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Cree name given to honour work of U of A professor
A long-time University of Alberta professor has been granted an Aboriginal name in a special ceremony to mark his contributions to Indigenous communities.
“It’s wonderful. It’s the most extraordinary thing that has ever happened to me,” said Earle Waugh, director of the Centre for Cross-Cultural Health at the U of A in Edmonton.
Waugh, 73, has dedicated his career to Indigenous culture and healing practices.
“We seem to recognize Indigenous medicine from every other place in the globe except from our own people,” he said.
The Religious Studies professor is currently incorporating traditional Indigenous healing practices into the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine.
He produced a series of videos to educate doctors about Aboriginal wellness and medicine which received an Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association Award.
Waugh was also the editor of the Alberta Cree Elder’s Dictionary that was published in 1989. It sold out in just a few weeks and is now being printed for the third time.
In addition, he conducted a study that examined traditional Aboriginal law prior to the white man’s arrival.
Waugh said the intent of his work was to learn and honour Indigenous practices.
“Over the years I have done things that have tried to promote the understanding of Aboriginal issues,” he said.
Most recently, Waugh along with colleague Clifford Cardinal organized a conference of traditional Indigenous healers from places such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and South Dakota.
At the October 2010 conference, the decision was made to honour Waugh for his work.
“Having worked with him for five years I started realizing how much this man donated to the positive outcomes of our people,” said Cardinal, traditional healer and professor with the Department of Family Medicine.
Keith Horse Looking, a healer from South Dakota, suggested Waugh be given an Aboriginal name.
“Keith suggested we make him part of this land because he deserves it,” said Cardinal. “The first step is the naming ceremony.”
Cardinal said Waugh, who is European, always felt like he an outsider until he received an Aboriginal name.
Waugh said that’s why the ceremony was especially significant for him.
“The antagonism between Aboriginal and whites is a legacy of the colonial regime and I hope that this is a symbol that we really can get beyond this so that we can create a Canada that embraces Aboriginal people as the founding people of this country,” said Waugh.
At the end of January a special sweat was held. After singing four ceremonial songs, the Cree name Piwapisk-omostos which means Iron Bull came to Cardinal.
Cardinal then granted that name to Waugh.
“I have received lots of rewards for things but this is certainly the most emotional and most stirring award that I have ever received,” said Waugh.
Despite the honour, Waugh remains humble, saying it is the Elders who deserve to be recognized.
“I would like to say ‘bravo’ to the Elders who make us a proud country.”
Piwapisk-omostos was a traditional chief of the River Crow people in the Yellowstone Park area.
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