Respecting the cultural and traditional practices of all patients and all people you come across in life is extremely important. In healthcare in Saskatchewan, there are many injustices that Indigenous people face. For example, many Indigenous people live in rural communities and small towns where there is a lack of health providers and medical centers.
Finding a doctor that fits well with you and your family personally is difficult even in cities with access to many health care professionals. Being involved with medical professionals that do not listen, respect, or believe you is extremely frustrating. This can lead to patients and individuals being misdiagnosed, treated for wrong illnesses, and left in physical and emotional pain. This is a harsh reality of rural healthcare in Saskatchewan.
While healthcare and medical offices in Saskatchewan are lagging behind modern healthcare practices in cities and towns with bigger populations, there are also many issues that Indigenous people face in urban facilities as well. Racism and stereotypes are very prevalent in the treatment of Indigenous people and how they are misdiagnosed and mistreated. Being mistreated while seeking help, advice, and relief causes a person to feel angry, upset, and frustrated.
Traditional culture and medicine can be used in many different ways and the protocol and responsibilities of these practices often depend on each family and their personal traditions and protocols; there is no right or wrong way. With his in mind, it is extremely important to ask and be mindful of any requests that you may receive. For example, some patients may hold an eagle feather or other sacred objects while undergoing surgery or procedure. It is important to ask how you, as the healthcare provider, go about touching and caring for the object while the patient is unconscious. Another example is, women who are on their moon time are not allowed to touch the feather or be near the room when there is medicine because a woman moon time is very powerful and sacred. "Menstruation signifies the power of birth, ceremonies often signify a spiritual rebirth. The two do not mix. Ceremonies are also about creating outward energy while moon time is about inner prayer"1. Asking and preparing for these situations allow all patients to feel included, heard, and respected. Smudging is also very common. The term “smudging” refers to the burning of sage, cedar, sweetgrass, or other traditional medicines and is used in prayer. The protocols regarding smudging would also vary depending on the patient, but being compliant and respectful greatly helps the patient to feel comfortable and respected.
There are many different factors and instances in today’s society where Indigenous people are feeling unsafe, untrusted, and uncomfortable in modern healthcare. It is important to always respect and be mindful of the culture, traditions, and practices of all the patients who come to you for help.
1 Emily, et al. “The Power of Menstruation: Native American Moon Time Ritual.” Traditional Native Healing, 24 July 2016, traditionalnativehealing.com/the-power-of-menstruation-native-american-moon-time-ritual.
“Indigenous Health Issues in Canada.” Express Scripts Canada, www.express-scripts.ca/raising-health/Indigenous-Health-Issues-in-Canada.
“Patient Stories: CPSI.” Breaking down the Barriers Indigenous People Face in Canada's Health-Care System, www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca/en/toolsResources/Member-Videos-and-Stories/Pages/breaking-down-the-barriers-indigenous-people-face-in-canadas-health-care-system.aspx.
About the Author
Mercedes Redman is a proud Indigenous woman from Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. She is currently interning at E-HIS and attending post-secondary full time. She is pursuing a diploma in Indigenous Communications Arts at the First Nations University of Canada. Mercedes is interested in pursuing a career in journalism and communications and this internship will give her experience and knowledge in the field.