Turtle Island

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Turtle Island

By Diamond Willow Employee, Brooklyn:

We began our Elder’s Hours at Diamond Willow Youth Lodge with an Elder named Blair Thomas. As youth poured into the space, Blair led us all in a talking circle. We started off with an opening smudge and prayer and an introduction of our names and where we are all from. The youth really opened up about their dreams and what they see for themselves in the future and we all got to know one another. They spoke up about the things they love to do and it was a really great way for them to get to know the people around them and see how much they all had in common. As we all got to know each other, we realized that many of us had a shared interest in art and creativity. Blair suggested to some of our youth council members that were present, that they might collaborate on an elder-guided art project the next time he came for Elder’s Hours.

Two weeks later, we held a paint night guided by our elder Blair Thomas and one of youth council members, Princess Lightning. We talked about creation stories and one that the youth really enjoyed was the story of turtle island—the turtle is said to support the world, and is an icon of life itself. The term “Turtle Island” therefore speaks to various spiritual beliefs about creation and for some, the turtle is a marker of identity, culture and a deeply-held respect for the environment. The name comes from various Indigenous oral histories that tell stories of a turtle that holds the world on its back. The youth each painted one of four canvases that came together to form one turtle—symbolizing how youth can come together to create something wonderful at the Lodge. They decided to add the word “connection” in Cree syllabics on the bottom of the painting because through this piece of art the youth joined together to work as one as they connected to their traditions, their oral histories and their local Elders.

Turtle Island.jpg

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Remembering a friend and kindred spirit

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Remembering a friend and kindred spirit

It is with heavy hearts that Pathways wishes Elder and dear friend, Darryl Brass farewell. Darryl passed away November 10, 2018, and with a New Year, we remember and celebrate his profound impact in the community.

Darryl is remembered as a warm and gentle spirit with an incredible sense of humour. He was generous, always sharing stories of strength and wisdom. He had an unwavering passion for the traditional way of life. In his teachings, he imparted the wisdom we need to walk this world in a good way, in a healthy and mindful way.

One Pathways staff reminisces: “To me, the first thing that stood out was his door was open. Literally, the door to his house was open when we walked up and I believe that’s how he was… door open for anyone to walk in and have a seat on his couch. He and Linda kindly welcomed you no matter where you came from. His generosity with his teachings was so very valuable to me. I learned so much from him.”

Our deepest sympathies to Linda and the entire Brass family, and to everyone who shared in Darryl's beautiful life. Although he is dearly missed by many, he will be fondly remembered for his words of wisdom and the laughter he brought to everyone around him.

Hai Hai.

 

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From us to you – Happy New Year!

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From us to you – Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2019, the old year is gone and the new one is upon us. And with a new year always comes a cleaning out of the old and an excitement for what is to come.

And we, at Pathways, are very excited for the year ahead of us!

Not only are classes resuming in January (please see the calendar under Events) and our Sweat Lodges are picking up again (remember, they are open to everyone! If you have questions, please contact Erin Henderson), but our Diamond Willow Youth Lodge is in full swing and all sorts of exciting things are happening there, as well! Again, visit our calendar for details relating to those events. Also, fast approaching is our annual Friendship Round Dance; this is going to be held at the Genesis Centre on Saturday, January 19, 2019 from 5:00 to 11:00 PM. This is always a wonderful time where everyone is welcome and fun is had by all! If you have any questions, please contact Madison Lightning.

Not listed on the calendar is a book club that is slowly gaining traction. We are having our next gathering at the Pathways office on Monday, January 21 at 5:30pm. We start with a potluck and engage with the book around 6:30. The book we will be discussing this time is Nationhood Interrupted: Revitalizing Nehiyaw Legal Systems by Sylvia McAdam. So far this year, we have read some wonderful books and this time around will be tackling something more solid. If you have questions about this, please contact Erin Wiebe.

It seems that a new year is often marked with New Resolutions – ways we want our lives to change or improve in the coming year. We set the resolution, we mark the day, we buy the gym memberships, and –sadly– often before the end of the month, they’ve all but been forgotten. We start the year with good intentions, but somehow life seems to get in the way. Maybe even some have set their resolutions aside already.

At Pathways, we also have set some New Resolutions. But these are not an option to be set aside; they have been in the wind and swirling to take shape for far too long. Our New Year Resolutions have to do with some huge changes coming for Pathways in 2019. Big Changes! Exciting Changes! The kind of changes that are a defining point in a story! We look forward to sharing all of these with you as the year progresses! We will honour our history, the path that took us to this point, but we are almost ready to launch … Please stay tuned as you will read about it here and see it on the website when we spread our wings and fly! 

Hint … the first part of this will be revealed at the Round Dance on the 19th!

