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What We Do


Circle of Life Thunderbird House is a place of healing and healing ways — the community venue upholding, enhancing and sharing Aboriginal beliefs, values, customs and practices. This is to be accomplished at Circle of Life Thunderbird House through the sharing of programs, cultures, stories, songs, dances, and traditional knowledge.

We also recognize that a solid and sustainable plan for funding the management, operation and maintenance of Circle of Life Thunderbird House is fundamental to providing effective cultural programming and services.

Having heard the community and its Elders, the Board understood that in order to move forward, its first priority must be to stabilize Circle of Life Thunderbird House’s management and financial affairs. Since then, Board members have worked diligently toward that end and have a clear picture of what is required to re-establish Circle of Life Thunderbird House’s role in the community.

To change the current dynamic in our own community of Winnipeg, we at Circle of Life Thunderbird House must support a culture-based intervention strategy as a long-term plan for holistic human and community social development. Many of the objectives and activities described in this plan represent the initial steps toward a holistic long-term healing strategy that promotes successful emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual growth.


Core Operating Components


The success of every organization depends on its core operating funds and revenue stream and Circle of Life Thunderbird House is no exception. Our organization receives its funding from a variety of sources and has recently encountered organizational challenges that have affected our ability to raise funds to sustain programming levels.

The Board of Directors has worked, along with Elders and community volunteers, to review and refine our operating plan in order to ensure the stability, growth and sustainability of Circle of Life Thunderbird House into the future. The following describes the core operations and revenue-gathering components of the Circle of Life Thunderbird House.


Endowment Fund


Thunderbird House, in partnership with the Winnipeg Foundation, has created the Thunderbird House Endowment Fund for the purpose of providing Circle of Life Thunderbird House with yearly interest income to go towards operational costs. This interest income will grow as the endowment fund grows.


Facility Rentals


Circle of Life Thunderbird House offers year-round facilities and services for business meetings and events. Our Rotunda area and conference rooms are suitable for gatherings of five to 350 people. We provide sound equipment and a have a fully equipped kitchen on site. Office space is also available to rent out to other organizations.

  • Business Meetings and Banquets

  • Weddings

  • Memorial and Funeral Services

  • Office Rentals


Fee for Service


Since Circle of Life Thunderbird House opened its doors, businesses, schools and government and community organizations have visited us to seek guidance, education and understanding.


  • Elder’s Council Consultations — corporations, government and community organizations

  • Aboriginal Awareness Workshops — corporate and government organizations

  • School Education/Awareness Workshops and Tours — Manitoba schools

  • Educational Sweat Lodges — university students and organizations


The Traditional Cultural programs funded by these monies may include:

  • Maadoodosan (Sweat Lodge))

  • The Rites of Passage (for individuals and families)

  • The Oshkabewis (Elder’s Helper) Program

  • Aboriginal Ceremonies, Celebrations and Social Gatherings

  • Drumming and Singing groups


Private Foundations

Circle of Life Thunderbird House will also continue to apply for funding from private foundations, including, among others:

  • The Winnipeg Foundation

  • The United Way


Program Descriptions


Madoodoson/Sweat Lodge

Sweat Lodge Ceremonies will be conducted by Elders, including those on our Council of Elders as well as those from the community at large. Participants will include those individuals involved in our programming, community members, and tourists. Sweat Lodge ceremonies are conducted on a regular basis, with Youth in our Oshkabewis program helping the Elders.


Elders Services:

One of the objectives of the Elder’s Council is to expand its membership to include a wider range of tribal diversity, thereby offering a broader range of advisors, healers, and teachers. The Elders of the Circle of Life Thunderbird House provide spiritual healing and counseling to individuals, couples and families and groups. They also perform naming ceremonies, weddings, memorial feasts, and pipe ceremonies, as well as share their wisdom and stories with visitors.


Family Wellness/Rites of Passage Program

The Rites of Passage is an 11-week program that runs one night per week, four times during the year. This program aims to encourage family wellness and enhance the lifestyles of Aboriginal members of the community, particularly youth, by introducing the fundamentals of the four directions and the four races of the earth through experiential workshops, talking circles, and Sweat Lodge ceremonies.

The Rites of Passage is the transition of growth levels from infant to adolescence, to adult, to Elder and accompanying ceremonies. It is —

  • Often marked by various ceremonies but is essentially a recognition and acknowledgement of one’s learning journey through life.

  • A means of acquiring guidance and knowledge from elders about traditional beliefs, values, and customs.

  • An event that signifies an important transition in an individual and/ or community.

  • Understanding of the life that was passed on to you.

  • Held in various forms (pipe ceremony, Sweat lodge, feasts, fasts, etc.).

  • Final rites of passage —conclusion of life — usually accompanied by memorial feast, singing, praying, mourning.


The Purpose of Rites of Passage:


  • To know that we are the original people

  • To know our history through our teachings

  • To know our Anishinabe ancestral name

  • To know ourselves as men and women

  • And to know how we need to be taught


The Oshkabewis (Elder’s Helper) Program

Created to ensure inter-generational transference of Aboriginal traditional knowledge and practices including teachings related to the preparation and care of the Sweat Lodge. Through this unique program, young people’s choices to engage in negative lifestyles will be alleviated as they learn the traditional ways and values. Furthermore, the issues created through the generational gap will be addressed through the transfer and retention of knowledge from Elder to Youth. In this way, the future preservation of Aboriginal teachings can be assured.


Oshkabewis are individuals usually picked by an Elder who recognizes their special gifts as a helper, healer, teacher, or spiritual counselor and agrees to teach and guide them.


  • Being an apprentice is a lifetime commitment.

  • Different types of apprentices (healers, teachers, spiritual counselors, drum carriers, pipe carriers, Maadoodoson keepers, full moon helpers)

  • Qualities for being an apprentice/ helper: humility, kindness, patience, humor, compassion, trust, etc.

  • Help the Elders in various ways such as preparing ceremonies, fire keepers, carriers of knowledge, preserver of teachings, and carrying out instructions.

  • Important not to confuse teachings and to understand sacred symbolism/ meaning of offerings.

  • Important to follow proper protocol when dealing with Elders such as use of tobacco and medicines.

  • Important to understand language in order to fully comprehend teachings which might get distorted by translation. Preservation of teachings can only be guaranteed through language.

  • Apprentices/ helpers need to seek guidance and approval and be careful not to overstep boundaries.

  • Need to accept Elder as role model and not worry about age of teacher sent by the Creator.

  • To respect all living things and be prepared to be taught by everything and every one. Each has a lesson to teach if we are receptive especially the apprentice.

  • To treat people with respect. People create differences, not nature.

  • To receive direction from Elders and receive the “lost” teachings.

  • To learn through hands-on experience.

  • Helpers’ role begins when they are born.

  • To develop various skills such as communication, interpretation, translation, story telling.

  • To be a happy outgoing individual, who is also accountable, reliable, and trustworthy. Also is alcohol and drug free.

  • There must be mutual understanding between elder and apprentice.

  • The apprentice must be open minded, dedicated, and committed to the teachings of the Elder.

  • Helpers/ Apprentices can become “elders” once their teachers have departed to the spirit world.

  • Elder will tell you when it is time to leave or work with someone else.

  • One teacher provides basics, goals, and objectives.

  • Apprentices need to understand role and placements to be followed for ceremonies.

  • Apprentices to know that there are no short cuts. That knowledge takes time and patience.

  • Abiding by traditional beliefs and respecting other belief systems.



Last Updated (Thursday, 28 October 2010 16:07)