Sacred bundle honouring feast brings together Indigenous drums from eight Toronto hospitals

The first annual sacred bundle feast of the drums took place at Casey House, September 22, 2022. This special occasion brought together sacred drums and their caretakers from eight local Toronto hospitals and special guests to participate in the feast. Each hospital had been gifted a drum for traditional healing by the Toronto Central Regional Indigenous Cancer Program (TCR-ICP) for Indigenous community members, staff, peers, volunteers to use in ceremony and spiritual practices.

After a welcome from Casey House CEO Joanne Simons, the ceremony began with an opening prayer and smudge from traditional knowledge keeper Elder Kawennanoron Cindy White and Oshkaawbewis (helper), Christine Monague, which was accompanied by traditional ceremony songs and drumming from Rod Michano. Elder Cindy smudged all the sacred items, then honoured each one with tobacco. She explained that Indigenous worldview says the “medicine that you need grows around you.”

Next, Elder Cindy explained that this ceremony was to say thank you to the drums for the work that has been done and to prepare for the next cycle. Alongside Indigenous patient navigator, Leonard Benoit, Elder Cindy spoke about the tools needed to find the way back to the creator, to reestablish a connection with the one that made us. While the drum represents the heartbeat of mother earth, the rattle calls in the spirit, and a pipe helps communicate with the Creator.

An important part of the ceremony was offering two new sacred items to each hospital’s bundle: a rattle and a copper cup. Together, Leonard and Elder Cindy dipped feathers and an eagle wing into cedar water and sprinkled it on each drum and rattle. Each hospital has a designated staff who is drum keeper is responsible for the care and access of the sacred bundle. After the new sacred items were blessed, each bundle returned to their carrier and the Elder offered a song in honour of the bundles.

This was the first time all the drums had been brought together; Casey House was honoured to host the inaugural bundle feast.  Going forward, each hospital will be responsible for hosting the bundle feast yearly.

The drum and sacred bundle are part of Casey House’s commitment to build relationships and improve the holistic care and experience of Indigenous clients,  community members, and staff. The TCR-ICP understands the important role(s) that Indigenous healing practices and ceremonies have, which can impact the health and healing of the Indigenous community. Therefore, the TCR-ICP works to build capacity amongst local hospitals to provide Indigenous medicine in conjunction with traditional western healing practices.

Casey House is committed to supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada final report’s ‘Calls to Action’, including incorporating Indigenous healing practices into service delivery and organizational practices.