Honorary name set in steel

(Edmonton) A long-time University of Alberta professor has been given a Cree name in honour of the work he has done for the Plains Cree Aboriginal community.

Earle Waugh, director for the Centre for the Cross Cultural Study of Health and Healing in the Department of Family Medicine, received the Cree name “Pewapiskimostos,” which translates to “Iron Bull,” at a sweat lodge on Alberta Hospital grounds Jan. 29 in an official ceremony led by fellow faculty member, Clifford Cardinal.

Pewapiskimostos comes with a rich history and is a name Waugh is very honoured to carry with him. He says it is the name of a crow chief and warrior who led the River Crow people in Yellowstone Park area.

“It’s a really dynamic and powerful name,” said Waugh, who added he was told it isn’t a Cree name per se but rather recognition that Waugh is a part of the Plains people. “I’m part of the extended family.”

This credit is well deserved. Waugh’s work with the Cree community dates back more than 35 years to when he first arrived in Alberta after doing his post-doctoral fellowship in anthropology at the University of Chicago. Waugh, who is also a professor emeritus of divinity in the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, was approached by Sister Nancy LeClaire, a well-known nun in the Cree community, to develop a Cree dictionary. The book took 27 years to finish, but is complete with all the Cree dialects.

“It’s the only book I’ve ever worked on in my life that sold out in a month,” said Waugh.

His work with Aboriginal communities continues as just last year Waugh was nominated for an Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association award for an educational video he produced for doctors and Cree people on cross-cultural sensitivities in medicine.

Waugh also helped organize a nationwide healing gathering in October at the U of A, the first since 1933. Waugh says he will now turn his focus to set up a national network for traditional healers to teach and share their knowledge. He adds this is all vitally important work as his faculty looks to continue building a lasting relationship with the Aboriginal community.

“Having this kind of honour symbolically links the medical school with aboriginal people in a very personal and intimate way,” said Waugh. “I’m particularly touched by this because it is not easy to get this kind of recognition.

“I think the support of the faculty has been absolutely essential for it.”