We had decided to invite men for the first time to one of our gatherings. We spoke of how we had been supporting each other to right relations with all creation by returning to the traditional worldview. We had taken time to build trust, to define what this looks like and discuss teachings from the language and stories. Now, we needed to invite men into similar conversations.
The women and men came together on the opening night to introduce themselves, and review the intentions of the gathering. The gathering opened with a Pipe Ceremony. Then the history of the project both national and in the east, was briefly reviewed including how we have been following the direction given by Creator. We talked of Lottie’s vision at our first gathering – women with white hair standing in the centre, children playing around, the men creating a circle on the outside facing outwards, protecting all in the circle. This gathering we wanted to focus on how do we protect the circle, how do we unravel the influence of colonialism and remember our roles and responsibilities, how do we build healthy communities. We talked of loving each other unconditionally and supporting each other to grow.
The women gathered in a large tent by the lake and the river and when it was too hot, on benches outside. The river sounds carried up and mingled with our words, thoughts and Prayers. We sang songs. We began by holding a talking circle were we shared our struggles and our hopes.
Concerns and Actions Discussed Included:
- Too many Indigenous children in care. We can counter-act this by establishing grandmother society – when children are at risk, we step in and live with them in the house, while the parents get needed support, including cultural support.
- Rites of Passage ceremonies need to be wide spread. Learning about healthy roles of men and women. Feel good about who you are. Know your responsibilities and know you belong.
- Women supporting each other. Come together doing crafts, while sharing stories. Continue to promote no judgement of each other. We are all in a different place in our journey.
- Create safe spaces for men: Offering understanding and a place for healing, releasing anger, learning how to communicate non-violently. Support them to help stop violence against women.
- Hold or support family gatherings: Creating a positive environment where children, women and men can come together on the land and be together, enjoy. Model values of open mind, non-judgement, love unconditionally, generosity, being kind, non-interference, building community, family, trust. Crafts, dance, make regalia, share stories. Teach parents in culture, how to raise a family in community.
The men gathered with Grand Chief Ron Tremblay as facilitator, to discuss the traditional roles of men for the Wabanaki. Through stories, the theme of men taking direction from the women, who carry life, emerged. Men are the protectors, the providers. On Saturday afternoon, they carried on their conversations in canoes, an older one paired with a younger. They sang a song as they paddled back to shore. The women ran to greet them and sang a song to welcome them back.
Women and Men Together
The men and women came back together Saturday evening to share what they had discussed. It was acknowledged that though we had only a short time together, we had created community. It became clear that we need more gatherings and a vision formed of more circles on a regional/local basis. The question is how do we support that? People who had not been to a gathering since the first one, spoke of how healing it was to join this circle again – they needed the support and strength that comes from these gatherings.
The children spent their day playing, making art, swimming, canoeing and kayaking. Daxon made his first painting! The children joined us for the closing and give-away Ceremony on Sunday morning. They had made a card to welcome us all and painted pictures and shells for the Give-away. Five of them had a discussion on things they thought would be good to do to make communities better which they presented to the full group. It included jingle dress dances for healing, community field trips and gatherings, smudging all the time, after school programs like sports and crafts and making slime, community gardens with veggies and flowers, baby sitting courses and regular community talking circles!
“Grateful for different pieces of the puzzle and how everyone is contributing to the vision”
- Gathering more often: Looking at how we can create and support more local/regional circles. For example young women gathering in Halifax each full moon. Jane Meader has been supporting this by attending as many as she can. Are there other areas interested in this and how can we provide support?
- Land-based education centre. Women of the First Light is supporting the creation of this in Esgenoopetitj. There will be workshops for youth, young adults and also supporting grandmothers and grandfather’s to take on their roles. It will be open to other communities in that region and open to those who wish to travel further.
- Positive Role Models: We are creating a book on Indigenous women from the east who have been trail blazers. Need to gather names, accomplishments, writers.