Many of our teachings come from Mother Nature. When we think about the fall season, we most often remember the trees and how beautiful their colors are at this time of year. Soon, these beautiful trees who have sent forth wonderful aromas and given us a bounty of fruits and nuts will be losing their leaves and will have to stand tall fighting against the winter’s cold winds and harsh conditions. Some will fall, others will bloom again in the spring to cradle in their arms a variety of birds and insects and new trees will start to grow. The cycle will start all over again. Like these beautiful trees, humankind has to go through change, hardship and good times alike. It will transform time and time again, and will always be honored, as are the trees, true Kings of our forests.
The tragedy of life not death but what we let die inside of us we live!
TRADITIONS BUILDING OFA BUSH CABIN ON THE LAND
There are very few places left that can provide a person with the opportunity to get out on the land and work in a unique and inspiring setting where they can enjoy the sights and sounds of Mother Nature. For some, this small and modest structure does not leave much of an imprint, however, for most of our residents, this opportunity is an additional tool to help them reconnect with their roots and to enjoy a quiet time where they can sit for a moment and get their focus on who they are, where they come from and where they want to go.
Good work guys!
INTERVIEW WITH A RESIDENT
John Peter is a 24-year-old man from Schefferville Quebec. The middle child of a family of 3, he is of Innu and Naskapi origins. John Peter started using drugs and consuming alcohol in his early teens, turning to the substances whenever he had problems. His father of him, also an alcoholic, had never taught him anything about his culture or their traditions of him, nor had his grandparents of him.
One of his greatest disappointments of him was being unable to graduate as a music producer and DJ after doing studies in that field. His alcohol, drug abuse and desire to be “one of the boys” got him into trouble time and again. When he was involved with his music training, his self-confidence and self-esteem had never been an issue. Now he is tired of living the way he is now and wants to recapture his dreams from him and get back on the right track.
Before he arrived at Waseskun, he had followed a drug and alcohol rehab therapy program and had managed to stay sober for 3 months before relapsing. The program here is the first long-term therapy program that he has followed. He had heard about Waseskun through one of his relatives from him who had followed the therapy many years ago and who has been able to stay sober ever since. He loves it here. He loves learning about his culture from him and experiencing the traditions that had been lost over time. He appreciates getting the tools he needs to build his own road towards healing. He has been here for nearly four months and he is optimistic about being able to reach his goals for he feels that he is making good progress. Although it is not easy, he is working on restoring his self-respect of him and to love himself. The programs on how to deal with the many forms of violence and about how to form healthy relationship are a great help to him. The outings on the land, the drumming and cultural leisure activities together prepare him for a brighter and more appealing future as he learns to identify with his needs, his values and his goals from him.
Every day, John Peter reminds himself to “Trust Your Medicines” and refers to the teachings from an article he read and has kept from one of the Wasekun Circle newsletters which says the following:
“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you! “
THE FIREKEEPERS AND THE FAST
Most aboriginal ceremonies require a ceremonial Fire. In the Aboriginal tradition there is always a head Fire Keeper who assumes the chief responsibility for tending the fire). The ceremonial fire is looked upon as a “Endless fire” much like the “eternal flame” in other traditions. It is believed that there is energy in the fire that is beyond obvious physical energy. That energy needs to be kept strong during the ceremony!
The fire is generally started during the first part of opening ceremony after sacred space has been chosen. The Fire Keeper quietly calls in the powers of the directions as well as the firepowers when the Sacred Fire is lit. The Fire Keeper holds the energy of fire for ALL that are in the ceremony: Elders, Helpers, and participants alike, and he is attentive at all times to what is happening in the ceremony as well as tending to the needs of the fire. The Fire Keeper holds the Powers called in for the people until he / she thanks them for coming and sends them back home at the end of ceremony. Fasting is a fundamental aspect of Aboriginal spirituality. A fast is undertaken for personal reasons and usually requires an Elder to guide the fasting ceremony.
At Waseskun we use a four-day fasting period like many other cultures do. Prior to the Fast, the residents who will be participating spend time preparing themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually for this powerful event. They will go out onto the land and chose a private space in a natural setting where they will spend the next few days. Along will Elders and Helpers, the fasters will be accompanied by Fire keepers whose responsibility is to keep the sacred fire going twenty four hours a day in their support. You will find below the testimonial of one of the Fire Keepers tending the Sacred Fire during this year’s Fast.
TESTIMONIAL OF A FIRE KEEPER
I have been asked to talk about my experience at being Fire Keeper for our recent four day fast but before I do this, I would like to talk a little about myself.
I have been in and out of prison for the past 36 years. I allowed drugs and crime to control every aspect of my life. I had to find a way to become the man I was meant to be and a man I could respect. Waseskun has given me that opportunity and the help I so desperately need. I am learning to love myself, respect myself and to know and embrace happiness. I have learned that I do not need drugs to have a good life and that I do not need to seek out acceptance.
