Nicole Madsen received the name Bear Claw Woman in a historic Cree naming ceremony at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Wednesday.
Elder Wilson Okeymaw, of Maskwacis, said it was the first ceremony of its kind held in an Alberta hospital and he believed it won’t be the last.
“Different people are going to be talking. Already I’m hearing across Alberta hospitals that they’re aware there’s a ceremony happening today,” said Okeymaw after a smudging and naming ceremony in the hospital’s Aboriginal Cultural Room.
He said the positive energy of the ceremony not only touched people in attendance, but it also reached out to patients and staff in the hospital.
“All of us will take home a little piece of the positive energy that was meant to be here today. We take that home.”
Okeymaw said Madsen, who is a registered nurse in the community care department, will definitely notice a shift in her energy and she will be given a necklace with a bear tooth that will protect her and her family.
Madsen said she had attended smudging ceremonies held in the Aboriginal Cultural Room for about four months when she asked if she could get a Cree name.
“I kind of just felt led to this. I’m so excited. It’s a new chapter in my life that I can embrace and be very proud of,” said Madsen whose grandmothers were both Mi’kmaq.
“I’m Métis so it’s part of my heritage that I’ve just never known.”
She said participating in aboriginal culture was a simple and clear choice and receiving the name Bear Claw Woman was on honour.
“I’m eager to learn more and hope to live up to the name,” Madsen said.
“I think it’s going to inspire me to be the best person I can be. I seek everyday to try and be positive and upbeat. But it’s a very intentional moment where I think I have been reborn in a way where I’m able to let go of my past and now I can move forward and just live as a new person.”
As a community care placement assessor, she also wants to be part of the solution when it comes to racism in the health care system.
“We deal with a lot of indigenous people in our community and often times I think we’re not culturally aware enough to be supportive of what their values are.
“If we don’t understand what it is they want we’re not truly doing patient-centred care. When we’re finding out what it is they want, we’re a lot more effective and there’s less re-admissions as well.”
Smudges at the Aboriginal Cultural Room are held every Wednesday at 2 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend.