Cree entrepreneur says spirituality helps his kids thrive
"The prayer that every parent has is that their children are going in a direction that could lead to their happiness."
Edmonton artist and entrepreneur Aaron Paquette says that wish is the underlying reason he's raising his four kids within the Cree spiritual tradition.
Paquette wasn't raised in the tradition because his Cree father was taken in the Sixties Scoop and adopted by white parents.
His wife's parents were sent to residential school, so they too suppressed their spiritual identity when she was young.
"Both of our parents were raised in sort of a Christian tradition. And so, when it came to us being raised, we didn't really get a lot of the traditional stuff in our lives because our parents were a little bit worried that if they gave that to us, we'd face discrimination or troubles as we grew older."
Paquette says things have changed, especially since the closure of the last residential schools.
And those societal changes have encouraged his parents and in-laws to be more vocal about their culture.
"We find ourselves talking with these wonderful people, our parents, who are sharing with us the traditional stories that they grew up with, their experiences, and we're even now completely immersed in the culture that was once denied."
Paquette says that connection to his culture and spirituality has given him a stronger sense of his own identity and his place in the world.
And he wants his kids to have that same sense of rootedness.
"Life has a tendency to get difficult, let's put it that way. Life isn't an easy proposition and you can use any help you can get. And if that help comes in the form of having a deep wellspring of spirituality and belief that you're not alone, how can that not be a good thing? That's the type of thing that gets you through the really really dark times."
Paquette says Cree spirituality has "gentle rules" and lacks the strict dogma of many formal religions. That's why his kids never resisted participating.
"Everything is done by example. No one is forced to do anything... You take that walk, you take that path on your own terms, on your own time. Everything is available for you if you want to access it."
He says as young children, his kids loved going to exciting ceremonies like powwows and round dances. That excitement, he says, made it easier to hold the kids' interest when it came to ceremonies that required more discipline, like sweat lodges.
Paquette says his twin boys lost interest in Cree spirituality for several years when they became teenagers, but both are returning to the teachings of their own accord. He says one is now thinking of becoming a Sun Dancer, a role that requires a four-year commitment.
He says he's confident the spirituality he's passed on to his children will serve them well in life.
"For our kids, anyway, it's given them a path to find out who they are, a path to find out how they can best serve in life and a path to hopefully live a life that's happy and full of meaning."