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kiskeyihtamowin: Knowledge Learning

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kiskeyihtamowin: Knowledge Learning

Tânisi, Bob Nitisikâson, niya apihtawîkosisan: A phrase I have said over and over again. I often still stumble over some of the sounds and my mouth attempts to wrap around the fluidity of nêhiyâwêwin – The Cree language. But I am getting it, slowly. Apsîs – a little bit. That one little phrase has so much in it: it is a greeting, an identifier, a statement; an affirmation. I never say this little phrase without feeling.

Every week I drive home from a Monday full of meetings and often challenging conversations and I head straight to Cree language class. I have been attending now for over a year and a half. When I first came to class I was really nervous, I am the first in 4 generations of my family to speak Cree and honestly, I didn’t know if I even deserved to learn. When I arrived I behaved exactly like I did in school, quiet, and as respectful as I could be. I was very shy and I didn’t talk to anyone. I just came, learned some words and left. At least that was the plan.

But it wasn’t very long before I was getting teased along with the rest of the class as we made little mistakes with the words, my cheeks would turn all red and over time I began to feel comfortable, even loved within the class. Not only were we learning the language, we were learning what it means to think and behave in nêhiyâwêwin. Patrick and Patsy would tell us stories about growing up in their home, they invited us into ceremony to hear the words we were learning and to listen to Cree prayer. We smudge and pray at the beginning of every class so that the ancestors are there with us, just laughing too, and smiling because they are so proud of us learning what was almost forgotten. We were also able to learn the language from it’s source during the summertime with a week on the land. Because the language lives there, this was such a powerful place to learn and grow closer together. It felt like home.

Ninanâskomon – I am so grateful for Cree class. It is hard to find a community of people in the city willing to learn together and laugh together, to be vulnerable, to challenge one another and to support one another in reclaiming what is, for many of us, lost cultural connection. Cree Class is so much greater than just language because the language has LIFE. It IS life. Nêhiyâwêwin teaches me humility when I speak out of turn, patience when I can’t learn a word, compassion when others are struggling, honesty because it’s impossible for me to lie in Cree, generosity when I am able to help. And I am learning this through the generosity of the Elders who teach us. They are patient when we ask them to repeat words kihtwam – over and over again.

I look forward to Cree class every week and I treasure the friendships I’ve made there. We can’t learn language and culture without a community and Pathways has done an incredible job at fostering all three.

Kinanâskomitinaw – I am grateful to you all.

Ekosi – the end.

Written by Cree Learner and Pathways Volunteer, Bob Montgomery

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Thank you, Leopold's Tavern!

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Thank you, Leopold's Tavern!

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy,” so wrote Francis Pharcellus Church of the New York Sun in 1897. And, though the world might be full of sadness and war and pain throughout the year, this is the one time when a gleam of light can shine forth and we can be reminded that there are moments of beauty and things to be grateful for – we can be part of it.

And today, Pathways was the recipient of such a moment – the generosity of a local establishment surprised and put a smile on the faces of people here at Pathways.

We send out a huge thank you to Leopold’s Tavern in Bowness for the wonderful gift! Today, you were our ‘Santa Claus’!

If I may, this gives a glimpse into what the world might be like, if we saw ourselves as part of a community. Life isn’t about how much you can accumulate; there are no winners when you reach the end. But what you can leave behind is a legacy. How many lives have you touched, how many people are better because you were here. Pathways does its best to pass that on, and today we were the receiver of another organization who passed it on to us. Pay It Forward has been a part of our world for a long time; it blesses the giver as well as the receiver.

Thank you, Leopold’s Tavern. You made our day!

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Youth Lodge Keeper Perspective

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Youth Lodge Keeper Perspective

What was your experience as a Youth Lodge Keeper at summer camp? 

"Well, my biggest take away from camp was that, I grew up in a very traumatic home and a lot of abuse-emotionally… whatever. And when I was young, when I went to camp it was the only time that I  was kind of free; I was just free to be me, to get out, get away from everything that was going on at home and I kind of did that healing. Especially in the young men’s camp I would see them and the progress they made from the first day to the last day and it was like black and white how far these kids came. And I thanked them when we were all in the sweat lodge together and I said, “I believe that creator puts people in our lives and kind of gives us mirrors in a way to see things and to heal through other people.” And they teach us things and so I thanked these young boys. All the healing that took place in these young men, I saw myself in them and it helped me heal that little boy inside of myself and I was so grateful to them. And I don’t have enough good things to say about it. I’m just speechless for some of these young men that came. There were some that never even lit a match before in their life. And by the end they were helping me work out there. We set up a sweat lodge together, taught them how to cut firewood, picking medicines, speaking to the elders, offering tobacco, everything. There were lots of times that I cried, right, because it was almost like I was living through them and I saw that little boy and it just made me… Like there was a lot of void earlier in my own life where I just checked out and I can’t even really remember anything from my childhood because it was so messed up. It was like they gave me that opportunity to do that and I am just eternally grateful to them. There were lots of times where I cried. These boys they meant so much to me. The experiences we had together: sweating with each other, swimming with each other, especially listening to some of the words and some of our conversations with Patrick around the campfire. I’ll never forget those time sitting around the campfire together. It moved me in ways in which words can’t really explain."

