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Indigenous medicine bags help with healing at B.C. hospitals

These four-ingredient homemade medicine bags are both spiritual and tangible
Indigenous medicine bags. (Fraser Health/Contributed to Black Press Media)

Among the high-tech equipment at many hospitals, there is a spiritual aspect infused into B.C.’s health care which comes in the form of an Indigenous medicine bag.

This is a very special kind of bag, as they are both spiritual and tangible.

An Indigenous medicine bag typically contains tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar.

“You can hold them, smell them and pray with them. Patients might put the bag on their bed or table or hang it from a bedrail or IV pole,” Elder Carol Peters, Indigenous Cultural Safety Liaison/Advisor with Fraser Health said in a statement.

When an patient is referred to an Indigenous Health Liaison, they are usually offered a homemade medicine bag, which comes with its own story to go along with it.

According to Peters, each ingredient associated with the bag has its own unique way to help with healing: The cedar to restore positive thoughts, the sage to drive away negative energy and impurities and brings strength, the sweet grass to promote good feelings and intentions and the tobacco for the purposes of prayer and showing thanks for being on this earth.

“The bags are intended to help patients feel connected to their spirit, community and culture.”

These bags begin their unique healing processes before a patient is even admitted to hospital. This is because Elders and community members gather the medicines and offer good intentions and prayers into each one.

According to the coordinator for the Indigenous Health Liaison team, Beverly Lightfoot, good thoughts and prayers are encapsulated within the bags. 

“There are a lot of things we do for our patients and clients that are felt on a spiritual level,” Lightfoot said in an interview. “This is something I know for myself and I very much believe in.”

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