I recently had the opportunity to take part as a faster and asked the Spirits and Medicine for guidance as well as clarification of my life’s path. The Medicine gave me what I really desired; I dreamt of my family in the Spirit world and was able to converse with them and to let them go. This allowed my own Spirit to breathe and come alive. The Medicine knew I needed more work and led me to become Fire Keeper for the next four day fast where I received more than I could have ever asked for. I had the honor to help my brothers who were fasting with good energy and to protect them. I was doorkeeper to their lodge and kept the Sacred Fire going for 4 days while feeding the fire with Ohsayma (tobacco) and prayer. I had the opportunity to allow my Spirit to speak with the Helpers and let the Medicine do its work.
I learned that the Medicine is much more than what we use to pray with. I was taught the Medicine is everything that exists, that everything has a Spirit and if you clear your mind, and let the Medicine do its work, it is amazing as you realize how simple life is. We fight and try so hard to find our way and look for answers that it makes our path that much harder; but if we allow our Spirit to look and listen at everything around us, the teachings we recelve make it so simple.
I wanted to work with the youth to teach and guide them, but as Fire Keeper, I allowed the Medicine to work and in talking with the Helpers, I learned that it was the youth in myself that I needed to help and guide. I also learned that I blamed others for my failures and that in itself gave me permission to use drugs and made it alright but l alone must take the responsibility for all that Ido. I must own it, learn from it and let it go. I have learned about boundaries and to never cross them as they can only do harm to yourself and others.
I am learning to love all Creation and myself as I now have knowledge of our ways and how it works. Inow also have courage to tell my story and heal from it. To the Elders who have guided me, Migwitch for your teachings and guidance. To my brothers and sisters who helped lay the foundation I need to build from, Migwitch. If you live by the seven Grandfather teachings and allow your Spirit to let the medicine do its work, life can be simple and amazing. Baamaapii (Until later)
FALL EQUINOX CELEBRATIONS
This year, the day started with the Sunrise Ceremony in the arbor. Residents, guests, family members and staff gave thanks for all their blessings. Drumming and traditional songs soon filled the air and dancers expressed their prayers of gratitude and joy, followed by a Pipe smoking Ceremony. (Described below). After a traditional feast at midday, all could enjoy a game of lacrosse and a sweat. The day was absolutely magnificent. Mother Nature smiled upon us and blessed us with her beauty and promises of plenty.
The Pipe Ceremony
The Pipe is very sacred to First Nations people. In the past, it was mostly used to open negotiations in a good way between different nations. This ceremony was seen as a means by which participants would be truthful, respectful and then follow the decisions and agreements that were made during the gathering. Tobacco that had been blessed through prayer was normally used.
The Pipe is usually kept in a sacred bundle that is owned by the Pipe carrier, and only he (or a Heiper) is allowed to open the bundle in preparation for the ceremony. When asked, the carrier can do the ceremony where he chooses. All participants sit in a circle with him. In some ceremonies, the men sit in an inner circle and the women sit in an outer circle; in others, all sit in one circle. Sacred tobacco is placed into the Pipe and it is lit in front of the carrier. The Pipe carrier who is the host of the ceremony, prays to seven cardinal points: the Four Directions, (north, south, east, and west); the Above or Spirit World; the Below or Mother Earth; and the Center or all living things. The Pipe is then passed to the participants for them to either touch it or to smoke it. The tobacco is then allowed to “die off” and the Pipe is disassembled and returned to the bundle until the next ceremony. After this, the carrier may speak a few words of gratitude about life and its expectations; each participant is also invited to speak, after which the ceremony is considered closed.
Every year, the Waseskun residents are able to have a good time and enjoy this special day. Once their programs are finished, they are given time to dress up and let their imagination and creativity take over in the hope of winning the prize for the best costume. They can also sign up for the pumkin carving contest and to enjoy the many treats which will be given out on this fun day.
HOW THE BAT CAME TO BE
One morning, a long time ago, as the sun began to rise, he came to close to the earth and got tangled up in the top branches of a very tall tree. The more he tried to escape, the more Sun became caught so dawn did not come. The birds and animals did not notice at first. Some of them woke up, then went back to sleep, thinking that they had made a mistake and it was not time to get up. Other animals, who loved the night, like the panther and the owl, were really glad that it stayed dark, so they continued to hunt. But, after a while, so much time had passed that the birds and animals knew that something was wrong. They gathered together, in the dark, to hold a council.
“Sun has gotten lost,” said the Eagle. “We must look for him,” said Bear. So, all of the birds and animals went out to look for Sun. They looked in caves, in the deep forest, on the mountains and in the swamps. But, Sun was nowhere to be found. None of the birds and animals could find him. Then, one of the animals, a small brown Squirrel had an idea. “Maybe Sun is caught in a tall tree,” he said. The small brown Squirrel began to go from tree to tree, going further and further toward the east. At last, in the top of a very tall tree, he saw a glow of light. He climbed up and saw that it was Sun. Sun’s light was pale and he looked weak.