-Ricky Tompkins, Pathways CSA Youth Lodge Keeper

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Cultural Travel Camp Reflection

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Cultural Travel Camp Reflection

On July 23rd, a group of Indigenous youth came together at Pathways for a sacred circle and offering ceremony led by Blackfoot Elder and ceremonialist, Grant Little Mustache before embarking on their journey through Southern Alberta. We travelled far and wide to sleep in teepees, swim in rivers, listen to our Elders, and unleash our spirits! From the Okotoks Big Rock to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump to Indian Battle Park to Writing on Stone to Blackfoot Crossing, and home again! We offered tobacco to the trees, played wild hoodoo games, greeted two cougars standing outside our teepee door, spotted rattle snakes, translated petroglyphs, floated down the Milk River, witnessed the most epic sunsets, and ended with a beautiful sweat at our home lodge!

Our first stop was the Okotoks Erratic (the ‘Big Rock’)! We climbed to the top and learned the Blackfoot story of ‘Napi.’ Our next stop was Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, where we toured the museum and ventured to the Buffalo Jump learning about the historic events and the spiritual meaning and purpose of the buffalo, “iinii” in Blackfoot. Lastly, we made it to Buffalo Rock Tipi Camp for the evening. Owner and Knowledge Keeper, Harley Bastien, shared old stories of the land and ignited a passion in our youth for ecological justice and the importance to us and future generations that we invest in the health of our shared environment.

The next day, after a bannock and buffalo stew lunch, we carried on to Indian Battle Park located in the heart of Lethbridge. Blackfoot Elder, Casey Eaglespeaker met with us and told stories relating to the park, describing the Battle of Belly River, and the significance of our next stop, Writing on Stone Provincial Park. The eyes of our young people widened as they listened to stories of spirits residing in stones and petroglyphs depicting the history of their ancestors.

The following day, Blackfoot Elder, Randy Bottle led our tour through Writing on Stone Provincial Park. He shared some of the interpreted meanings behind the petroglyphs, recalling old stories and happenings of the location. The landscape, battles, and ceremonies that took place were a recurring theme among the images on the stone. Later that day, we grabbed our swimsuits and floated down the Milk River, letting the current sweep us from our camp site to the campground beach. Arguably the most outstanding moment for both campers and counsellors, was our playtime and sharing circle that concluded this busy day. As the sun set on the hoodoos, we played capture the flag – youth jumped from the top of hoodoos to tag each other, bellowing warrior cries and bursting with laughter! We settled down and lit the smudge as we sat on top of the tallest hoodoo, overlooking the valley under the starry sky. As the smudge went around, the youth counted constellations and wondered about the universe. We passed the feather and shared our greatest enjoyments from our travels and our hopes for the next two days.

Day four, we packed up camp and left for Blackfoot Crossing. Knowledge Keeper, Clinton Turning Robe led our tour at Blackfoot Crossing, the historic site of the signing of Treaty No.7, and a site of preservation of the Siksika Nation Peoples’ language, culture and traditions. Following Blackfoot Crossing, we spent our last evening at our home lodging, East of Okotoks beside the Bow River. We treated ourselves to the traditional feast of Kentucky Fried Chicken and told stories of our Southern Alberta journey, laughing around the camp fire. 

On July 27th, our journey concluded with a healing sweat lodge ceremony at our home camp, led by Cree Elder, Patrick Diagnault. Before entering the lodge, Patrick passed around sacred items for the youth to add to their medicine pouches. In a circle, we passed around coloured bits of cloth, sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, and tiny amethyst stones, each person taking some of each item and adding it to their pouch as both a medicine and memory of their time at Cultural Travel Camp.

We shared some wonderful stories, moments, and travels together. The people, the places, and the moments where time stood still with the beauty of the prairies. It's been an incredible adventure with the most incredible youth!

-Erin Henderson, Pathways CSA, Circle Connector, Miskanawah

 

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Cultural Identity Camp

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Cultural Identity Camp

On July 24th, a group of Indigenous youth came together at Pathways for a sacred circle and paint ceremony led by Elder, Grant Little Mustache before embarking on their journey through Southern Alberta. All youth and staff received a medicine bag blessed by Grant, for the purpose of collecting and carrying sacred items found throughout their journey.

