By Erin Fawcett
The first ever Cree Naming Ceremony in an Alberta hospital took place at the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
Elder Wilson Okeymaw, from Maskwacis, performed a Cree Naming Ceremony April 19 for Nicole Madsen, a registered nurse at the Red Deer Regional Hospital. About two months ago, she asked him to bestow an Indigenous spiritual name on her.
During the ceremony, after Okeymaw performed an honour song, a smudge ceremony and prayer was held for Madsen. She was given the name of ‘Bear Claw Woman.’
“As she goes on this new journey, she’ll bring the life and spirituality to her home, her husband, her kids and they will be protected. She will literally see changes happening,” he said.
Okeymaw leads weekly smudge ceremonies at the Red Deer Regional Hospital, which is open to anyone to attend. He said he wants to develop a stronger bond with the healthcare system.
“I hope this can continue,” he said.
Okeymaw said the Cree name for Madsen came in a dream. “When she first approached me when she gave me protocol, a couple of names kept flashing. And I asked last night, tell me what her name should be,” he said.
Madsen said personal growth led her to request a Cree name.
“Last year had been a really emotional year spiritually for me, from family to work aspects, and I was seeking support and some spiritual guidance. I initially came to the smudges. I really connected to the smudging. I felt calm afterwards, literally aches and pains I had disappeared in my hands,” she said. “I was drawn to come back and I felt I had to learn more. I am Métis and so it’s part of my heritage but I have never been guided to know it.
“I’m in a place in my life that I can do that and guide my own path and choose where I want to go and this is part of where I felt led to. It’s a new chapter of my life I can embrace and be proud of.”
The Indigenous Health Program partners with Indigenous peoples, communities and key stakeholders to provide accessible, culturally appropriate health services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta.