Incorporating culturally conscious care through the Elbow River Healing Lodge

Access to ancestral wellness practices is essential to reconciliation, healing, balance, healthy communities, and steps toward decolonizing our health care system.

This is what the Elbow River Healing Lodge is seeking to do. Located in Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre, the Elbow River Healing Lodge opened its doors in 2008, offering primary care services and visiting specialists to Indigenous peoples and their families. It is the only Indigenous-focused primary care clinic in Calgary.

Providing a culturally safe space is important. Elbow River Healing Lodge was designed to engage patients with wrap-around holistic care. This means that physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of wellness are all addressed at Elbow River Healing Lodge.

Services provided at the lodge include:

  • assessments and examinations
  • onsite Elders
  • traditional wellness and healing (spiritual, cultural, and ceremonial supports)
  • family-focused care
  • prenatal care and case management
  • nutrition and traditional dietary services
  • immunizations
  • social resource referral and advocacy
  • outreach (in community, acute sites and Calgary Zone)
  • foot clinics and foot health

Health care access for local Indigenous communities improves when health care services are tailored to their needs. By embedding ancestral and cultural health care practices into Alberta Health Services’ facilities, we can foster openness from those unfamiliar with Indigenous medicine and improve the health outcomes of Indigenous people.

Indigenous communities have unique practices with ties to knowledge, traditions, medicine, and ceremonies that have been passed down for generations; however, there has been little opportunity to incorporate these important cultural practices into our health care system.

Together with local Indigenous partners, we are working to build a health care system that recognizes and respects Indigenous leadership over their own health matters, makes space for community voices, and integrates cultural knowledge. We are working toward a more equitable future in health care.

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