A new mural that represents the warrior spirit of the otter now greets patients, visitors and staff who walk the corridor that links the emergency department to the main part of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Contracted by the hospital’s cultural safety working group, in consultation with local First
Nation elders, the work is intended to foster further cultural awareness throughout the facility.
“I’m very pleased they chose this piece for the hospital,” said Red Deer artist Ryan Jason Allen Willert, who learned the art of black ink drawing from his father, also a well-known Siksika Nation artist.
“The otter is a reminder to be present and appreciative. When you learn to appreciate the positive and the negative, life becomes a little bit easier.
“The otter is also a war spirit. He is our partner in battle. No matter what that battle is – illness, mental health, addictions – the otter is here to help us through.”
Cultural safety working groups have been created in Alberta Health Services facilities across the province, in conjunction with the Indigenous health program.
The program partners with Indigenous people, communities and key stakeholders to provide accessible, culturally appropriate health services for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
Allan Sinclair, senior operating officer with AHS’s central zone, said the agency is committed to doing everything it can to eradicate systemic racism and discrimination within the organization.
He said for several years, Red Deer hospital has strived to increase the cultural competency of its workers so that they can have a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous culture and customs.
Murals are a unique way to increase Indigenous awareness, he said.
AHS said the artist was paid a nominal fee for his time and supplies.
“AHS takes the importance of the responsibility of allocating financial resources very seriously. Equally important to our organization is ensuring that all patients who access health care do so in a comfortable, safe and culturally supportive environment,” it said.