Arizona Cardinal was a nine-year-old Nêhîyaw girl diagnosed with an aggressive grade-four glioblastoma (brain tumour) on October 8, 2020. Within four months, on February 6th, 2021, she passed away in the loving care of her mother, Sharice Cardinal, from the Alexander First Nation on Treaty 6 territory.
Three decades ago, Arizona's great-grandfathers had come together to build a ceremonial and spiritual foundation with a vision to reach their children, grandchildren and future generations. All of the prayers and years of hard work in our ceremonies had reached Arizona and provided her with a safe place to learn, play and heal in our traditional lodges during her short life span. Arizona truly loved ceremony. She loved sweat lodges, sun dances, night lodges and most of all she loved to sing.
Through every step of her battle with cancer, she used traditional medicine that worked with mainstream healthcare and sought healing from our traditional knowledge as Nêhîyawak peoples. Even though it was her time to go, she greeted the Creator as Nêhîyaw, and proud of her identity. We believe every child, deserves the divine right to know who they are and why they were born. This is why, in her name, we are fundraising to complete the construction for the home of the Indigenous Turtle Lodge Society. Where ceremonies will be held consistently and dedicated to reach Indigenous children and youth from surrounding communities and beyond. Through this movement we hope to complete the vision of Arizona's great grandfathers and ensure our future generations have a safe place to access our ceremonies and traditional way of life. No matter where our children come from, or how they were raised, they hold the right to seek traditional healing and education through the land based and holistic practices of our ancestors. Arizona's family wishes for traditional healthcare and education to be made available for children in foster care, youth incarcerated, and urban young people who don't have access to ceremony.
Arizona's ceremonial family, with the help of Elder Fred Campio, has provided a beacon of hope for many people and has built a community around traditional knowledge and spiritual law. For the past 3 years, solely through community donation, and volunteer work, we have already begun construction of the Turtle Lodge without any help from government or industry. So far we have poured concrete, started framing, and the roof is nearly completed. We're now fundraising to complete the roof, walls, floors, get the water line connected and eventually pave a road leading up to the Turtle Lodge, on the Alexander First Nation.
Once the lodge is built, we will be conducting consistent community programming for children and youth who are seeking a safe place to learn ceremony. Please consider helping us ensure a certain future for our children where they can feel proud of who they are as Indigenous peoples. #ArizonaStrong
Feel free to reach out if you'd have something specific to contribute or donate, anything helps!
To stay updated on the progress of the Turtle Lodge please visit:
- Christine Ruthardt
- Terri Berube Bozok
- Anne/Bill Hamre
- Patricia LeMay
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