Earlier this week we explored the Indigenous experience of homelessness in our blog post, Cultivating Wellness for Indigenous Individuals in Affordable Housing. We are extremely grateful for the insight shared by Richard Horvath and the Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness. Their contributions shed light on the spiritual, emotional, and physical connections between Indigenous people and their homes. As we wrap up National Indigenous History month, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible individuals who have helped guide us through the design of the Wellness Room and the creation of the incredible 40’ mural in our newest development, Bishop’s Manor.
Bishop’s Manor’s Mural, “Honouring the Buffalo”, was commissioned by the very talented Lance Cardinal. Lance is a proud 2-Spirit First Nation 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. To conceptualize his artwork, Lance sought guidance and leadership from Elder Jackie Bromley (Kainai Nation) who offered her traditional teachings to the land Bishop’s Manor is built on. In the words of Lance himself:
“To honour all of Creation is to have Respect. The Buffalo is a very important animal to us as Indigenous people. It represents RESPECT, one of The Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings. This teaching reminds us to honour and respect the important relationship between the animals, Mother Earth, and the people of the land. The buffalo gives its life for us, providing clothing, food, shelter, and tools. In return, we honour and respect the buffalo by being caretakers of the herds, protecting the land and water, and giving thanks through prayer and protocol. This is an important teaching for the residents of Bishop’s Manor. It reminds us all to respect and honour each other, to take care of each other and create an environment of understanding for all people who live and thrive in this community. Kinanâskomitin.”
– Lance Cardinal, Artist, Bigstone Cree Nation
Directly across the mural, Bishop’s Manor features a Wellness Room. This room welcomes all Bishop’s Manor tenants to use it for a variety of wellness purposes, but we designed it with a particular Indigenous practice in mind: smudging. This room is fitted with a venting system, decorated with traditional wall art hand painted by Lance and features a beautiful hand carved stump for resting smudging tools crafted by Chance Bellegarde. The Wellness Room offers a calm space for reflection and spiritual practice. We were thrilled to engage Chance, who is an emerging Cree Artist and Woodworker from the Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, and a proud father of three beautiful children. Chance explained:
“This project is near and dear to me. As a youth I grew up in low-income housing and as an adult working with marginalized populations I truly understand and value and need for the existence of affordable housing. So, I knew that I needed to honour this project in a good way.”
– Chance Bellegarde, Artist, Little Black Bear Nation
To create this design Chance 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. Chance emphasized that he feels ” so honoured to have my work included in this meaningful space. ah-hay (Thank you)”
Forward Housing would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to each of the individuals who guided and supported us in the design and creation of this space. We hope that this room offers all tenants peace, calm, and an opportunity to connect with their cultural and spiritual traditions. As Lance so articulately put it:
“This beautiful space of light and wellness has been created for all people at Bishop’s Manor. It is a welcoming space for all nations, offering a quiet place of prayer, reflection and solitude. The calming colours and patterns of the room are inspired by the vibrant designs of the traditional ribbon skirt, a contemporary symbol of the Indigenous healing movement. The custom hand painted wall patterns are inspired by the ancient Indigenous petroglyphs seen all throughout southern Alberta. This is a space for all people, all nations and all types of prayer. This is a place of wellness.”
On June 26th, Elder Jackie Bromley will be blessing the Wellness Room. Follow along with us on social media as we officially open this space for tenant use.