To help celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario has embarked on an exciting creative initiative to help further make the hospital a welcoming space for all. Created by patients undergoing cancer treatments, cancer survivors and their loved ones, three dreamcatchers are being made for display in the Burr Wing atrium.
“The dreamcatchers will be a beautiful visual for visitors when they come into the hospital and for First Nations, Indigenous and Métis patients it will tell them that this is a safe and culturally inclusive space,” says Carol Anne Maracle, a member of the South East Regional Cancer Program Aboriginal Council. “For patients coming here for the first time it can be an overwhelming experience and the dreamcatcher is one way to help them adjust and feel more comfortable in this space.”
The idea for the dreamcatchers first came to Maracle several years ago when she began cancer treatment. To help keep her focused during treatments she placed a dreamcatcher in the radiation suite to help remind her of her dreams and goals.
“I had many people come and tell me that they thought it was a beautiful gesture to have a dreamcatcher to look at during treatment and the more time I spent here looking through the atrium to the water, I saw the potential to make this beautiful symbol visible to everyone who comes through these doors,” says Maracle. “When I started volunteering here and becoming involved with the Aboriginal Council I suggested this idea to the hospital; to see this dream becoming a reality is very exciting.”
Traditionally, dreamcatchers have come to symbolize unity and strength. The web of the dreamcatcher catches bad dreams and lets the good ones through. The good dreams are attracted to the center bead which guides them down to a feather pointing to the head of the dreamer and when the sunlight breaks through the darkness of the night, the bad dreams are burnt up.
“We want to improve the Cancer Centre and hospital by creating a culturally safe space and an important way we can do that is to involve the Indigenous peoples in our region in the creation of our public spaces,” says Dionne Nolan, Aboriginal Navigator for the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. “We know that coming to the Cancer Centre can be an intimidating experience and to help alleviate that anxiety we want a space that is reflective of all of the patients we provide care for.”
Work on the dreamcatchers kicked off this week with crafting time, fry bread and traditional strawberry drink made available to all patients, families and staff. Next, the dreamcatchers will travel to a Talking Circle in Tyendinaga for finishing touches by community members. The dreamcatchers will be hung in the Burr Wing atrium by the end of the year.