When you talk to John Chief-Moon, you immediately understand how passionate he is for his culture, spirituality, and First Nations people.
John, who is Blackfoot, says lots of people consider him an “elder-in-training” as he passes his knowledge about the First Nations culture not only to the First Nations people but to the larger Calgary community through his work at CMHA Calgary.
“I come from the Blood Reserve. Our culture, our ceremonies, our societies, are still intact,” said John.
With a Degree in Psychology from Mount Royal University, John has previously worked with the Street Outreach and Stabilization Team at CMHA Calgary, helping link hard-to-reach individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health or substance use concerns to essential community services.
He is now the Indigenous Recovery Wellness Coordinator, in which he connects his background and culture within the agency, while also continuing with some of his outreach responsibilities.
John considers himself a “Goodwill Ambassador” and really enjoys talking to people about himself and his culture, along with promoting good things about Blackfoot and First Nations people including spirituality, how they deal with crisis, and being in touch with the creator.
“I like to share my knowledge with everyone, regardless of who they are,” said John.
John said the biggest barrier for First Nations people and getting help is just who they are and that stereotypes still exist. “I’ve been sober for 32 years, and I think I’ve lived a pretty decent life. People still treat me like I’m not their equal. That happens to a lot of First Nation people.”
John says that some First Nations people are affected by inter-generational trauma, and a lot of them don’t know what their culture is because so many generations have had to deal with things like residential schools.
“I was very fortunate that my grandfather taught me a lot about who I was through who the Blackfoot people are, as did my mother and father.”
He says his culture really helps him to ground himself when things start to get overwhelming, as does going to ceremonies to help take care of things like stress.
“Difficult times are never easy to deal with, but being a spiritual person and talking to the creator, makes it a little easier.”
One of the Blackfoot and First Nations traditions John brings to CMHA Calgary is smudging. Smudging is a ceremony practiced by First Nations people that involved the burning of sacred herbs, like sage and sweet grass, for a spiritual cleansing or blessing.
John smudges CMHA Calgary’s group homes and apartments, along with Recovery College and Welcome Centre every Monday.
He said places like CMHA Calgary help First Nations people get help by employing First Nations people. John said that for him talking to people in CMHA Calgary’s Welcome Centre and Recovery College, along with others he encounters through his work and getting to know him and his culture also helps.
All Recovery College programs, including smudging every Monday morning, are free of charge and without waiting lists. In order to continue to ensure that no one is turned away, your support is critical, which is we’ve recently launched the Turni2We campaign.
Your donation can go a long way in helping someone feel like they belong, and that they matter. Donate today.
For those looking to connect with a peer support worker, you can come by in person, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-297-1402 during the Welcome Centre’s opening hours (9:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday to Friday, and Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm excluding holidays).