The Mino Ayaa Ta Win Healing Centre and Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services has welcomed Dr. Shannon Wesley to their organization, where she will begin her four-day-a-month practice.
A welcoming ceremony was held Monday in the facility's roundhouse, where food was shared, prayers were said, and songs were sung to the beat of the “Aazhawii Giizhik” drum.
Calvin Morrisseau, executive director of Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services, and Lori Flinders, director of Behavioural Health Services, said welcoming words to Dr. Wesley and offered her a “working bundle” during the ceremony.
The working bundle, which was accepted by Dr. Wesley, is meant to support her in the work she does with tribal health specifically.
Originally from the Eagle Lake First Nation near Kenora, she started practising Western medicine a number of years ago.
With Dr. Wesley having grown up in a Northwestern Ontario First Nations' community, the welcoming ceremony is more of a “welcome back,” Flinders noted.
Dr. Wesley has shared a practice at the Aurora Family Health Clinic in Thunder Bay for most of her working career, but always has been interested in working with her own people.
The Mino Ayaa Ta Win Healing Centre, located a few kilometres east of Fort Frances, is a medically-supervised detox facility, meaning it needs access to medical practitioners.
The facility always has had registered practical nurses and personal support workers but didn't have a doctor until now.
Dr. Wesley hopes to continue the healing centre's work towards bridging the gap between Western and traditional medicines.
“When I was at the Ontario healing lodge meeting, it was really evident that we are the only treatment centre that is really providing the kind of service that we are providing across Ontario,” said Morrisseau.
“One of the things that really came to the forefront was our bicultural practice.”
“Adding Dr. Wesley to our team is just another step forward in to how we can bridge the gap between two worlds for our people,” he added.
In 1977, Morrisseau was recovering from an addiction. And while he found Western medicine to be beneficial, he needed to get reconnected back with his culture to fully heal.
“I know that in my own journey to healing, Western medicine brought me so far but it couldn't bring me all the way home,” he stressed.
When Morrisseau refers to the medicine bringing him home, he means connected back to his true self.
He found that through participating in his culture's rites of passage, he was able to find who he was and move forward.
The Mino Ayaa Ta Win Healing Centre is trying to bring a similar to experience to indigenous people who have become disconnected from their roots.
Flinders said by having Dr. Wesley's present in First Nations' communities, she may be able to inspire others to choose a career that helps serve their people, as well.
“We're hoping that by seeing an Anishinaabe, Western-trained medical doctor visiting our communities, many youth will be inspired to follow their dreams and come back to their communities to do the work that Shannon is embarking upon right now in her territory of Treaty 3,” she remarked.
Flinders, Morrisseau, and the rest of the Tribal Health Services team look forward to working with Dr. Wesley over the next year.
She is working with Tribal Health under an annual contract that will be reviewed on March 31, 2019.