Customs, Traditions, Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
The gift of Sweetgrass, Sweat lodge and the
Ceremony, The Medicine Wheel and The Spiritual Circle
Sweetgrass - One of the gifts the Great Spirit gave
to the indigenous people (Aboriginals) was the use of sweetgrass. Since ancient times
aboriginal people have burned sweetgrass as an incense for purification whenever they pray
to the Great Spirit.
Sweetgrass (savastana odorata) is found throughout the plains of central Canada.
Aboriginals believe it is one of the gifts of the Creator, and when used in a ceremony the
smoke is used to carry our prayers. The grandfathers and grandmothers in the spirit world
hear their prayers and through the smoke carry them to the Great Spirit.
Aboriginals believe that the animals know that sweetgrass is sacred and so even the
buffalo will not eat it. The Plains Cree also learned through dreams and fasting, that
sweetgrass is sacred and its purpose was to be used in a ceremonial manner.
The Sweat Lodge - For the Aboriginals the sweat is a ceremony that cleanses body, mind and
spirit to make us pure for spirit ceremonies, vision quests and the rigors of everyday
Sweats may be held to ask a blessing or give thanks.
Sometimes they occur before or after a difficult physical or spiritual journey (retreat).
Still others are conducted as healing sweats for people who are suffering from an illness
or an injury. Today the ceremony is an integral part of Native alcohol and drug treatment
The construction of the lodge is a willow framework
covered over with hides, blankets or canvas tarps. The placement of the door depends on
what group of people you are with. The plains Cree have their door facing south. The Sioux
put their door facing to the west. Other groups have the door facing to the east.
The MEDICINE WHEEL
To Aboriginals the medicine wheel is the universe. It is the cycle of all things that
exist. It is the lodge of their bodies, their minds and their hearts. It is also change,
life, death, and learning. Disabled Aboriginals use particular areas of the wheel to
assist them with their coping in life.
The North of the circle represents (Wisdom) (Buffalo) (White).
The East represents (Illumination) (Eagle) (Yellow).
The South represents (Innocence) (Mouse) (Green).
The West represents (Introspection) (Bear) (Black).
The design of the Medicine wheel is always an even number of points (stones). Even though
this is true a proper design of the wheel NEVER has an even number radiating from its
center because ONE POINT IS YOU THE VIEWER.
The SPIRITUAL CIRCLE
You have noticed that everything an Aboriginal does is in a circle, and that is because
the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.
In the old days when aboriginal people were strong and happy, all their power came to
their sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people
The Flowering Tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters
The East gave peace and light, the South gave warmth, the West gave rain, and the North
with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.
This knowledge came to the aboriginal people from the outer world with their religion.
Everything the power of the World does is done in a circle.
"The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are the
stars. The Wind in its greatest power whirls.
Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes
forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and they are both
Even the Seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they
The life of a man is a circle from childhood and so it is in everything where power moves.
"Our teepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a
circle, the nations hoop, a nest of many nests where the great Spirit meant for us
to hatch our children."