July 23rd, 2024

Prayer and smudge lights the way for National Indigenous Peoples Day

By Alexandra Noad - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 20, 2024.

Herald photo by Alexandra Noad Elder-in-Residence Ninnaisipistoo (Owl Chief) Francis First Charger lights sweet grass before his discussion on "What it means to be Niitsitapi" on Wednesday as the University of Lethbridge hosted a Blackfoot prayer and smudge ahead of National Indigenous Peoples Day, which is marked on Friday.

The University of Lethbridge hosted a Blackfoot prayer and smudge on Wednesday to celebrate ahead of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The ceremony was followed by a discussion led by Elder-in-Residence Ninnaisipistoo (Owl Chief), Frances First Charger.

First Charger spoke about the values by which Indigenous people try to live, and said before the colonization of the Indigenous people, they were spiritual people who guarded their values.

“The very first prime minister came to find our weakness,” First Charger said. “He sent somebody out to find out about these people who came back and said, ‘I never seen such spirituality, love of the children, their language and also really good in defending their values.’ “

The first thing the government took away was their children and then their culture and language.

First Charger spoke fondly about his father and how he taught him Blackfoot traditions.

“Our dad connected us to the Creator. I remember waking up and the smell of the burning sweet grass or sweet pine on the stove or the smoke. We offered prayers for the protection of his family. I still remember singing songs and prayers in Blackfoot with my mother and father. They would sing late at night when everybody was asleep.”

First Charger remembers how peaceful his house was growing up.

“There was never any angry words or shouting at our home. It was always had to be respectful and peaceful.”

First Charger was taught from a young age to be respectful to other people and to help others in need.

He spoke about specific values the Blackfoot people have, including eeikai’gimot: to try very hard and always persevere in life; Imanuit: be truthful; and aayitsistaak: to stay calm and not react, but later respond in a diplomatic way.

First Charger said he feels these values come from his elders and is thankful to have learned from them.

“I am fortunate to spend many hours with (the elders). I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be with them. There are many words of wisdom.”

Share this story:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x