And indeed, a journey it was!

We traveled far and wide to sleep in teepees, swim in rivers, listen to our Elders, and unleash our spirits! Our group explored everywhere from Okotoks Erratic (“Big Rock”), to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, to Writing-on-Stone, and Blackfoot Crossing. We played games, hiked, swam, and toured every venue. Our desert days reached highs of +35-38, making the thought of ending the trip with a sweat lodge seem almost unbearable! With the extreme heat, we didn’t hesitate to jump into every river we encountered; the Old Man River, Milk River, and Bow River. We ate traditional meals like buffalo stew, bannock, berry soup, pemmican, and Indian tacos. Due to the fire ban, our talking circles huddled tightly around a small propane-lit flame under the starry sky. This was our reflective time of the day; we smudged, listened, shared, and laughed with another.

Many of the youth commented that their favourite location was Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. One young man reflected, “I don’t know what it was about that place. Maybe it was the hoodoos or the spirits that reside in the stone, I felt wild and free. It was so much fun.” A young woman mentioned, “It was really peaceful sitting on the grass overlooking the Milk River. Every once in a while the wind would pick up and the trees sang to me. I felt so present, I felt so alive.”

On July 28th, our travels concluded with a sweat lodge ceremony on Siksika Nation, led by our Elder, Patrick Diagnault. Campers had the opportunity to make an offering of cloth and tobacco, asking for good wishes and blessings. The youth reached outside their comfort zone, with goals to stay in the lodge for one full round, or for all four rounds. One young camper reflected, “I’m so proud of myself. I’ve never lasted more than one round. Today was a very special sweat lodge because I got my Spirit Name, Grey Eagle Boy.”

Campers returned home with a renewed sense of belonging, leadership, and cultural awareness. After having this unique opportunity for self-discovery throughout the course of the camp, many of our young people developed a longing and confidence to delve deeper; to explore their interests, passions, values, and purpose. It was a genuine joy and pleasure to witness such a profound transformation in our youth.

Thank you to the Community Fund for Canada's 150 for generously supporting our camp!

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Miskamaso: Truth and Reconciliation in Family Life

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Miskamaso: Truth and Reconciliation in Family Life

“Miskamaso” means discover for yourself in Cree.  And boy, did we ever!

On June 22, we held our first ever conference, with the goal of facilitating discussion on strategies toward Truth and Reconciliation in our daily lives, with the people we serve, and in our organizations and community.

We opened the conference with a Pipe Ceremony and closed with a Round Dance.

Michelle Thrush joined us as MC for the day, along with Richard Van Camp and Monique Gray Smith as keynote speakers.   Our keynotes inspired and encouraged us to explore truths, to listen to stories, and that love is medicine.

Our panelists (Dr. Jacqueline Ottmann, Rebecca Many Grey Horses, Brian Calliou, and Kirby Redwood) reminded us that vulnerability is a superpower, that we need truth before reconciliation can occur, and to focus on wise practices instead of best practices. 

We sincerely thank all of our speakers, our youth, and all of the attendees for sharing their stories and experiences, and for having an open heart and mind on this journey of discovering for ourselves.

Another sincere thank you to our partners and sponsors: The Government of Canada, Genesis Centre, The City of Calgary FCSS, The Calgary Foundation, United Way of Calgary and Area, Repsol Oil & Gas Canada, and Nation Imagination.

To see event photos, please visit our conference page by clicking here.

 

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Why We Build a New Lodge

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Why We Build a New Lodge

Earlier this month, staff and volunteers from Pathways CSA, Mahmawi-atoskiwin and the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary headed to Camp Adventure in Sibbald Lake to build a new sweat lodge in time for the summer. A new sweat lodge is built every season to refresh and prepare for upcoming ceremonies. Staff and volunteers gathered together and helped construct the new lodge using willow and coverings (quilts).   

New sweat lodges are always moved to allow the previous site to heal – to allow the grass to grow back and the area to thrive once more. This practice denotes respect and appreciation for nature – a value that has always been a part of Indigenous culture and ceremony.

Building a new lodge serves a practical purpose as well as a more profound one. It enables sweat lodge ceremonies to take place and to continue serving their purpose: cleansing the body, mind and spirit through prayer, and through connection to the spirits of the Grandmothers and Grandfathers. Similar to what takes place during a sweat lodge ceremony, the practice and process of building a new lodge denotes a form of cleansing and renewal in itself.

The construction of a new lodge is another way for people to come together and strengthen their sense of community. It is also a valuable learning opportunity, especially for youth. As Pathways’ Circle Keeper Adrian Goulet says, 

the process of building a new sweat lodge is a great way to pass on traditional knowledge to a younger generation.

