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Fort St. John Hospital & Peace Villa Indigenous Welcoming Signage project


Indigenous welcome signage has now been installed at department entrances inside the Fort St. John Hospital.
The new Indigenous Welcoming signage posted outside of the Fort St. John Hospital emergency department.

The Fort St. John Hospital (FSJH) Art Committee was formed in 2010 to inventory the artwork in the old hospital and North Peace Residential Care facilities and select artwork to be transferred to the new FSJH and Peace Villa, which opened in June 2012.  

Once settled into the new facilities, committee members began the work of creating a more welcoming environment for patients, residents, staff, and community members by installing donated artwork in public areas and patient and resident rooms. As well, they designated history wall spaces, which included a Treaty 8 First Nations area. 

Indigenous signage in the Fort St. John hospital and Peace Villa.

When the new FSJH opened, Indigenous people expressed that the inclusion of official Indigenous welcoming or land acknowledgement signage would be an important addition from their perspective.

With the implementation of inclusivity ideology, and reconciliation policies being mandated, health care facilities are becoming more culturally safe spaces and welcoming environments, thus renewing the need for Indigenous welcoming signage at the FSJH and Peace Villa.

In 2014, the FSJH Art Committee started researching how to provide appropriate welcoming Indigenous signage and a territorial land acknowledgement public art installation.

In the spring of 2022, the FSJH Auxiliary applied on behalf of the committee for a Diversity and Inclusivity micro-grant from the City of Fort St. John. They were successful, giving them the necessary funds to begin Phase I of the Indigenous Welcoming Signage project. Shortly thereafter, the FSJH Art Committee started working with local Indigenous artists to develop ideas for the welcoming signage. Indigenous signage for the birthing centre in the Fort St. John hospital and Peace Villa.

The FSJH is situated on the historical lands of the original Fort St. John First Nations Band, which was officially divided and moved by the government in 1979 to create the Doig River and Blueberry River First Nations. The FSJH Art Committee focused on these two bands when placing a call for artists to create designs for the signage. The chosen artists to work in collaboration with the Art Committee were Amy Acko and Madelien Oker from the Doig River First Nation.

In November 2023, approval for the construction funding was granted and construction began. The Indigenous welcoming signage was built by Signworks Ltd. in Fort St. John. Once the signs were complete, Northern Health Facilities Maintenance installed them at the main, emergency, and birthing unit entrances at the FSJH and at the main entrance to Peace Villa.

"The FSJH Arts Committee is happy to say that Phase I, the Indigenous Welcoming Signage, was completed in early December 2023" , says Rosemary Landry of the FSJH Art Committee. "The signage depicts the beautiful beadwork design of a hummingbird, a symbol of healing, hovering over flowers with the Beaver language inscription translated as ‘I am so happy you came.”

This project cost countless volunteer hours over a span of many years in order to gain support from the local First Nations and secure financial backing. The final cost of the project was covered by the $2,000 Diversity and Inclusion micro-grant from the City of Fort St. John and a $2,000 construction and installation fee, which was funded by Northern Health.Indigenous signage in the Fort St. John hospital.

The FSJH Art Committee would like to acknowledge the following people and organizations for their support of Phase I of the Indigenous Welcoming Signage project:

  • Amy Acko and Madelien Oker, artwork designers, Doig River First Nation
  • Peter Franklin, Signworks Ltd.
  • City of Fort St. John
  • Northern Health staff:
  • Angela De Smit, Vice President Professional Practice / Chief of Nursing and Allied Health
  • Patti MacEwan, Health Services Administrator
  • Bianca Krezanoski, FSJH Contract Manager
  • Harriet Stanford, graphic design supporter, for working with the artists to provide a print-ready digital copy of the artwork  Indigenous signage in the Fort St. John hospital and Peace Villa with Artist Amy Acko.
  • FSJH Auxiliary for applying for the grant on behalf of the FSJH Art Committee
  • Members of the FSJH Art Committee for their ongoing patience and perseverance over many years to bring Phase I of the project to completion  

Phase II of the project, a First Nations Land Acknowledgement Public Art Installation, remains an ongoing project with the need to secure grant funding.

Please note: The FSJH Auxiliary is a volunteer organization which manages the gift shop and vending machines within the facilities, thus providing a community service with all profits invested in providing patient care and comfort equipment. It’s a separate organization, often confused with the FSJH Foundation, that continues to collaborate with the FSJH Arts Committee to seek future grant funding.