Red Deer nurse given new Cree name in Alberta first

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
April 19, 2017 - 4:29pm Updated: April 20, 2017 - 10:25am

A Red Deer woman has turned the page on a new chapter in her life.

For the first time ever on Wednesday, a Cree naming ceremony was held inside the walls of an Alberta hospital, at Red Deer Regional.

Nicole Madson is a registered nurse with a Métis background. Earlier this year, Madson approached Alberta Health Services Cree Elder Wilson Okeymaw and presented him with tobacco, a gesture one makes when they’d like a new Cree name.

Now, she’ll move forward in life not only as Nicole, but as Bear Claw Woman.

“It is part of my heritage and part of my history and our society that I feel very disconnected with. We deal with a lot of Indigenous people in our community and oftentimes we are not culturally aware enough to necessarily be supportive of what their values are,” she said.

Bear Claw Woman said her new name will hopefully affect change in a positive way, in life and at her workplace.

“I think it’s going to inspire me to be the best person I can be. I seek every day 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 move forward.”

She added weekly smudges held at the hospital’s Aboriginal Cultural Room were what initially helped her to de-stress and become more in touch with her culture.

Okeymaw, who said he’s done a thousand naming ceremonies in his lifetime, believes this is the beginning of something.

“I think there will [be more]. I sincerely believe different people are going to be talking. Already I’m hearing across the Alberta hospitals that they are aware there’s a ceremony happening today,” he said.

The ceremony was also intended to highlight AHS’ Indigenous Health Program, which the health authority said provides an effective, patient-centred approach for improving care to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people and communities.

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