New sweat lodge offers traditional healing
New sweat lodge offers traditional healing

Waypoint’s Spiritual Care Team is made up of multi-faith chaplains who help clients connect spirituality and mental health, and to express themselves spiritually. They facilitate opportunities for people of all faiths to observe their important celebrations and provide respectful guidance, active listening and spiritual support. 

The Team came together recently under the guidance of Traditional Healer Austin Mixemong to construct a new sweat lodge, giving patients in our high secure forensic programs access to this important form of therapy based on the values, beliefs and traditions of indigenous peoples.

“A sweat lodge is a dome-shaped structure,” says Austin Mixemong. “When we talk about the lodge, we are talking about entering the womb of MOTHER earth, and the heated rocks that are used are called grandmothers and grandfathers. It’s a very sacred place.”

Sweat lodge construction

“When indigenous people are on their healing journey, the sweat lodge is a good starting point in helping them find peace and balance and to talk to their Creator,” says Glenn Robitaille, Director of Ethics and Spiritual Care. “The sweat lodge has been called the most powerful structure in the world and can vary in purpose: cleansing, healing and loss are just some examples. It is said the ceremony responds to what the participants need.”

On Wednesday August 23, Waypoint offered the first sweat lodge ceremony for a patient in a provincial mental health hospital. This is a remarkable achievement, allowing centuries-old traditional ceremonies to take place with respect and equity beside western medical practices.

“This ceremony, one of deep spiritual significance, has healed our people since the beginning of time,” says Austin Mixemong. “It is important that our indigenous patients have the choice to incorporate ceremony into their healing journeys.”

He adds “There is an indigenous teaching that recognizes people are made up of four equal parts: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. We need to ensure we are providing supports to our clients in all four of those quadrants to ensure the best outcomes for them.”

"Recognizing traditional healing methods is important to our patients,” adds Glenn Robitaille. “Our team is deeply committed to supporting the cultural traditions of all of our patients as they move through their recovery journey.”