Nose Hill is a place where I seek connection to the land when city life is moving too fast for me. I go to a place called the Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel located in what is now called Nose Hill Park, located off 14th Street NW.
The view of the Calgary skyline is great which makes sense as to why people are attracted to it. It is also a landmark and spiritual connection between the Blackfoot people and the land. The Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel was rebuilt in 2015 by the Siksikaitsitapi people to encourage more education and connection.
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For centuries, the Siksikaitsitapi people used Nose Hill as a lookout point to watch over the rolling lands below and scout campsites. The ancestors would be able to see moving things below such as our greatest resource from the land which is the bison.
It is also a sacred site for the Blackfoot people and there are very old stones that were used to hold down tipis which are still scattered about the hillside. They would camp out and have gatherings and ceremonies during the summer and winter creating a place to make offerings to Apistatoki (Creator).
The stones sit on top of the hill, in the southeast corner of the park, shaped like a medicine wheel. It was built right next to the original circle of stones which has been left there for thousands of years. The four quarters in the new circle of stones represent the political units within the Siksikaitsitapi. It makes up the Blackfoot Confederacy Nations of Kainai-Blood Tribe, Siksika, Peigan-Piikani and Aamskapi Pikuni.
What is a medicine wheel?
Medicine wheels are symbols within Indigenous culture, originating from physical stone monuments orienting the four directions. Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern including a centre with outer “spokes” facing the cardinal directions — east, west, south and north. Different interpretations of the medicine wheel have included the four seasons, the four elements, or the four stages of life.
Visiting and how to make an offering
People who visit the site are asked not to disturb the rocks or move them. It’s like when you go to a museum or a sacred site anywhere in the world, it is all the same principles. You can make an offering such as fruit, or tobacco at the centre of the medicine wheel and take a moment to meditate or pray in your own ways. The way it works is to enter from the opening on the east side and leave to the west.
Nose Hill is also a spot where some Indigenous people go medicine picking for sage around the summertime. Sage is one of the four sacred medicines within Indigenous communities.
Apart from those sacred medicines are sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar. It is often used for ceremonial purposes and smudging. The first protocol for medicine picking is offering tobacco. This is Mother Earth, this is our first home, so it’s important we be mindful of what we are doing and why we are doing it as we harvest these medicines. We take that tobacco, which is the first sacred medicine gifted to us by the Creator and used when we ask permission for the harvest. We speak to the tobacco and acknowledge what we are going to use the sage for.
During the harvest, sage is clipped from the bottom of the plant, ensuring the root base is undisturbed and the traditional medicine can continue to grow. Once collected, the sage is then tied together with string so that it can be hung and dried before use.