Through their participation in the building of a sweat lodge, youth are able to immerse themselves in the culture and learn more about the traditions. They also have the opportunity to learn about themselves – their strengths, skills and cultural identities.  

For many, the construction of a new sweat lodge is a way to contribute, to connect with others, to immerse themselves in Indigenous culture, to pass on traditional knowledge, and to learn new things. It is a way of honouring traditional culture and keeping the circle strong for generations to come. 

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Miskanawah Spring Break Culture Camp

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Miskanawah Spring Break Culture Camp

Our vision at Pathways is that children, youth and families thrive within a culturally responsive community. Our vision is carried out in our Miskanawah Youth Lodge through strong Indigenous cultural teachings around the ideas of respect, love, dignity, honour, and humility.

Miskanawah camps provide an alternative learning and community environment for young people away from the daily pressures of urban living. These camps offer essential opportunities for youth to meet new friends, play games and spend time outdoors while developing skills related to leadership, teamwork, courage and respect for themselves and others.

By connecting with and exploring Indigenous teachings through the natural elements, songs and stories, our camps focus on “quieting the spirit” of our young people so that they have the opportunity for physical, spiritual and emotional growth. Through participation in cultural ceremonies and group activities, youth are supported in discovering their natural strengths and taking healthy risks to explore what is important to them. 

“As Aboriginal people, it is a requirement to be out in nature to connect with the elements,” explained our Elder Patrick Daigneault, who led the ceremonies at our recent spring break camp.  The youth were in awe of Elder Pat’s teachings and how his sense of humour alleviated any feelings of anxiety. 

When asked about the highlights of their time at camp, many spoke about their experience in the sweat lodge.  One 13-year-old camper recalled: “I felt a huge release of negative energy. My problems feel so small.” According to another camper, “in the sweat lodge, I really had a moment to look at my life and think about what I need to change. It was truly an amazing experience.”

Miskanawah Camps aim to help youth engage in self-discovery and to support their quest for purpose. Through exposure to a wide range of activities and Indigenous teachings in addition to opportunities to connect with Elders, participants are supported and encouraged to step out of their comfort zones. This allows them to reflect, practice leadership and develop cooperative skills that allow them to leave camp with a renewed sense of cultural and self-awareness.

A sincere thank you to the Collaborative Funder’s Table and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for generously supporting our youth programs!

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Resilience Through Music: A Youth Speaker Event

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Resilience Through Music: A Youth Speaker Event

Pathways CSA, in partnership with the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and United Way of Calgary and Area, is proud to have presented the Youth Speaker event on February 23, 2017. For four months, Pathways staff, CBE teachers and trusties met regularly with a group of Indigenous high school students to help the youth organize this special event. The group gathered weekly with the goal of developing an event that was centred on and led by the youth.

Each planning session would begin with a smudge and a talking circle to honour cultural teachings as well as to bless the space and the ideas shared within it.  Each student took on or assisted with important tasks, such as planning meals and other event details, recruiting artists/speakers, creating posters, getting the word out on social media, and managing event logistics. Guided by Pathways and CBE staff, the youth took charge of developing the event and making it a reality.

In addition to weekly planning sessions, the planning committee – students, teachers, trustees and staff – participated in a Sweat Lodge ceremony hosted by Pathways. It was an amazing day and a great experience for both the youth and the teachers to be able to share in ceremony together. Though there is still much work to be done, the ceremony represented how far we’ve come in acknowledging and respecting indigenous ceremonies and the land we inhabit. Never as a young person would I have imagined going into a school and smudging or sharing in a sacred sweat lodge ceremony with both students and teachers present.

The event planning process really started to take shape following the ceremony. We (the planning committee) secured the event artists, including Frank and Darcy Turning Robe to perform traditional Blackfoot drumming and singing. The headline act was international indigenous hip-hop artist, Supaman. Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, professionally known as Supaman, is an Aspa’alooke National rapper currently residing in Seattle, Washington. Well-known through multiple outlets such as his videos on YouTube, Supaman has developed a solid following from around the world that continues to grow daily.

In addition to being the main performer of the event, Supaman agreed to host a special workshop for around 50 indigenous students from Calgary and other surrounding areas. The workshop was held at the Jack James Junior High School prior to his evening performance, which took place in the Forest Lawn High School theatre.  Youth who were present at the workshop were excited as many knew about Supaman and were very familiar with his music through his videos.  

