Forward Housing Association is deeply committed to building mutual trust and respect with the Indigenous community through learning and relationship building. Together, we reflect on Canadian history with honesty and humility while striving for a society of equal opportunity and enjoyment.
In the spirit of reconciliation, we honour and acknowledge that we live, work and play on Treaty 7 territory – the ancestral and traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy: Kainai, Piikani and Siksika as well as the Tsuu T’ina First Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nation. We acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations. We are grateful for the traditional Knowledge Keepers and Elders who are still with us today and those who have gone before us. We recognize the land and acknowledge all nations who make their home on Treaty 7 territory.
Honouring the Buffalo: Bishop’s Manor’s Mural
On April 19th 2021 we officially opened the doors to our newest affordable housing building, Bishop’s Manor. This building has been thoughtfully designed to welcome individuals of all nations, ages, abilities and experiences. Located directly across from our Wellness room, this artwork is a testament to the start of our organizational reconciliation journey. The Forward Housing team was thrilled to engage First Nations artist Lance Cardinal (Bigstone Cree Nation) who commissioned this spectacular 40-foot mural titled “Honouring the Buffalo”. Lance sought guidance and leadership from Elder Jackie Bromley (Kainai Nation), who offered her perspective and teachings from the traditional land that Bishop’s Manor resides on. This mural is an ode to the Buffalo, an animal that is very important to the Indigenous people of Treaty 7. It also represents Respect, one of The Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings. According to Lance, “This teaching reminds us to honour and respect the important relationship between the animals, Mother Earth, and the people of the land.”
You can learn more about Lance and the “Honouring the Buffalo” mural here.
Artist, Big Stone Cree Nation
Lance Cardinal (He/Him/His) is a proud 2-Spirit First Nations member of the Bigstone Cree Nation in Treaty 8 territory. His home community is Calling Lake, AB. His ceremonial given name is Fire Bird and his artist name is ᐊᐧᒐᐢᐠ, meaning wacask or muskrat.
A Peek Inside our Wellness Room
Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Poelzer Family Foundation Fund at the Calgary Foundation, our organization has incorporated a spiritual Wellness Room into Bishop’s Manor. Through our work in the community, we have recognized a need for tenants to have inclusive spaces where they can practice their spiritual and cultural traditions in a safe and welcoming environment. The Wellness Room was hand-painted with vibrant colours, outfitted with vents and a hand-carved wooden stump, designated for resting smudging tools. The horizontal strips adorning the walls are designed to represent the ribbon skirt, a traditional piece of clothing that honours Indigenous women and has become an expression of history, resilience, and character. This sacred space has large glass windows which overlook Tom Campbell hill and provide ample natural light, giving this space the ultimate sense of tranquility and serenity.
We extend our sincerest gratitude to the Poelzer Family Foundation for their generous contributions that made the Wellness Room a reality. We also would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Lance Cardinal, who guided the design and hand-painted the modern Indigenous petroglyphs in this space, Elder Jackie Bromley who offered her guidance throughout the process, and Chance Bellegarde who designed and hand-carved our Smudging Stump.
The Ribbon Skirt: A symbol of Indigenous Healing
Ribbon skirts have now become a contemporary symbol of the Indigenous healing movement. A mix of traditional and contemporary ideals, these full-length skirts are adorned in beautiful patterns of ribbons, fabrics, and sometimes paint. The skirts encourage women to feel empowered and remember their sacredness. They have become a universal symbol of resistance, land and water protection, and a symbol of support for the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The silhouette of the skirt itself comes from a sacred place, following the outline of the Mikiiwaap or Tipi. The bottom of the skirts would touch the earth’s medicines, and as the women walked, Mother Earth would always know who it was that was praying and making their presence felt on her back.
The Elements of the Medicine Wheel: The Number Four
In Indigenous culture, the four elements of the medicine wheel carry great significance as together they comprise the circular cycle of the four seasons, directions, elements, stages of life, and more. The Wellness Room incorporates this circular theme fundamental to Indigenous teachings through its furnishing and lighting. Four circular lights adorn the ceiling while four round sitting stools sit arranged in a circular pattern.
Artist, Little Black Bear Nation
Chance is an emerging Cree Artist and Woodworker from the Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, and a proud father of 3 beautiful children. To create his design he sought out a local Blackfoot elder to respect the people whose land we occupy and seek their knowledge and blessing. They spoke about the relationship we have with the land and the water and how it is used for healing. The word “sapaatsi’ma’pii” was given to him and was described as meaning ‘inner peace and harmony’. After taking time to reflect, the vision came to him and he got to work. Each letter of the word “sapaatsi’ma’pii” and the mountains are hand-carved using a chisel and mallet. The stump was then sanded and finished with a product that is durable and produces zero VOC’s so it is both child and food-safe. “I am so honoured to have my work included in this meaningful space. ah-hay (Thank you).”
June 26th, 2021: Wellness Room and Mural Blessing Event
Elder Jackie Bromley, Lance Cardinal, and a few staff and board members joined us for an intimate and sacred blessing of the Wellness Room and Mural on June 26th, 2021. This special event was headed off by Elder Jackie, who after giving an emotional testimonial on the meaning of the space to her, used a braid crafted from sweetgrass to smudge in our Wellness Room for the very first time. Lance closed off the event by generously leading informative and engaging tours of his artwork for a few guests, including some tenants, former board members, and Councilor Gian-Carlo Carra.
Want to learn more? Check out some of the resources recommended by the Forward Housing Team below:
The University of Alberta offers a 12-lesson online course which “explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.”
Learn more about Indigenous homelessness and housing at the official ASCHH (Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness) website.
Staff Picks for Further Reading
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In Calgary over 17,000 households do not have access to affordable housing and are at risk of homelessness.
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