A special event was held at Cowichan District Hospital (CDH) to welcome The Blessing Tree – Xpey’ (Cedar Tree), a beautiful carving by Coast Salish artist Stuart Pagaduan. This important piece of art is now displayed in the main hallway of CDH.
Inspired by an existing, interactive Blessing Tree in the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Sacred Space, the Island Health Spiritual Health team received an Island Health Employee Wellness Grant through Occupational Health and Safety to fund four more trees at CDH, Victoria General Hospital, Royal Jubilee Hospital, and Saanich Peninsula Hospital. At CDH, the project was guided by the Cowichan Wellness Committee in collaboration with Cowichan Tribes, which co-funded the commission.
Artist Stuart Pagaduan was raised on the S’amun’a Reserve in the Cowichan Valley by his grandparents, whom, he says, taught him the importance of language and culture. Stuart creates both modern and traditional pieces using a variety of mediums, which can be found throughout the world. Stuart is also a Language and Cultural Teacher for youth, sharing the legacy of Elders, which is his passion.
Joined at the event by his mother, Cowichan Tribes elder Philomena Pagaduan, Stuart expressed his honour and pleasure in helping to create a true symbol of understanding and relationship building with indigenous people and communities.
“Many of our people do not feel comfortable in institutional settings, such as hospitals – however, we don’t want pity, we just want understanding,” he says. “The Blessing Tree is a symbol of friendship, of partnership, and allows everyone who sees it to give thanks to the amazing caregivers at this site, and come together, stand together, and work together as one.”
Stuart’s inscription for the Blessing Tree reads:
Friends and Relatives,
This carving is created to share the beliefs and traditions of the Quw'utsun' (Cowichan) People, and to bring blessings to all. Our dear Elders of the past and present remind us of the importance of life and spirituality. We often look at a hospital as a place of physical healing. Our People would say we also need to honour the Spiritual aspect of our Culture, as integral to healing and wellness. So this carving is a Cedar Tree which is sacred to the Cowichan People.
Next to the carving is a bulletin board upon which people can attach messages of their own – e.g. blessings, well wishes, poems, thank you’s – on postcards with The Blessing Tree – Xpey’ (Cedar Tree) image. These cards will also be available on units throughout the hospital, and can be used for sending messages to patients, loved ones, staff, physicians and volunteers.