Supaman kicked off the workshop by serenading the crowd with a traditional flute song followed by some fun and engaging icebreaker activities. He spoke openly about the trials and tribulations of growing up in foster care, the death of his father and how he came to be an artist. It was truly inspirational to hear him speak, and many of the youth were able to draw parallels between his story and their own lives. Students were able to interact with the rapper and ask him questions as well as take photos with him after the session. At the end of the workshop, students performed some of their own art – spoken word, rap or beatboxing – in front of the group.

After the workshop, there was a feast for all the youth participants and volunteers. Elders Patrick and Patricia Daigneault kindly provided and blessed delicious moose stew and fried bread for everyone to enjoy. Following the feast, the evening performances began with Frank and Darcy Turning Robe sharing some great stories, drumming and singing, which set the stage for an amazing night. It wasn’t long before Supaman hit the stage, which is when the theatre went wild as he displayed his many artistic talents. Dressed in full, fancy dance regalia, he showcased some of his impressive dancing abilities alongside some fellow dancers, including a husband and wife accompanied by their young daughter in a jingle dress.

Supaman blended hip-hop elements with traditional indigenous culture beautifully. His performance that night proved that he is an excellent rapper who delivers conscious lyrics drawn from life experience. He is also a comedian, an accomplished music producer and DJ, and an all-around performer. Before the end of the night, he had youth and adults on stage having a dance-off competition as well as five brave individuals sharing their rapping skills in front of a packed theatre. This part of the performance was so inspiring. The sight of young people getting on stage to share their art was an epic conclusion to an evening that attendees – youth and adults alike – will never forget.

I spoke to some of the youth afterwards, and they expressed their feelings of inspiration to create and share their own stories. One man in particular is currently in talks to perform his own songs in schools here in Calgary. I think the resounding theme of the event was “hope” – hope that healing and change can come through the voice of our youth guided by the teachings of our elders. Hope that art can bring us all together to talk about issues in our society and acknowledge the beauty of our indigenous roots through stories and ceremony. The event was one we were all able to draw strength from to build momentum and move forward as we continue bridging gaps in our society, our nations and the world. 

by Chris Wainwright, Pathways CSA Youth Lodge Keeper  

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Have A Heart Day

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Have A Heart Day

This Valentine’s Day, children and young adults from schools across the National Capital Region are gathered on Parliament Hill to celebrate Have A Heart Day. Schools and communities across the country are also hosting their own Have A Heart Day celebrations.

So what exactly is Have A Heart Day?

Initiated by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (“the Caring Society”), Have A Heart Day is a youth-led reconciliation campaign. As described by the Caring Society, Have A Heart Day aims to unite “caring Canadians to help ensure First Nations children have the services they need to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are.” It is a celebration of love and fairness for all First Nations children.

More than 5,500 Canadians campaigned and celebrated the event last year, including more than 600 young individuals who gathered on Parliament Hill to call on government officials and all Canadians to have a heart for First Nations youth. Last year’s event on Parliament Hill saw young people reading letters, sharing poems and singing songs. These served as reminders and calls to action to support Indigenous youth and help give them the childhood they deserve.

Have A Heart Day is happening today on Parliament Hill from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. If you’d like to join the celebration but live elsewhere, please click here for information on other Have A Heart events taking place across the country.

The Caring Society has also provided the following ideas to support the ongoing campaign:

•    Send a card or letter supporting Have a Heart Day to the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament.

•    Bring reconciliation into the classroom to get your students ready. Do Project of Heart, organize a Blanket Exercise workshop, or screen a film. For other great ideas, visit the Shannen's Dream School Resources page

•    Spread the word through social media like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #HaveaHeartDay and/or #JourneeAyezUnCoeur

Please click here to access the Caring Society’s website for more information and resources.

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11th Annual Honour Round Dance

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11th Annual Honour Round Dance

Pathways CSA is privileged to have hosted the 11th Annual Honour Round Dance in memory of the late Elder Gordon McGilvery on January 21, 2017. This year’s Round Dance saw hundreds of community members gathered in ceremony and celebration at Bowness Community Association’s Main Hall.

The Round Dance, which is a ceremony in itself, included a pipe ceremony, smudging and a big feast followed by rounds of dancing to traditional drumming and singing. People of all ages and backgrounds, from respected Elders to young children, joined together for healing and to give thanks for their blessings.

The Honourable Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan - MLA Edmonton Rutherford and Deborah Drever – MLA Calgary Bow were also in attendance at the Round Dance, where they expressed their appreciation to the community during their speeches.

The energy remained vibrant throughout the entire evening, beginning with the initial pipe ceremony that was followed by a delicious feast. The feast included traditional staples like stews and bannock, as well as roasts and cake for everyone. As per tradition, the food was freshly prepared on the day of the Round Dance itself and provided energy for all attendees to dance throughout the night.

