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'Long overdue': Alberta Indigenous groups to guide spirits home

Healing process to get underway next week to bring restless spirits back to the Stoney Nakoda reserve.

STONEY NAKODA – Two Indigenous recovery groups are beginning a healing and closure process for families who have lost loved ones due to addiction, overdose, violence and suicide. 

Starting Thursday, Aug. 11, an action to bring restless spirits back to the Stoney Nakoda reserve from Calgary called Ama’hnabino or They Are Taking Me Home will get underway.

One local organizer said this is something that has been “long overdue.”

“In our culture, when our spirits don't come home, they don't rest easy,” said Summer Twoyoungmen of Stoney Nakoda First Nation. “I think that's what the big thing is, we want them to come home and rest, and give closure to the families that are affected.”

A Chiniki band member, Twoyoungmen of the group Wácágâ ôkóná’gîcíyâ’bî and Calgary’s Sobercrew are partnering for Ama’hnabino, a four day undertaking in which the groups are walking from Stoney Nakoda to Calgary to give speeches, dances, and guide spirits back home.

“We’ve lost so many of our Stoney Nakoda members out in the city,” said Twoyoungmen. “We want to bring their spirits back home and help start the healing that [for families] never really started, and give them the chance to rest in peace.”

Ama’hnabino starts at the Chiniki gas bar near Morley around 6 a.m., where the group will set off and walk along Highway 1 to a Calgary campsite. Anyone can join.

There will be support vehicles and check stops along the way.

“We will also have a vehicle with the names of those we lost in the city due to alcohol, drugs, overdose, murder, suicide, violence to honour them,” said Twoyoungmen.

On Aug. 12, the group will meet at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary in the late morning, where there will be speeches and dances from organizers. That evening, the group will head back to the campsite. The next day, the walk will return to Stoney Nakoda territory.

A sacred fire will be lit and will stay ablaze throughout Ama’hnabino to make it easier for spirits to follow and find their way home.

On the fourth day, there will be a feast on the reserve to feed the spirits, a custom in Stoney Nakoda culture.

Elder Paul Daniels will do opening and closing prayers for They Are Taking Me Home.

Twoyoungmen, who is outspoken about drugs, overdoses and drug dealers on Stoney Nakoda, co-founded Wácágâ ôkóná’gîcíyâ’bî, meaning a shield that provides protection physically and spiritually in the Stoney language.

According to Alberta, there have been 4,448 deaths by drug and alcohol overdoses between 2017-21, which is a top 10 leading cause of death in the province.

Twoyoungmen said it would be good to have this walk as an annual practice.

“Especially if we continue to lose people out in the city to bring their spirits home sooner,” she said. “This is something that has been long overdue.”


Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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