Written by Min Naruki-van Velzen, Manager, Access and Integration, Administration

Phyliss Suave' reflects on the importance of aboriginal art in health care facilities.

First Nations’ elders, artists, and leaders joined Fraser Health staff and our partners recently to welcome a Coast Salish style blanket onto the traditional territories of Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo, Kwikwetlem and Tswwassen; and into the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre.

This installation on June 5 is one way we are ensuring that First Nations values and voices are more prominently represented in our health care system and another example of our commitment to our Cultural Safety Framework.

Phyliss Sauve, Indigenous HIV Prevention and Support Worker at Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Center Association (FRAFCA), said the event was moving for her both personally and professionally. “Displaying this blanket at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre acknowledges and honors Indigenous cultures and traditions through art,” Sauve said. “It is a small, but important step, towards Truth and Reconciliation for Indigenous people. More broadly, it recognizes Fraser Health’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity to all who walk through the doors.”

In addition to working for Fraser Health, Sauve is also a client of the Positive Health Clinic at JPOCSC. For her, the installation of the traditional Coast-Salish blanket had added significance, as it was given to her on behalf of the HIV community. “My journey with being HIV positive was very secretive in the beginning,” she explained. “I was very scared of what people would think of me if they ever found out. As time went on, I was able to educate myself and sought out the supports that were available to me.

Being “positive” has changed me in a positive way. I started to take care of my physical, and spiritual, and emotional health. I wanted to a have full productive life to see my children grow up and help other people understand the disease of HIV/Aids. When I was asked to accept a traditional Coast-Salish commemorative blanket on behalf of the HIV community in 2016, I was honored. I knew that I would have to talk to my family about making my diagnosis public because of the stigma associated with HIV. Regardless, I felt it was a great opportunity to educate and show that HIV is manageable and that you can live a healthy life.

Through all this I have been able to overcome many obstacles in my life. I do not let HIV define who I am as an Indigenous woman. I am proud and honored to be able to help others through my work.”

Learn more about Fraser Heatlh Cultural Safety initiatives and to access an Aboriginal Health events calendar.

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