Individuals, couples and families danced to music played by traditional drummers and singers, some of whom travel to Calgary from other Western Canadian cities for the Round Dance every year. As is customary, those in attendance received gifts that were blessed as part of the Giveaway Ceremony. Drummers and singers played a beautiful song of gratitude, and everyone held up the gifts they received as an open expression of thanks. Attendees also received food to take home and share with their families at the end of the night.

Pathways is truly blessed and honoured to be able to host a Round Dance every year. As always, we would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who made this year’s ceremony possible, especially to the amazing volunteers who kindly contributed their time and energy to making the 11th Annual Round Dance a huge success.

(Photos by Kevin McElheran)

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Parenting Programs

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Parenting Programs

What does Truth and Reconciliation mean for you, for us?  Pathways is on a journey to answer this question as an organization, and with our community. 

Click here to read our latest blog on the Final Report and Calls to Action.

Today we’re highlighting an important Call to Action in our journey: Call to Action #5

 “We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.”

Although the Call to Action itself is addressed to governments, community organizations are integral to its implementation.  Not only do many of us already develop and offer parenting programs in our communities, but we also go to great lengths to build strong relationships with families every day.

Call to Action #5 is at the heart of our Family Lodge programming.

Here at Pathways, a Kokum’s (Cree for Grandmother) Council convenes up to four times a year (every season) to guide us in offering our home-visitation and parenting programs.  At the Kokum’s Council, we first begin in ceremony and then share in circle with women from many nations.  We develop our Indigenous parenting programs in this way, but also continually draw on the guidance and teachings to support the families we work with and our daily practice.

Because we work in an urban centre, we seek guidance from Elders of many nations so that all of our families feel comfortable and respected.

The Kokum’s Council is one example of how we work from an Indigenous worldview to deliver culturally grounded parenting programs.  Click here to find out more about our parenting programs.

We invite you to share how your organization is responding to this Call to Action in the comments section below.

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Truth and Reconciliation

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Truth and Reconciliation

Over the past year, Pathways has been striving to gain a deeper understanding of our role in the national Truth and Reconciliation movement, which requires a solid grounding in what ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ means to us as individuals, as an agency, a city and a nation. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) resulted from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in order to begin the process of reconciliation in Canada. The TRC created platforms for Aboriginal people to speak out and share their experiences from residential schools. National Truth and Reconciliation events were held across the country along with regional events, local hearings and town halls. The TRC received 6,750 written statements from survivors of residential schools which demonstrated the horrors and hurt residential schools inflicted upon its students.

Mandated by the Government of Canada, the TRC created the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in 2013 at the University of Manitoba. The Centre is the official home for all things related to the TRC. 

In 2015, the TRC released its final report which contained 94 Calls to Action. The Calls to Action call upon all levels of governments to right their wrongs and for all Canadians to learn the truth about Canadian history.

In the spirit of reconciliation, former Prime Minister Harper issued an official apology to all former students of the residential school system in Canada in 2008. In March of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces unqualified support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, fulfilling one of the Calls to Action by the TRC. Provincial leaders have also provided support to the work of the TRC, including Alberta Premier Rachel Notley who has expressed support for the work of the TRC.

The TRC requires the help of every Canadian to join together as one community to heal and reconcile the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. You can start making a difference today by simply joining in the challenge to read the TRC’s final report and its Calls to Action. After you read the report, encourage your friends and family to read it as well. Let’s join together as a community and begin the journey of healing.

Be sure to follow our blog for more posts in our Truth and Reconciliation series

 

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Cultural Engagement and Wellness

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Cultural Engagement and Wellness

At Pathways, we use The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples definition of wellness which is, “Aboriginal concepts of health and healings start from the position that all elements of life and living are interdependent.  By extension, well-being flows from balance and harmony among all elements of personal and collective life.” 

We have recently set out to determine how engaging with culture influences health and wellness.  The first step on this journey was to conduct a review of the academic literature around the search question: “does Aboriginal cultural engagement improve wellness?”

The results from our review showed that engaging in one’s own Aboriginal culture is associated with improved wellness across a wide range of outcomes. Engagement with cultural activities, ceremony, and language preservation, has been shown to be protective against youth suicide, illicit and prescription drug abuse, diabetes, risky alcohol consumption, and involvement in the criminal justice system.  Those actively engaging with their culture were also more likely to self-report good health.

What is missing in the literature is how and why cultural engagement has a positive impact on wellness.  Difficult questions to answer!!  Our next steps will be consulting with Elders and community members to gain deeper understanding on these tough questions.

Through our Miskanawah resources, Pathways strives to create more opportunities for our families and all Calgarians to connect with culture and ceremony, with the vision that children, youth, and families thrive within a culturally responsive community.

