In 2008, our community association petitioned The City of Calgary to name a picturesque little park in our neighbourhood "Mok’nstsis." The word is Blackfoot meaning “elbow,” considered appropriate as the park is on the Elbow River just downstream from a natural bend. City Council subsequently approved the name.
The idea behind the naming was to honour our area’s first inhabitants, the Blackfoot people. In order to properly dedicate the park, the association contacted Lorna Crowshoe, Aboriginal Issues Strategist with the City, herself a Blackfoot, who advised us the site should be blessed by a Blackfoot elder and put us in touch with elder Leonard Bastien to further consult. Leonard felt the name was acceptable and agreed to facilitate an Offering Ceremony to appropriately give thanks for the river, its waters and the surrounding life the waters nourish.
As an atheist, the ritual of the ceremony meant little to me. However I respected the sincerity with which it was performed and I particularly respected the appreciation expressed for the river and all it offers. I live by the river, walk its banks several times a week, and appreciate it deeply. I enjoy and photograph it in its various moods: ominous in the spring flood, sparkling and joyful in the summer sunshine, warmly welcoming yet melancholy in its autumn colours, and patient and serene during the long winter. For me, having grown up in a prairie river valley, it offers a wisp of nostalgia for someone who really isn't very nostalgic, a spiritual connection for someone who isn't religious. A river to which I give thanks.