March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in 1960.” – United Nations

We all have much to learn from each other, including how we can actively work towards ending racism. Moh’kins’tsis, also known as Calgary, is part of the Treaty 7 Region, which is also home to the Piikani nation. Earlier this month, Piikani Blackfoot Elder Dr. Reg Crowshoe and his wife and fellow Elder Rose Crowshoe took time out to speak with United Way about the traditional practice of kimapi’pitsan, which means sanctified kindness. The practice creates a safe space for open conversation, equality, and above all, compassion and gentleness to all living things.

As Dr. Crowshoe explains, it can provide the foundations for truth and reconciliation as well as the first steps towards eliminating racism:

“We were given sanctified kindness through the smudge. It brought us together as relatives, with the whole environment: plants, animals, all human beings. So, as we believe, no one was stronger than the other, but we all needed each other to achieve goals like survival.”

However, the practice of sanctified kindness must be a part of our lives and learnings. Dr. Crowshoe sees early education and awareness as a critical component.

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Today our young people… we tell them to be kind, and all we give them is a dictionary where they can read the definition of kindness, but they don’t know how to act it. In our oral culture and teachings, we have to practice it in our teachings and day to day, (to truly) be kind to our fellow humans.

Rose Crowshoe likens the beginning stages of sanctified kindness to our earliest experiences of warmth and love as small children:

“When our children were born, the old people would take that baby and hold it. The baby could feel that warmth, that kindness, so it’s instilled in them. I remember my children would say, “Mom, could you do something for my (crying) baby!” so I’d take the baby and wrap it tightly and just sing it a lullaby song that calms them down. I’m giving them that kindness and gentleness that we have.”

Thank you to Elder Dr. Reg Crowshoe and Elder Rose Crowshoe for sharing the concept of kimapi’pitsan with us. To learn more about the history and practice of sanctified kindness, we invite you to take in our full video with Reg and Rose Crowshoe.

Watch a conversation on healing