References

Chandler, M. J., & Lalonde, C. (1998). Cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canada's First Nations. Transcultural psychiatry, 35(2), 191-219.

Currie, C. L., Wild, T. C., Schopflocher, D. P., Laing, L., & Veugelers, P. (2013). Illicit and prescription drug problems among urban Aboriginal adults in Canada: the role of traditional culture in protection and resilience. Social Science & Medicine, 88, 1-9.

Dockery, A. M. (2010). Culture and wellbeing: The case of Indigenous Australians. Social Indicators Research, 99(2), 315-332.

Hallett, D., Chandler, M. J., & Lalonde, C. E. (2007). Aboriginal language knowledge and youth suicide. Cognitive Development, 22(3), 392-399.

Oster, R. T., Grier, A., Lightning, R., Mayan, M. J., & Toth, E. L. (2014). Cultural continuity, traditional Indigenous language, and diabetes in Alberta First Nations: a mixed methods study. International journal for equity in health, 13(1), 92.

 

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Talking Circles

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Talking Circles

Today we would like to share with you about the importance of talking circles.

We have written about talking circles before, but here is a brief reminder of what they are: Talking circles are a traditional way for people to come together. They provide an atmosphere of inclusiveness, safety, and respect that encourages dialogue, learning, problem solving and co-creativeness. When everyone in the circle speaks and is heard in a respectful way, our relationships become nutritive, fun, and harmonious.

Pathways holds a talking circle every Wednesday morning. We do this once a week to provide an opportunity for our employees to come together as a community and share their experiences. Before talking circle begins, we smudge and pray. We smudge using sweet grass or sage to cleanse and purify our beings before the Creator. The smudge is a medicine that we use to clear our minds, calm our emotions, and to strengthen our spirits.

Talking circles are an important part of Pathways as they strengthen our community and provide us with an opportunity to be heard.  We acknowledge that the circle itself is sacred and that the circles themselves represent wholeness, harmony, balance, inclusiveness and the many cycles of life.

If you would like to learn more about talking circles, click here.

 

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National Aboriginal Day

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National Aboriginal Day

Happy National Aboriginal Day!

Today we would like to celebrate our Elders, and share the role of Elders in our organization.

Elders are the leaders, teachers, advisors, role models, and cultural advisors to the community. Elders make culture available to everybody, are people of great wisdom, and are well respected by the community. Elders are responsible for passing on the traditions and cultural responsibilities to the community’s young people, and lead the community in ceremony such as feasts, sweats, and smudges.

Elders are frequently sought out by members of the community who need advice, healing, or protection. Whenever an individual wants to approach an elder, they must first ask the community what is required of them before visiting a particular Elder. Tobacco is an important and sacred element that must always be presented when visiting an Elder. By bringing tobacco, you are demonstrating respect and in return, the Elder will respect and will listen to your questions. Tobacco is used in ceremony such as sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies and prayers. The tobacco that you bring to an Elder will be used in their next ceremony, and they will offer your prayers to the Creator. This is a very sacred process.

At Pathways, our Elders lead us in ceremony and provide guidance on how to incorporate Aboriginal teachings into our programs while also providing us with wisdom and direction for the organization. Our Elders strive to share Aboriginal culture with all who are interested, in a mindful and respectful way. Our Elders also assist us in incorporating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action into the operation and function of Pathways.

If you are interested in connecting with one of our Elders here at Pathways, please email: info@pathwayscsa.org

 

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Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary 2016

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Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary 2016

It’s Aboriginal Awareness Week in Calgary!

Aboriginal Awareness Week is an opportunity for all Canadians to celebrate and learn more about Aboriginal culture.

In the spirit of Aboriginal Awareness Week, we are giving you a chance to win some sweet Pathways swag on Instagram!!

Contest Rules:

  1. Follow us on Instagram @PathwaysCSA

  2. Post a picture of your favourite Aboriginal Awareness Week moment using the hashtags #PathwaysCSA #AAW2016

  3. Contest closes midnight on Friday, June 24; winner will be announced June 27

  4. You must live in the Calgary area to be eligible

Over the course of this week, we will be sharing aspects of Aboriginal culture that are important to us and stories about the work we do

If you didn’t know already, Pathways CSA is grounded in Aboriginal teachings to deliver supportive services to children, youth, and families as they strengthen their circles of self, family, community, and culture.

For example, did you know that our Miskanawah Cultural Resources programming provides opportunities for all Calgarians to come together and engage with Aboriginal culture? If you are interested in learning more about Miskanawah and how you can get involved, visit http://www.pathwayscsa.org/miskanawah-resources/.

And don’t forget to follow us on Instragram @PathwaysCSA, and tag your posts #PathwaysCSA #AAW2016. 

We can’t wait to see your photos!

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