SHINING LIGHT ON OUR TRADITIONS

WINTER 2017-2018

  WELCOME BACK DENNIS!

The new year of 2018 had a great start for Waseskun with the return of our Elder, Dennis Nicholas, after an extended sick leave. Residents and staff were all very happy to welcome Dennis back!  

As part of Waseskun’s Waseya Program Dennis is holding two Circles a week with the men: Shonkwahsotha Teionkwatháre (Walking with Grandfather – Elder`s Sharing Circle) and Shonkwahsotha Ra’ononhkwa’shón:à (Grandfather`s Medicine – Elder`s Teaching Circle), giving them the opportunity to look at themselves on multiple levels and take ownership of their actions, providing the encouragement to take the next steps in their healing. Dennis also does one-on-one therapeutic sessions with the residents when requested and holds a weekly Pipe ceremony during the evening for those interested in participating. 

ELDER’S CORNER 

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” 

OUTING FOR SPECIAL SCREENING OF ‘WASESKUN’

DOCUMENTARY IN TROIS-RIVIÈRES 

On November 21, Waseskun participated in an event co-organized by the Criminology Society of Quebec (Société de Criminologie du Québec, SCQ), Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), Waseskun and the Université du Québec a Trois-Rivières (UQTR). The event centered around the screening of the Waseskun Documentary at UQTR, which was open to students and staff of the University and the general public. Following the screening there was a question and answer period with a panel, including Steve, the Documentary Director; Brian, Waseskun Community Liaison Offi cer; and Jerry, a Waseskun resident. 

  Jerry and Brian took a road trip with CSC personnel and members of SCQ to Trois-Rivières and we all had a nice supper together in a restaurant before the event. There was a good turn out at the event with many people interested in seeing the documentary. After the fi lm there were plenty of thoughtful and poignant questions asked from the audience to which there were good answers given, followed by interesting discussion. Most of the questions were asked to Jerry who shared a lot about his life, how important his children and grandchildren are to him and how Waseskun has helped him make positive changes in his life, so he is ready to go back home and be reunited with his family.

We returned to Waseskun after a long evening, but a fun and informative outing! 

INUIT CIRCLE 

By: Normand Guilbeault, Spiritual Helper 

The Inuit Circle has become a privileged moment for Waseskun’s Inuit brothers and for myself as Spiritual Helper, to get in contact with a rich and diversifi ed culture from timehonoured traditions. In this bi-weekly group meeting, the Inuit brothers have the possibility of freely expressing themselves (often in their own Inuktitut language), with the opportunity to inform the Helper about their daily preoccupations in relation to their personal issues or with the Waseskun Community. 

The subjects addressed are varied and are about their own reality. It may be about Inuit traditional ways of life, which they are really proud of, especially the hunting of seals, whales, belugas, ducks, caribou, fi shing and berry-picking. Culture (languages, music, dancing, crafts, etc…) is also discussed, which they are also proud of and it is very important for them. 

On the other hand, subjects discussed also address the ‘’other reality’’: the important problems of drugs and alcohol addictions; bad experiences with physical, sexual and psychological abuses, which have severe consequences on their families and communities; overpopulation in their homes; the lack of access to medical care (doctors, therapists, psychologists, social workers, etc…); all this combined with the alarming rate of suicide amongst the Inuit youth. As per the statistics, this rate is the highest in Canada! 

Because of their culture, their way of life, or language, sometimes Inuit residents are shy and stay quiet in other programs. Important subjects when approached within a program specifi cally geared towards the Inuit, bring a better comprehension of their reality to the Helper and also help him to bring better support to them. 

Up to now, the experience of the Inuit Circle is very conclusive and working in small groups is helping a lot. Waseskun’s Inuit brothers are sharing an incredible rich culture with us. It is up to us to listen to them and open our hearts and spirits to this reality that we sometimes have a tendency to overlook: the reality of the Inuit of Northern Quebec. 

  THE SPIRIT OF GIVING

This year instead of getting Christmas presents, Waseskun residents unanimously decided to ask for the money that would usually be spent on presents to be donated to a local charity in order to give back to the community and help families in need. 

On December 14th, a member of the Volunteer Firefi ghters of Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez came to our Center and the Community assembled to present to him 50 $10 gift cards. He was very happy with this donation and surprised by the generous amount. He told the community that the certifi cates would be placed in Christmas Baskets destined for families with young children. 

