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Medicine wheel key in traditional Blackfoot wellness

Gilbert Eagle Bear

Brent Feyter, Edith Evans and Jody Francis listen to Blackfoot elder Gilbert Eagle Bear.

Fort Macleod residents had a chance March 24 to learn how to use the traditional Blackfoot medicine wheel as a guide to wellness.
About 40 people turned out at Trinity United Church hall for the traditional wellness workshop led by Blackfoot elders.
Vera Crow Shoe of Alberta Health Services began the session by recognizing the event was being held on Treaty 7 land.
“We are happy that each and every one of you are sharing your time to be here this afternoon, and that we have come here to learn about traditional Blackfoot wellness practices,” Crow Shoe said.
Elders participating in the workshop were Morris and Betty Ann Little Wolf and Jordan No Chief from the Piikani Nation, as well as Gilbert Eagle Bear and Winston Wadsworth from the Kainai Nation.
Jordan No Chief offered an opening prayer in Blackfoot.
No Chief said Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are alike, with many challenges in front of them.
“We’re all searching for a better way of life,” said No Chief, who urged people to remember they were put on earth by the Creator.
Fort Macleod Affordable Housing, Family and Community Support Services and Alberta Health Services partnered to host the traditional wellness session.
Participants included Fort Macleod Mayor Brent Feyter, MD of Willow Creek Coun. John Van Hierden, teachers, health professionals, seniors and other community members.
Crow Shoe explained the session was based on the traditional Blackfoot wellness wheel with the four quadrants of spiritual, emotional, physical and mental health.
“If we can be well in all four of these areas, we are then better able to live a healthy life,” Crow Shoe said. “If we are healthy within our families we are better able to have a healthier community.”
Four circles of chairs were arranged in quadrants of Trinity United Church hall, representing the tipi circle, with one of the Blackfoot elders stationed at each circle.
Participants rotated through the four circles, spending about 30 minutes at each listening to stories told by the elders.
Sylvia Ann Fox, who is the traditional wellness co-ordinator in the south zone of Alberta Health Services, said sacred spaces have been developed at Chinook Regional Hospital and Fort Macleod Health Centre.
Plans are to create similar spaces at hospitals and health care centres at Pincher Creek, Cardston and other communities.
“As one of our elders said, it is really important to have our spirituality in order to heal,” Fox said.
The effort is part of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“We feel we need to really open up the doors and share our knowledge so we all can work well together,” Fox said.
At the end of the day, participants came together to share a traditional meal of stew, berry soup and fry bread.

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