“Help me, Little Brother,” Sun said. The small brown Squirrel came close and began to chew at the branches in which the Sun was caught. The closer he came to Sun, the hotter it got. The more branches that he chewed free, the brighter Sun’s light became. “I must stop now,” said the small brown Squirrel. “My fur is burning. It’s all turning black.” “Help me,” said Sun. “Don’t stop now.” The small brown Squirrel continued to work, but the heat of Sun was very hot now and it was even brighter. “My tail is burning away,” said the small brown Squirrel. “I can do no more.”
“Help me,” said Sun. “Soon I will be free.” So, the small brown Squirrel continued to chew. But, the light of Sun was really bright now. “I am growing blind,” said the small brown Squirrel. “I must stop.” “Just a little more,” said Sun. “I am almost free.”
Finally, the small brown Squirrel chewed the last of the branches free. As soon as he did, Sun broke free and rose up into the sky. Dawn spread across the land and it was day again. All over the world the birds and animals rejoiced. However, the small brown Squirrel was not happy. He was blinded by the brightness of Sun. His long tail of him had been burned away and what fur he had left was now all black. His skin of him had stretched from the heat and he clung there to the top branches of that tall tree, unable to move. Up in the sky, Sun looked down and felt sorry for the small brown Squirrel. It had suffered so much to save him.
“Little Brother,” Sun said. “You have helped me. Now, I will give you something. Is there anything that you have always wanted?” “I have always wanted to fly,” said the small brown Squirrel. “But I am blind now and my tail is all burned away.” Sun smiled. “Little Brother,” he said, “from now on you will be an even better flyer than the birds. Because you came too close to me, my light will always be too bright for you, but you will see in the dark and you will hear everything around you as you fly. From this time on, you will sleep when I rise into the sky and when I say goodbye to the world each evening, you will wake.”
And so, the bat came to be.
FEAST OF THE DEAD
Okiweh is the Mohawk name for the “Feast of the Dead”. Just about every nation celebrates their ancestors at the end of fall. We celebrated Okiweh on the 4th of November this year. The feast usually starts at sundown and ends at sunrise. Many Waseskun residents and staff members come to honor their ancestors. The day usually starts by preparing traditional food for the banquet in the evening. There are songs and drums, laughter and storytelling, there are memories to build and to share. It is the time to remember those who have come before us, to honor our ancestors and to become one with them for a moment.
The Healing Journey
A twisted path led me here Over stone and boulders Through swamps and mire Choked by weed and vine Crawling on bleeding knees Lost and troubled Knowing not what dangers lie ahead Or how to surmount the crags Until I came upon The confluence Of darkness and light I saw a road Traveled by the ancestors Felt the sun on my skin Heard the song of birds Knew the union of Animals and plants The sweet grass road Lay at my feet With no end or beginning Up soaring mountains Down welcome slopes Yet still Cliffs and bogs Detours, side roads Mark my way My head is up With open eyes I am wolf and deer I am sage and cedar I am eagle and loon I am sturgeon and turtle I am my ancestors I am mother earth I am brother sun I am spirit I have been given Directions to find a way
…by an ex-resident
PROTECTING MOTHER EARTH
The preservation of our planet is an important issue for mankind. Here are some tips to help us preserve and protect Mother Earth.
• Look for foods produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation or soil and water.
Love all, trust a few do harm to no one!
People with the wolf totem are patient, loyal, intelligent, intuitive, good communicators, and also wise and creative problem solvers. Their wolf spirit makes them social butterflies, well respected for their advice and wisdom while also recognized as people of meaning and insight. They have a lot of good thoughts to share and find themselves being consulted by friends and family who are troubled. The wisdom of the wolf spirit also creates patience and you can almost always count on a loyal ear when times are hard. The loyalty of the wolf spirit is so great that once you are in the pack, they will bend over backwards for you for life.
People with this power animal will prefer diplomacy and retreat over open hostility or fights but this is not because of cowardice but because of a powerful intelligence. Do not expect them to be easily defeated for the wolf Spirit maintains a wide circle of loyal friends and family for when the going gets tough. While their spiritual intelligence demands respect, it can also cause problems in certain social situations. They are often very competitive and people with this animal totem can get upset if the pecking order is disrupted. Especially if it happens in their own home. Try not to push them or rub it in if you beat them in a competition or you may get snarled at.
The wolf Spirit totem symbolizes your inner teacher. Trust in your many senses and intuition and you will connect to your meaning and blaze your own path in the meaning of life.
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The Waseskun Circle
1 Waseskun street
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631