Written by: Evan Pelton
Collective effort in supporting one another and understanding that individuals often
cannot get through difficult times alone is an important concept in the Cree way of life.
Sihtoskâtowin, or the act of helping, looking out for, and supporting one another, is one of the
Seven Cree Principles. This principle provides a space to keep individuals, and those around
them, safe and healthy. Sihtoskâtowin is also fundamental to the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation,
located here in Alberta. It is a crucial element in their way of life and showcases the power
community and collective effort have in the caring for, and healing of, individuals.
The Aseniwuche Winewak Nation
While completing her Master of Arts in Native Studies, Johanne Johnson interviewed
several Elders and community members of the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation. She consulted
them about the Seven Cree Principles, and specifically about Sihtoskâtowin and what it means to
them. She learned that this Cree principle is fundamental to their communal lifestyle and helps to
ensure the survival and well-being of individual community members.
Historically the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation lived in the mountains, specifically in the
Jasper Valley. However, the creation of Jasper National Park forced them to move and join their
relatives in the Grande Cache and Smokey River area.
Interested in learning more about the Aseniwuche Winewak peoples? Visit their website at
Sihtoskâtowin and Healing
We know now that Sihtoskâtowin is an important Cree principle that promotes collective
action to ensure the well-being of the individual. However, how does this relate to Indigenous
healing? How can it help someone in pain, emotional or physical?
Often when we think about a healing process, we consider specific actions or methods we
can use to assist someone. Perhaps we would think of Indigenous Healing practices such as
smudging, Sweat Lodge ceremonies, or sharing circles. But how do these methods and practices
relate to the principle of Sihtoskâtowin? These methods all include a collective and sustained
effort from those around the individual in need. This is because Sihtoskâtowin gives us an
understanding that we cannot usually help ourselves alone.
During her interviews with the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation community members,
Johanne Johnson discussed the supports provided to individuals within the collective. A common
theme was sustained effort from each person to assist each other. These efforts included financial
and emotional support, or even physical care for Elders or other vulnerable community members
such as those healing from trauma. These efforts help to create a safe space for individuals going
through a healing process, allowing them to strive and move forward.
Interested in learning more about Sihtoskâtowin or the other Cree Principles? Visit the link
below to find the University of Alberta’s Research and Public Resources database. This database
has several documents created by Johanne Johnson that discuss the Seven Cree Principles,
Find it here: https://www.ualberta.ca/wahkohtowin/research.html?1=Land-basedandLanguagebasedLearning
• Johanne Johnsons Guide to the Seven Cree Principles
• Aseniwuche Winewak Nation Website