Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc.
The first Indian controlled Health Centre in Canada was recently opened in the city of North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The opening of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre represents over 15 years of discussions, negotiations, confrontation and further negotiations by the Indian people in an attempt to maintain and improve health services for Indian people in the North Battleford District.
In the past, the Indian people enjoyed their own health services in the form of their own Indian Hospital. Although this hospital did not provide a total range of up-to-date hospital services, it did provide an atmosphere where Indian people felt comfortable.
With the need for expanded and upgraded general hospital facilities in North Battleford and the degeneration of the Indian Hospital, discussions began to take place about expanding the Union Hospital in North Battleford to include facilities and additional bed space for the Indian people. Although these proposals made sense from an administrative and facilities point of view, the Indian people realized that it would result in a downgrading of both their own level of services and their Treaty rights as well.
Officials from the Department of Health and Welfare of Canada and the Battleford's Union Hospital conducted negotiations with the Indian Health Lay Advisory Board from 1961 to 1971. Throughout the negotiations, Indian leaders consistently stated that they did not want to amalgamate the two hospitals.
In 1971, the former Minister of Health, John Munro decided unilaterally to accept the Union Hospital's proposal and closed the Indian Hospital. The Indian leaders never agreed to the proposal and continued to make representation to Ottawa to reconsider the decision. In 1973, former Health Minister Marc Lalonde agreed to reconsider the closure of the Indian hospital and further discussions and negotiations took place.
In 1977, the Indian Chiefs of the North Battleford District submitted a brief to the Honourable Marc Lalonde and the Honourable Warren Allmand— the Minister of Indian Affairs— expressing their concerns and their frustrations over the misunderstandings and the lack of regard for the Indian's point of view.This brief contained suggestions for a review of overall Indian health problems related to social conditions, housing, education and general community health services.
In response to the brief, Mr. Lalonde appointed a task force in May 1977 to review the numerous concerns and suggestions expressed by the Chiefs. The task force consisted of representatives of the North Battleford Chiefs, Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, Province of Saskatchewan, Department of Indian Affairs and the Department of National Health and Welfare. They proposed the continuation and expansion of community health services through an Indian Health Centre and concurred with the closure of acute care facilities of the Indian Hospital. Receiving this report, Mr. Lalonde announced the closure of the Indian Hospital.
Under pressure from the Indian people, Mr. Lalonde agreed to another review of the situation and retained Dr. Graham Clarkson in July of 1977 to develop a ''concrete, functional health services plan for the reserves in the North Battleford area substantiated by way of statistical information.'' Dr. Clarkson’s suggestions were for the establishment of an Indian Health Centre geared to providing comprehensive community services that had not been adequately outlined in earlier proposals.
With funding from the Department of National Health and Welfare, an administrative structure was established consisting of a Board of Directors representing all of the reserves in the North Battleford district.
The governing body of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc. is the Board of Directors which consists of Chiefs of Little Pine, Sweetgrass, Red Pheasant, Mosquito, Moosomin, Saulteaux, Thunderchild, Onion Lake and Lucky Man. The Chairman of the Board, Steve Pooyak, was Chief of Sweetgrass Band at the formation of the Board. The Board of Directors appointed an Advisory Board whose primary responsibility is to recommend policies and programs of the Centre to the Board of Directors. The Advisory Board consists of three Chiefs, a representative from Indian Affairs, two representatives from National Health and Welfare, District Chiefs Representative, and the Chairman.
The objectives of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc. are as follows:
- to ensure that comprehensive health services are delivered to the Indian Bands in the North Battleford District as a matter of Indian right under the British North America Act, Treaty Number 6 between Her Majesty and the Cree Nation and the Indian Act
- to provide direction to Her Majesty in the operation of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc.
- to act as an agent for Her Majesty in the operation of the Battlefords Indian Health Centre Inc.
- to augment and support primary healthcare services on the reserves in the North Battleford District and to offer the Indian community an alternative choice of physician's services
- to involve the Indians of the North Battleford District in the administration of health programs so that these programs are accessible, acceptable and used
- to promote higher standards of healthcare services to Indian Bands and Reserves in the North Battleford District
- to provide opportunities for Indian people, through their duly elected Indian Band Government, to plan, direct, implement and deliver health services and programs to the Indian people in the North Battleford District
- to provide training opportunities for Indian people in the North Battleford District
- to increase the self-respect, esteem, and self-reliance of Indian people in and associated with the healthcare field in the North Battleford district
- to facilitate direct liaison and cooperation between the Indian and non-Indian communities, in the provision of health services and the delivery of health programs for Indian people in the North Battleford District.
Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre (BRT6HC) is a First Nations owned and operated health services organization. Opening in 1977, we were the first Indigenous-controlled Health Centre in Canada. Independent of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, we are governed by a board of chiefs representing the BRT6HC member bands.
Serving Our Community
We provide community-based health services to promote, support, and encourage the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of the people living on Little Pine, Lucky Man, Sweetgrass and Poundmaker. Our community has input on the services we provide, as they are as much a part of us as we are a part of them.
Board of Directors
Our board of directors for Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre.
We are proud to serve our communities.
Chief Sylvia Weenie
Stoney Knoll First Nation
Sweetgrass First Nation
Chief Duane Antoine
Poundmaker Cree Nation
Chief Crystal Okemow
Lucky Man Cree Nation
Chief Donny Ironchild
Little Pine First Nation