A conversation with miigam’agan, member of Apaji-wla’matulinej/Righting Relations about Nuwegati Land Based Experiential Learning Program in Esgenoopetitj, New Brunswick, Aug 24 – 26, 2018
Tell me about the program you hosted this past weekend?
When I first started hearing about cultural camps and land based learning, I was trying to understand it from the perspective of who was providing the view. Trying to be in their shoes. When we brought it to our Indigenous approach and views, it became “oh my goodness this is what we’ve been talking about – the work of reconnecting ourselves, our families and children with our first mother.” The whole philosophy this weekend was about working together and teaching cultural knowledge through the land. It was about connecting back to our culture.
We had 10 youth who were already engaged in leadership work in various areas in their communities. I was so impressed with their commitment and investment in the program. We had 7 Elders, and a few children. We had the opening ceremony at 8am and introduced the land-based experiential learning. We arrived as a community, and were going to create a community there. A family.
The first day was about teaching the sweat lodge – the purpose and overall benefits of the sweat lodge. Then everyone went out to gather the materials. We invited the rest of our families to help make it happen. The saplings and the rocks were gathered, with all the protocols involved with living in right relation. It’s about reconnecting with all our community that has been living here – the trees, the rocks, the water. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to all our relations, recognizing how water is there to cleanse us. It was so beautiful!
We had a sweat lodge ceremony that went late into the night.
All day Saturday, we put up the longhouse.
We were totally immersed in the culture for three days. Working in the Indigenous way, we didn’t segregate age groups – the children, youth, adults and elders were all together. We were taught how to re-look at the small children – they’re more connected to Spirit. At the centre of our culture is the spirit of Life – the children. We re-awakened the child-like mind/way of being – being present, curious, learning, observing. Not trying to control the situation.
The land was a great influence in changing our thought patterns and our way of looking at life. Looking at language through the Indigenous lens, we see Life around us as one. We ask the tree for help as we rest the pole on her to free our hands to get the rope. We see our community as much greater than humans. We reconnect.
This was powerful for the youth, many of whom know this in theory, but less in practice. We learned so much about living on the land, and the importance of the elders and grandmothers in our community.
At the end of our gathering, we all committed to connecting to the land wherever we are. Hopes and visions of bringing schools groups to the land base to learn and to work with Esgenoopetitj Health Centre to bring people with addictions and trauma to the land base are on the horizon.