Aboriginal elder blesses medicine bags for Canadian human rights museum

Aboriginal elders are making sure that Mother Earth is on side with the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Keith Bousquet

WINNIPEG — Aboriginal elders are making sure that Mother Earth is on side with the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Every time construction crews drill into the ground, to allow the pouring of dozens of concrete caissons or the pounding of hundreds of piles to stabilize the museum’s foundation, a bag filled with aboriginal medicine is put into the bottom of the hole.

Keith Bousquet, a worker with Subterranean Ltd., the company that’s putting in the caissons and piles, said he has so far placed the medicine bags into about 20 holes.

“I’m Metis and this means a lot to me,” Bousquet said on Monday, shortly after emerging from a hole at least 50 metres deep.

“It’s a big honour and it’s a big privilege… someday I’ll be bringing my grandchildren here and telling them.”

Larry Monkman, an aboriginal elder with the council of elders at Thunderbird House, said they were pleased when museum officials asked how they could properly construct the building on land that once served as a historic meeting place for aboriginals.

“We told them, same as Thunderbird House, that before any pile is put in, the medicine must be put down,” Monkman said.

“It’s an ongoing sign of respect. It’s respect for Mother Earth and asking forgiveness for digging the holes.”

Monkman said every week he creates and blesses the medicine bags and delivers 21 of them to the construction site at The Forks.

“I put sage, sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar in. They’re our four main medicines,” he said.

“When they’re put in the hole we ask Mother Earth for her forgiveness for putting a hole into her.”

Monkman said the person putting the medicine in the hole has to have been drug- and alcohol-free for at least four days.

“I’d like to see it done at all construction sites. Any place is sacred where people have gathered.”

Todd Craigen, construction manager for PCL Constructors, said the addition of aboriginal medicine has not affected the construction.

“We’ve done work for aboriginal people before. We built Thunderbird House,” he said. “It has been incorporated into the work.”

Craigen said 134 caissons are being poured on the site as well as 378 piles. The depths vary from about 15 metres underground to 25 metres before reaching bedrock.

He said with the caissons, the medicine bag is put near the bottom of the hole, but with the piles, the bag is put on top of a two-metre-long base before the pile is hammered in from above.

Angela Cassie, a museum spokeswoman, said they recognized during the construction planning stage that they had to meet with the aboriginal community about the site.

“We recognize the importance of what this land represents to First Nations and Metis communities,” Cassie said.

Just Posted

Man from Olds killed in collision near Sundre

A 39-year-old man from Olds was killed in a collision near Sundre… Continue reading

Tips to keep crime at bay this Christmas

’Tis the season for joy and celebration, but the Christmas season can… Continue reading

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

WATCH: More than 100 protest UN migration pact, carbon tax in Red Deer

Chants of “Trudeau must go” echoed through the streets of downtown Red… Continue reading

Tkachuk’s goal in 3rd gives Flames 2-1 win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matthew Tkachuk scored the go-ahead goal midway through… Continue reading

Women use scent to lure wolf-dog that ran away from Calgary airport

EDMONTON — A woman from Alberta is thanking an unconventional strategy for… Continue reading

Suspect in Alberta, Saskatchewan bank robberies to get mental assessment

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former Winnipeg broadcaster and journalism instructor accused… Continue reading

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says his government hopes to make legal changes… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $60 million jackpot… Continue reading

All evacuation orders lifted in deadly California wildfire

PARADISE, Calif. — All evacuation orders have been lifted in Paradise more… Continue reading

All aflutter about our feathered friends

Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 23

Baylor ties pervade rape case that sparked uproar

DALLAS — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a… Continue reading

Most Read