Suncor Welcomes a Sacred Space for All People

Oct 10, 2023 11:00 AM ET

Suncor's Calgary headquarters, known as Mohkinstsis in Blackfoot, held a groundbreaking ceremony unveiling the first-of-its-kind smudge and ceremonial room within the Suncor Energy Centre (SEC) in September. The initiative was led by Suncor's Indigenous Youth Advisory Council (IYAC) and supported by internal and external teams including Suncor’s Indigenous Relations and facilities; Brookfield Properties, the owners of the SEC building; and the Calgary Fire Department. The Sacred Space marks a significant step toward cultural inclusivity and respect within the corporate setting. Learn more about our work with Indigenous communities here.

Smudging is a traditional Indigenous ritual that involves burning sacred medicines, such as sweetgrass, sage, and tobacco and cedar to cleanse and purify a space or person’s energy and for prayer. There are smudge-friendly spaces and reflection rooms across other Suncor sites, including at the Sarnia refinery and Fort Hills.

Kainai Elder, “Sorrel Horse”, Casey EagleSpeaker from the Kainai (Gaa-nah) First Nation in southern Alberta led the ceremony, which included a prayer, songs and a smudge. “This space is not only for Indigenous people, but for all people to use for prayer and smudge in their way to start their day off with peace and stability.”

It was during the ceremony that Elder Casey gifted the room with the name Kahnaatahpii Moyis, which means All Peoples’ Lodge in Blackfoot.

The idea of a sacred space in SEC came from an IYAC member Kahenientha Cross, while attending a meeting that started with a smudge at a smudge-friendly room at the Calgary Public Library. After the smudge, the member asked why Suncor didn’t have a smudge-friendly space in its Calgary office. Sylvie Tran, VP EH&S – Operational Risk Management, who meets with IYAC regularly as a Suncor Energy Foundation board member, wondered the same and she knew she had the right team to make it happen.

“One of the first things we needed to do to convert the space was a risk assessment for fire, odor or smoke,” says Sylvie. “My team came together and shared their areas of expertise to support the project.”

Working with IYAC and Indigenous Relations, the facilities team transformed a meeting room into an area for Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people to smudge, pray and reflect.

Dr. Michael Lickers, Specialist Relations Advisor, supported the operations of setting up this space.

“Within the Indigenous community smudging is a common practice,” explains Michael “When working in a corporate setting, if a person is going through a difficult and stressful time, smudging can help them heal and relieve that stress.”

The transformation of the meeting room to a sacred space was more than dimming lights, adding Indigenous artwork, traditional medicines, and other sacred artifacts. It also required an overhaul of the room’s HVAC system to adhere to building codes.

As the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) and Orange Shirt Day, both on Sept. 30, approach, the opening of this space is a reminder of how important it is to learn about Indigenous culture and history as a step towards our Reconciliation journey. It’s important to reflect on the painful chapter of our history in Canada, which includes prohibiting Indigenous Peoples from practicing ceremony such as smudging, and to build bridges in support of understanding and healing.