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Blackfood - Kainai (Blood) Baha'i

Earl Healy - Blood (Kainai) Blackfoot Nation Baha’i

Earl "Black Crow" Healy declared as a Baha'i in 1976. He was born in 1937 on the Blood (Kainai) Reserve and died on November 21, 2006.

Honouring Blood and Baha'i Traditions:

Allison and Earl Healy....

By Pat Verge

Sharing their culture both at home and abroad has become a way of life for the Healys. World travellers, they have taken their traditional culture and spiritual beliefs to such widely-scattered places as Siberia, India, New Zealand, Scandinavia, St. Lucia and Dominica, and Greenland.

Both Healys spent part of their youth in residential schools where use of First Nations languages and practice of cultural heritage were discouraged. For many years. Earl knew little of his native traditions. However, after he decided to quit drinking in 1975, he started to explore his own culture in earnest and began dancing in pow-wows.

"I wanted something to keep my mind moving, not to ever think backwards," says Earl. "Something to be proud of myself." Today a very well-known traditional dancer, Earl is a frequent winner of pow-wow competitions and often has the honour of bringing in the Eagle staff, the Indian flag, during the grand entries.

Their long-time membership in the Baha'i faith has also encouraged the active expression of their cultural heritage, adds Allison.


"Baha'u'llah (founder of the Baha'i faith) in his writings says that it is important to know who we are. So that is why since we became Baha'is I got to be proud of who I am. Before, I was never proud of the culture. Coming from the boarding school, we learned that it wasn't important and were made to be ashamed of it.

"In the Baha'i faith, we believe we should all accept the differences, with unity in diversity."

Earl was born in 1937 on the Blood (Kainai) Reserve and has the Indian name of "Black Crow." His great-grandfather Joe Healy was prominent on the reserve as an interpreter. Whisky traders passing through had found Joe as a baby on an encampment that had been raided by another tribe. They took him home to Fort Benton, Montana and raised him. Healy was the name of his adopted family.

Allison, born in 1942 on the Siksika Reserve, has the Indian name, "One Who Likes Victory."

The 28 teepees at the Indian Village each hold open houses for visitors during Stampede week. For their teepee opening, the Healys display traditional outfits made of hide, pieces of clothing heavy with beautiful beadwork, and bustles made with the sacred eagle feather. They include items showing the traditional way of life such as bone utensils, rawhide bags to store dried meat, mint tea, and pemmican (a mixture of crushed dried meat, berries, sugar, and fat). The teepee smells fragrant with fresh sage and cedar.

The Healy teepee is one of two from the Blood Reserve at the village. The five tribes that signed Treaty Seven in 1877 -Nakoda (Stoney), Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee) and Piikani (Peigan) Nations-are all represented.

On the outside, the Healy teepee has a water serpent design, with elk, deer, and the Big Dipper. The design was passed down from Earl's cousin.

The Healys are very active and valued members of the Indian Village, says David Johnston, in his third year as chairman of the Stampede's Indian Events committee. Allison judges at the pow-wow competitions, at teepee openings, and judges the best dressed riders in the Stampede parade.

Earl, a member of the pow-wow committee, dances during competitions, helps organize dancing and drumming off the grounds at Calgary malls and the Olympic Plaza, and performs at the evening shows at the stampede grandstand. Each of the five tribes from Treaty Seven has its own flag, and Earl participates in the raising and lowering of the flags at the village each day.

The Indian Village has been part of "the Biggest Show on Earth" in the 89 years since the Stampede's inception in 1912. Several families have camped at the Stampede for generations, some from the beginning.

The connection of the five tribes with the Stampede is unique, says Johnston.

"In my opinion, (this) association between Natives and the Stampede is something that has worked all these years, even with some ups and downs. In North America, it's the only place where for this long a period the Native community had a showcase to show their culture, history, and heritage to the world."

Earlene Healy, 33, is one of Allison and Earl's six children who help maintain the teepee during Stampede week. She grew up attending Indian ceremonies, dancing in pow-wows and being taught such traditional values as respect for elders.

"I feel very fortunate that these values were passed on. I'm hoping to pass them on to my children," comments Earlene, a mother of three young children who all dance in the pow-wows. Her children are taking classes in the Blackfoot language at school on Peigan Reserve where she and husband Chris Crowshoe live. Son Marcus, 9, often travels to summer pow-wows with grandparents Allison and Earl.

On their overseas trips, Allison and Earl often meet with aboriginal people. They find similar concerns everywhere, such as the loss of indigenous languages and the need to teach them to the young people. Some of the cultures have lost their dances and are trying to bring them back.

"They get so excited to see us when we are dancing," says Allison.

The issue of land claims also preoccupies indigenous peoples outside North America.

"They really get interested when we say that as Baha'is we don't get involved in politics to be militant about it. But we pray things will work out in agreement with the government and us."

The Healys are also asked how they deal with discrimination.

"There again it gives us an opportunity to talk about our Baha'i beliefs-that one of the principles is to eliminate prejudice because we are all one."

The Healys have found a harmonious match between their Baha'i and Indian spiritual beliefs. They find similar beliefs among traditional peoples everywhere-that there is only one God, the importance of nature and the community, and that all people are one.

"The indigenous people are spiritual people. That is why they are so open to other faiths, they respect all religions," says Allison.

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