Thousands of people are expected to travel to Lac Ste Anne in Treaty 6 territory as part of a pilgrimage that has been ongoing for well over a century.
“We call Lac Ste Anne Wakamne or God’s Lake,” said Tony Alexis, chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. “Long before settlers came, Wacomne has had a deep spiritual significance to the First Nation people and was known for its healing powers. The site is sacred. Our people have taken the spiritual journey to these waters for generations. Some walking here from great distances.”
Alexis said the site is now being readied for a visit by Pope Francis on July 26 where it’s anticipated that he’ll bless the lake.
In 1887, the site was established by Catholic priests as a place to worship by residents. The first pilgrimage was in 1889.
Today, tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage – some travel hundreds of kilometres by foot to get to the place held dear by Catholics.
Belief in the healing power of the water is unquestioned. A webpage is dedicated to the site – and a video was produced with testimonials of the lake’s healing powers.
“The connection that I have to the Lac Ste Anne pilgrimage site is that my elderly kokum, her dad had been ill at the age of about two and that’s when he lost his hearing and then he didn’t speak,” said Joanne Gagnon Ledouceur in the video. “Mary, his firstborn, she was going to lose her hearing and they were afraid of that because of an infection that she had. It’s interesting that one of his first reactions was to the probability that she might not get well was to take her to Lac Ste Anne.
“He took his daughter into the water – and he scooped up water and put little drops of water into her ears and after that, she never ever had problems with her ears and never got gravely ill again in her life.”
The site is located about an hour west of Edmonton.
Tracy Friedel represents the Lac Ste Anne Métis.
She said she hopes the Papal visit will bring attention and action to help identify and protect unmarked graves in the Lac Ste Anne area.
“We have been concerned about the unmarked graves for many years now,” she said. “Not only the past week when there has been highlighted attention to this issue. If the occasion of the Papal visit helps ensure these unmarked graves are accurately identified, and property protected, then I think we will all have achieved an objective that matters to all of us.”
Up to 25,000 people are expected to attend the site for the Pope’s visit. arrives.