Natural Areas – Sacred Ground

Richard DeSmet (aka Pops) describes an experience he had in the Halfmoon Lake Natural Area. The simple question of why? led him to a better understanding and appreciation of why we are Stewards.

Approaching Lookout Point, Halfmoon Lake Natural Area, September 14, 2008 (Richard DeSmet)
Approaching Lookout Point, Halfmoon Lake Natural Area, September 14, 2008 (Richard DeSmet)

In his text book titled “An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature”, Professor Ruffo provides the following introduction: “This selection provides the reader with an inherently sacred world-view in which humankind and the natural world are integrated into a relationship based on kinship.”

Professor Armand Garnet Ruffo

Sacred Place – Sacred Duty

Last summer, the Indigenous studies team from Sturgeon Public School Division came out to familiarize themselves with the site that Vera and I manage for the Pioneer Trail North Foundation.

To cap off the visit, we all hiked up to a place on the west quarter-section of Halfmoon Lake Natural Area that we call Lookout Point. On the way up, the team took note of the vegetation and wildlife that might be tied into their Indigenous culture studies.

Just before reaching the top of the hill, a strong Métis man in his thirties stopped and took off his shoes and socks before continuing up to the top. My first word to him was: “Why?” pointing at his bare feet. His answer:

“In my culture we have a tradition of removing our footwear before stepping onto sacred ground. In that way, we establish a relationship with the earth.”

He had never before made the hike up to Lookout Point. Still, he instinctively knew that it was a sacred place and removed his footwear.

Wow! In my 40 plus years as a volunteer Natural Area Steward, it wasn’t until he answered the question “why” that I realized that our Natural Areas are sacred places and guarding them a sacred duty. Man, does that make me feel good!!

Richard DeSmet (aka Pops), Volunteer Steward.

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