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New sweat lodge at Michael Garron Hospital opens with tribute to Arkells
Two members of the Hamilton band Arkells were presented with special medicine pouches and an eagle feather at a Toronto hospital as they attended the launch of a new traditional medicine sweat lodge on hospital grounds.
The honour was meant as a thank you after the band gave up much of their time at the microphone at the recent Juno awards in May.
Musician Jeremy Dutcher had earlier won for Indigenous Album of the Year, but his speech about reconciliation was cut short at the awards dinner, which was held the night before the main awards were broadcast.
But when the Arkells were announced as the winners for Rock Album of the Year, they graciously offered their spotlight to Dutcher so he could finish his speech.
“We really feel like we’re getting far too much credit for what we did,” said vocalist Max Kerman at Tuesday’s ceremony.
“We’re just curious people and Jeremy had so much wisdom to share — and we didn’t!” he chuckled. “And we were really excited just to hear him finish his speech”.
But their moment of respect and kindness caught the attention of Elder Little Brown Bear, who is the Manager of Aboriginal Culture at Michael Garron Hospital.
Elder Little Brown Bear made a point of honouring them as he opened the hospital’s new Sweat Lodge.
The lodge is made of flexible sapling and is four meters in diameter. It includes a sacred pit in which special rocks from the shores of Georgian Bay are heated for hours before being placed inside the lodge.
The rocks are called “grandfathers” as they represent ancestral spirits.
The shape of the lodge is meant to represent Mother Earth’s womb, from which people are spiritually reborn.
“When the baby comes out, the baby is wet,” explains Elder Little Brown Bear. “The same thing in a sweat lodge, when you’re in there sweating. When you come out, you are spiritually lifted.”
He said they hope to hold their first sweat at the lodge before the end of August and sweats will be held several times a week through the spring, summer and fall, depending on the demand. Everyone, including non-aboriginal people, is welcome.
The Arkells did not perform, but they were honoured musically by Bryanna Petrie, who sang them a gratitude song.