Elder and youth gathering hosted in Lac Seul First Nation
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Lac Seul First Nation provided opportunities for healing and learning during an elder and youth gathering hosted from Sept. 17 to 20 at the Lac Seul Events Centre.
The gathering had 160 registered participants and featured cultural competency training for elders and youth, while including sunrise ceremonies, sweat lodge ceremonies, a pipe ceremony, shaking tent ceremonies, and daily workshop training sessions. Participants received a cultural competency training certificate after the completion of the gathering.
Along with ceremonies and teachings, the gathering touched on issues such as the Sixties Scoop, Indian Residential Schools, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, family violence, and loss of culture.
Organizers and elders shared the importance of partaking in the gathering.
“All the people that are here, as presenters, are sweat lodge keepers, they’re ceremonial keepers, and it’s through their vision that it’s come to the point where we try and organize and work together as a group to bring information to anybody that is willing to listen. We’ve extended the invitation to all Canadians because all Canadians need to hear that,” said Elder Ralph Johnson.
“In the evenings there are different sweat lodge ceremonies that are happening. We also have the shaking tent ceremony, and it’s to help people to process negative influences that come from what they’ve had to face over the years. The residential school, a lot of people still carry a lot of anger and resentment.
“One of the most important things is to really bring forward how the oppression has really affected a lot of people to the point where it becomes acceptable… To me, the conditions that have been created here in this part of the world aren’t very conducive to the well-being of everyone here in Canada,” said Johnson.
“We’ve always had our sovereignty, we’ve always had these inherent laws and these inherent rights and these inherent practices. We’ve always had the tools and everything that we’ve needed to govern ourselves and, by gathering likes this, this is what we’re doing is we’re exercising that sovereignty and that’s really important for us,” said Mona Gordon, Gathering Coordinator.
“We have to make special mention of ceremony and those customs and those protocols. When we gather in ceremony, when we pray with the pipes, we make the offerings through ceremony to the creator, spirit helpers, clan helpers, and our ancestors that they provide. They provide the answers and the help that we need,” she said.
“I love listening to different people and the knowledge they carry. I like that because it’s for us to learn,” said Elder Juliette Blackhawk.
“They’re (gatherings) very important because when you look and read of the epidemics that are happening in our First Nations, families are being broken up, alcohol, and opioids. There are many things that are happening and, these teachings that we’re doing, if one could come and listen,” said Joan Cachagee, knowledge keeper and pipe carrier.
“The Anishinaabe way of life is still here and it’s still strong. We’re trying to get that message out to the young people and to encourage all people,” said Joe Wesley, gathering helper.
Gordon said the gathering was sponsored by Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), Treaty#3 Justice Program, Lac Seul First Nation Choose Life Program, Lac Seul First Nation Band, Mahkwa Lodge, Lac Seul First Nation Suboxone Program, Lac Seul First Nation Family Wellness Program, Lac Seul First Nation Ontario Works Program, Independent First Nations Alliance, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, First Mining Gold, Ontario Power Generation, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA), and more.
“A lot of Lac Seul’s programs have contributed to making this event successful. We apologize if we forgot to mention anyone,” she said.
Moving forward, Gordon shared the gatherings will continue in the fall and spring, which is in line with when elders would gather historically.
“Next year, going forward, the idea is because, historically, our elders used to gather in the spring. That’s when decisions were made, that’s when they brought their bundles out, and that’s when they started asking for that guidance and that healing… Today we live in a different world and our people are needing a lot more help today than they were before my time. In keeping with the spring and the fall ceremony gatherings, that’s the whole purpose why we’re having spring and fall gatherings, and there will be spring and fall gatherings going forward.
We’re hoping to have some of the key players at the table like SLFNHA, Tikinagan, NAN, Treaty#3, all the different tribal councils, and all the different organizations in Sioux Lookout because one of the things that we are offering for organizations in Sioux Lookout is the cultural competency training certificate that everybody will receive at the end of this week. It justifies employers allowing their employees to attend,” she explained.