of Deer Lodge Centre to the Spirit Room.
Deer Lodge Centre Manager of Care Michelle Cherepak was kind enough to sit down with us and explain what the artwork means to DLC, our community, and the commitment to reconciliation at Deer Lodge.
Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Michelle! So, Deer Lodge Centre has recently added some beautiful new indigenous art on the walls. Are you able to tell us a little bit about them?
Absolutely! The 13 paintings were commissioned by Deer lodge Centre from a local Indigenous artist named Gayle Sinclaire. Our vision was to create a journey for residents, patients, and visitors from the front entrance to the smudge room. We wanted to make sure that the art was integrated into the centre, and not just in the room itself.
Before like, you know, the art was here [in the smudge room], it was really just a sweet grass braid and then the four tobacco ties in the corner. The art is wonderful and gives the space a sense of occasion.
The pieces integrate a lot of elements of the Bear in them. Was that a direct link to the DLC bear?
The paintings were commissioned a year ago, before Bear was recognized by Deer Lodge Centre as an important symbol. But afterwards, the symbolism of the bear was integrated into the paintings to sort of connect the journey. Our elder and our artist met and had discussions. And then I continued to have discussions with the artist afterwards to update her on our journey of the bear. And then she took those discussions and incorporated into her art.
Can you tell us a bit more about the steps that DLC is taking to ensure that Indigenous needs and history is being acknowledged and honoured?
We have had four lunch and learn sessions with our elder Louise, Mackay. We’ve also been working on, an active offer of Indigenous services. So, what we’re looking at is embedding into our nursing intake. Just a question, do you identify as Indigenous, First Nations, Metis, or Inuit, and are you interested in indigenous health services?
And so, what would those services be? How do they differ?
Indigenous Health offers services in the areas of spiritual and cultural care but also in language support. So, if somebody’s first language is not English, they will interpret. They also will help set up outpatient services if our patients are returning home to a reserve or That may rely on different support networks than in the city.
The foundation is planning a big event to fundraise for that!
Right! We’re looking to incorporate a sacred medicine garden and perhaps some indigenous art in that space as well.
In support of smudging and medicines that would be used for smudging here, last year one of our spiritual health practitioners, went medicine picking. So, she picks sage and cedar and sweet grass and receives some teachings on how to dry and prepare those medicines. So, we have those medicines here to be able to be used by residents, patients. But we look forward to being able to grow some of those medicines at Deer Lodge Centre and follow some of those same teachings and collecting so that people can use them here.
When you talk about reconciliation, one of the calls to action for health is making space in healthcare systems for traditional healing practices and for people to you learn and use their cultural practices.
There is a real beauty and strength in indigenous worldviews. Some of the concepts that always really strike me is the interconnectedness of everything. Not just you as people, but the land and the animals and the trees.
Everyone has a part to play.
Everybody has a part, and everybody’s part is important.
And the lesson of the bear is courage. And I found that so striking that it was an animal that was here when the Veterans were here and is still here. Our veterans required courage to, you know, go through war and protect people. And courage to recover and reintegrate into society. It’s all so perfect and so beautiful.
Deer Lodge Centre is located and provides health services on original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. We respect the Treaties that were made on these territories, we acknowledge harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to move forward in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.