Near Coronach -
On June 11th, 2009, the members of the Lakota Sioux First Nation from Wood Mountain were at Poplar River Mine to hold a pipe ceremony on adjacent land.
While doing a heritage resource study in 2004, Stantec Consulting Ltd. discovered stone formations that were deemed heritage sites on land that is proposed to be mined in the future. The land is located east and south of the existing Poplar River North Mine.
Sherritt Coal contacted the Lakota Sioux First Nation to inform them of the sites and the proposed mining activity in the area. The first nation requested a day to travel to the sites to perform a pipe ceremony and pay respect to the people who came before us and to the land.
There were approximately twenty members of the Lakota Sioux First Nation in attendance. Among them were the Chief, members of the Elder's Council, Counselors, the Pipe Keeper, the Pipe Carrier, drummers, singers, family members and children. The FSIN Lands and Resources representative was also on site along with the Sr. Archaeologist from Stantec Consulting Ltd. and four representatives from Sherritt Coal.
The group gathered in Coronach in the morning and then headed out to the field site. The heritage sites had all been staked out prior and were easily identifiable when the group arrived.
A stone cairn, that was at the top of a hill, became the central point of the ceremony. The men sat on the ground forming a semi circle that opened to the west. The ceremony was led by a spiritual advisor. He spoke initially in the Dakota language and then translated to English.
A smudge, a bowl containing sage and sweet grass that was lit to create smoke, was passed around to all in attendance. The sage is said to be a purifier and the sweet grass carries prayers. Each person "washed" the smoke over top of them.
During the ceremony, respect was paid to spirits, people that had come before, and to the land. Offerings of tea, dry meat, berries and soup were given to the spirits. The spiritual advisor talked about Mother Earth and the coal that was buried deep in her veins and why society has the need to retrieve the coal and disturb the land. Forgiveness was asked from the creator for upsetting the balance of the land. The sacred peace pipes were lit and passed around to the males in the group. Songs were sung in the Dakota language to pray to the creator.
The Lakota believe that when a person passes on, you become a winged, water or four legged spirit. During the ceremony the participants watched in awe as an eagle soared high above the group as if to accept the gifts given to the spirits.
Lunch was served after the ceremony and everyone visited. This provided a great opportunity for mine representatives to ask questions about the pipe ceremony and the traditions of the Lakota Sioux.
Gifts were exchanged after lunch. The gifts given by the Lakota were traditional star blankets. These blankets have been given traditionally in ceremonies and are one of the most honorable items that can be given away. Sherritt Coal presented the Lakota with an honorarium and a Pendleton wool blanket. The Pendleton wool blankets are unique traditional horse blankets. Each one is created with a different design and has a different story.
According to Sherritt Coal representatives the day was a great day for all involved. They said that all representatives from Sherritt Coal felt honored to be a part of the ceremony and they all walked away with a greater understanding of the Lakota Sioux First Nation culture.