This week we visited Ancient Echoes a museum and interpretive centre in Herschel Saskatchewan where you can learn about the life of the Plains Indians. People from the Gros Ventre, Blackfoot and Cree nations all once made their home in the area.
Our guides Dave and Sue Neufeld took us for a long hike and we stopped to learn about different stone formations that were important in the cultural and religious life of the aboriginal people who erected their tipis around Herschel in the 1700s and 1800s. This arrangement of stones was for a vision quest and Dave decided to try it out. He said it was very peaceful and surprisingly warm lying spread- eagled on the ground even though the day was freezing cold.
During a vision quest a person spends a period of time out alone in nature fasting and praying and waiting for a vision that will give their life purpose and direction.
In many First Nations groups a vision quest happened in puberty as a rite of passage. It was a sacred ceremony for a young person searching for a guardian spirit. However according to one article I read this was not the case for all of the Plains Indians, in particular the Gros Ventre who lived for a period of time near Herschel. In the Gros Ventre nation it was much more common for mature men to initiate a quest seeking a vision. So Dave would have fit right in.
Our guide Dave Neufeld pointed out the correlation with Biblical stories where prophets had visions that provided direction not only for their lives but for the lives of the people of Israel. There were also many Biblical characters who fasted and prayed before making major decisions.Dave Neufeld said it was too bad that when the Christian missionaries had initial contact with aboriginal people they hadn’t first searched for the similarities between native spiritual practices and Christianity rather than focusing their attention on the differences. It might have saved a great deal of heartache.
Chorus: We are all one people
We all come from one Creator way on high
We are all one nation under one great sky
You and I
We are all one people
We are all one nation
We are all one color in her eye.
(The verse was sung three times – the second time the last line went ‘all one color in his eye’ and the last time ‘all one color if we try’)
Other posts about First Nations people……..