By Peggy Revell on May 2, 2017.
Song, warm embraces, and offerings of tobacco and prayers to the sacred fire Monday underneath the Saamis Tepee marked the beginning of healing and reconciliation week.
“The purpose of the sacred fire is to bring back ceremony,” said Lance Scout with the Miywasin Friendship Centre, which has organized the week of events that reflects on the impact of Indian Residential Schools, and moving forward from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The ceremony, the fire and tobacco are a reminder of indigenous teachings, said Scout — of the spirits of ancestors, of tobacco being an indigenous medicine, and more.
“We’re giving that sacred element to our ancestors who have gone before us, to the people who are still with us, and the people who come after us.”
It is teaching that residential schools aimed to strip that away from Canada’s aboriginal populations.
“What was taken was our way of life,” said Scout, speaking of the many forms of abuse residential school survivors experienced — how they were seen as “savages” — and the impact this has had, and continues to have.
“We have forgiven but we can never forget,” he said.
“That is why we do this sacred fire, and to also build brotherhood and sisterhood, and to teach the non-indigenous, and hopefully return back to the teaching.”
Alongside the opening ceremonies, the public is invited to attend multiple events throughout the week.
Monday evening, the documentary “Gently Whispering the Circle Back” was shown at the Monarch Theatre, alongside a presentation by Lana Whiskey Jack on a piece of her art featured in the film. Survivors of residential schools will also share their personal experiences.
“Opening our minds, our hearts, and our healing spirit” takes place today at the Esplanade from 6-9 p.m., with historical photos of residential schools across Canada on display, alongside photos of indigenous warriors, and presentations.
On Wednesday, “Miracle of Forgiveness” will take place at the Esplanade, featuring a youth award ceremony, elders’ gifting ceremony, various performances and dinner. Pre-registration by calling Miywasin is required.
From 1-9 p.m. on Thursday is the “Strengthening our Youth” event at Riverside Veterans’ Memorial Park, featuring youth-driven presentations on healing and reconciliation, a hoop dance performance, traditional games and more.
A closing ceremony is set for Friday morning at the Esplanade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., including photos, sharing circle, elder prayers and round dance.
Introspection, collaboration and motivation — three strands like those of braided sweetgrass, said Scout — are why the public should join in this week’s event.
“Come and engage,” he said, as this helps to dismantle fear, and builds understanding and healing.
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