Protective gear, face masks, social distancing – we are awash with death tolls and warnings on CNN and social media. I’ve been thinking about the meaning of disease and chaos from an Indigenous perspective. How does a pandemic happen? What explanations do we have for the sources of our suffering? True, I have a lot of time on my hands! When I search my memory for Indigenous stories of traditional knowledge and science, one story comes back to me again and again. I first encountered it in Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977). How do we cope with the anxiety of witnessing and experiencing suffering in the world? How can we move closer to self-awareness and emotional healing?
In Ceremony, Silko’s character Betonie recounts an unforgettable scene where all the world’s sorcerers gather to hold a contest in evil-doing. This evil already existed in the world. After all the sorcerers show off their dark powers, the last one, the darkest of all, tells a story of global destruction so terrible that the others say, “Okay, you win, you take the prize./But what you said just now–/It isn’t so funny/It doesn’t sound so good…” They beg it to take back the story. Silko writes, “But the witch just shook its head/at the others in their stinking animal skins, fur and feathers/It’s already turned loose/It’s already coming/ It can’t be called back.”
Tayo, a young Navaho soldier suffering PTSD, comes home to find healing through the elders’ knowledge of ceremony and stories, through the support of traditional elders, and through confrontation with his own destructive impulses. Through the wisdom held in traditional knowledge he learns to re-integrate the truths that the Earth was here first, with the Sun and the Moon, and that he can learn to heal his break in harmony with the natural world.
Silko wrote that Ceremony was a “ceremony for staying sane.” And so, I’m working on a renewed vision of a changed world after this pandemic has passed, and on hearing a renewed call to action and healing.
Dr. Carole Leclair
A message for our women and their families
Staying home to avoid infection from the corona virus is less of a drastic change in daily life for me in retirement than it is for busy working folks. Some families I know are finding comfort in the unexpected gift of extended time together. Many in our community are struggling with feelings of loneliness and anxiety. I hear some are taking their temperature every two hours. They are longing for close contact with loved ones.
This time of self-quarantine for me is an indefinite spiritual retreat. The main retreat leaders are chipmunks, squirrels, racoons and birds, the sound of the rushing water in the creek, and the natural growth of the rooted ones in the garden. Human voices too are speakers at my retreat, speakers like Joseph M. Marshall, III in his text returning to the Lakota way: old values to save a modern world. Here’s what he said to me this morning:
“Peace is elusive, but it is also empowering. To be at peace with circumstances, especially those over which we have no control, does not mean we should not strive to deal with them. It means that we deal with them with the strength of clarity, reason, and deliberation, because that is what peace enables. That kind of peace means that we individually are sure of who we are, what we are, what we want, and where we are going. If that is not strength through peace, than I am at a loss as to what is.” (227)
Dr. Carole Leclair
To Our Women
As a senior Metisse, I’m doing my part to care for my loved ones and all community by avoiding contagion. This means the tedium of staying home. Long chats on the phone, listening to the returning birds, rearranging furniture and flipping through cookbooks only help so far. I need food for the spirit and Richard Wagamese’s “Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations.” gives me encouragement.
“In the deep snow moons of winter, there are stories hovering around us. They are whispered by the voices of our ancestors, told in ancient tongues, told in the hope that we will hear them. Listen. In the shape of moonbeams across a canvas of snow, the lilt of birdsong, the crackle of a fire, the smell of smudge and the echo of the heartbeats of those around us, our ancestors speak to us, call to us, summon us to the great abiding truth of stories; that simple stories, well told, are the heartbeat of the people. Past. Present. Future.”
Dr. Carole Leclair
What’s new is really old: Trauma informed health practices through an understanding of historic trauma
NCCAH Webinar Notification
Date and Time:
Arpil 21st, 2017
10:00 AM (PST)
Trauma informed health practices are the latest buzz words in the health field. The new is really the old. Teachings of the Elders and the practicing of these teachings have been the saving graces for many Indigenous Nations, amidst the adversity of historic trauma and the resultant complexities of grief and loss and lateral violence.
- Provide participants with a brief overview of pre-contact values and laws;
- Explore the complexities of historic trauma and lateral violence within communities; and
- Review current trauma informed health practices.
Dr. Patricia Makokis, University of Alberta, Faculty of Extension
Supreme Court rules on “Métis”
…the legal definition of Métis established by the Supreme Court in a 2003 ruling has been broadened to now include those that self-identify as MÃ©tis and have a historic connection to a Métis community.
2014 Vern Harper Award
Elize Hartley Recipient 2014 Vern Harper Award The CAMH’s (Center for Addiction and Mental Health) National Aboriginal Day Celebration included the presentation of the Chapin A’sin Elder Vern Harper Award for Excellence in the Provision of Culturally-Based Practice.
This year’s winner was Elize Hartley, Elder-in-Residence with McMaster University in Hamilton.
“Our youth need identification. I found that when I went into the high schools and presented the aboriginal ways and ceremonies and talked about ceremonies, talked about tradition, talked about nation, those people, those young people got an identity,” said Hartley.
“When we started a few years ago talking and bringing the cultures they said, ‘I don’t know who I am’. And I said, ‘we’ll find out’, so we did. They just seemed to bloom.”
Progress of the
Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women
“Native women are missing because of the way they live. Live in abject poverty, not educated well enough to get a job that pays them enough to survive. Most of them are single moms who raise children – what do they do? Go and become prostitutes. These women work for whatever they can get. The idea that they can do that plays on their mind – what do they do? Drink and drugs. It’s a lose-lose situation.
I get involved with Aboriginal youth and talk to them about their identity – if you can show people their identity, they have something to hang on to. I think more people need to know that in order for Aboriginal people to get on their feet, we have to start looking at children in the elementary schools. We have to work together to make sure that the history of Canada, for instance, is properly written and shows what actually happened to Aboriginal people. Human Trafficking is at the basis of a lot of troubles for the Aboriginal women. The system doesn’t work for them, it works against them. We have to start looking at education for Aboriginal students. Once Aboriginal students get their diploma, they can go to college. Somebody needs to do the foot work.”
– Elize Hartley