The whole community greeted him and we all felt the good cheer as we shook hands and hugged with big smiles, setting the tone for the Christmas Season. The spirit of giving was generated from the good will of Waseskun residents. 

Christmas Day At Waseskun

In the morning, the residents came into the Dining Room at different intervals giving their Christmas Wishes to all those who were there. There were Crumpets and Raisin Tea Biscuits in the Dining Room for those who were interested. Everyone sat chatting and eating until approximately 10:00 a.m. 

At 10:00 a.m. there was a game. There was a large ball of yarn with numbers attached to it at random intervals. The residents sat in a circle and passed the ball of yarn. As it was getting unravelled, if a number presented itself to a resident, that resident received a small gift corresponding to that number. The mood was very lighthearted and jovial, and all of the residents were very happy with the gifts that they received. 

The residents and staff mingled and chatted until the Christmas Luncheon was served. It was a lovely meal of tourtière, chicken pot pie and other holiday goodies and was enjoyed by all. At 1:30 the residents gathered in the Group Room for the Chinese Auction. The trading off of small gifts was fun. The winter gloves and fl ashlights were hot items! 

Following the Auction, the residents sat in groups talking or playing board games. It was an enjoyable day for the residents and staff on duty. 

Skating Rink 2017-2018 By:

Chad Diabo, Traditional Helper

This year the residents and helpers pitched in to build and maintain an ice skating rink. It was an ambitious project, as the rink size was a substantial 40 feet by 70 feet. As the days got colder, we added layer by layer of water. The rink surface was pretty smooth for our skating periods and hockey games. Norman Guilbeault, one of the helpers at Waseskun, took an active role in joining the residents in skating and hockey games. During our holiday period it was one of the focal activities that brought the community together. Incidentally, in late summer there was an unfortunate fl ood accident that destroyed the pool of skates that Waseskun had accumulated through past donations. Our insurance claim, allowed us to buy brand new skates. All the residents who partook in these activities were able to break in the new skates that were bought. A lot of fun was enjoyed by all that hit the ice (pun intended) and to all of us others who watched, laughed and cheered those skating their hearts out. Already, there’s talk about making a better rink for next year.

Residents and staff at Waseskun were all very saddened to learn about the passing of former resident Ed Francis in January. Ed had been sick while at Waseskun and needed to transfer to another facility where he could get the palliative medical care that he needed. It was discovered that he was suffering with cancer, which led to his further decline and eventual death. We held a Ceremony for Ed around the Sacred Fire and offered tobacco for this new leg of his journey. Ed is missed here at Waseskun and he is in all of our prayers. 

RIP ED 

INTERVIEW WITH A RESIDENT 

JOHN PETER (JP)

John Peter grew up in Matimekush-Lac-John. He is part Innu and part Naskapi. He has one sister and one brother, and his parents are still together. JP has been at Waseskun for 8 months this time, his second time here. The fi rst time he was here on bail and he was working hard on staying Provincial, as he was facing a Federal sentence. He had many charges, but three of them ended up being dropped. He did all right and felt that he was given a last chance because he earned it. 

Last time he was here he worked a lot on deep emotions he experiences from the past, mainly due to bullying. He would always try to put himself down. He learned how to manage ,to control his mentality and strive to be positive all the time. He learnt to look forward and to accept the things from his past that he cannot change. He was here for only fi ve months and then he passed to court. 

He was let out for a year and half and during this time he waited for his sentence while respecting all his conditions. He plead guilty and received a deal. The Crown wanted to give him 3 years, but the Judge was on his side because he worked hard and had a Gladue report. They knew he had a tough childhood and rough family background. He was bullied a lot as a kid and started drinking at an early age. His Parole hearing was very hard, and it lasted for 3 hours. He had to wait for 24 hours for a response, but it was favourable in the end and he came back to Waseskun on June 28, 2017. 

JP had a plan for coming here to Waseskun. He thought a lot. He started to take care of himself and to work out. He didn’t want to be in the jail system because he knew the mentality was not good. Here at Waseskun he has a lot of motivation to work on his mind. There are a lot of challenges, ups and downs, etc., but it is worse than that outside. 

He gets his buttons pushed here but that is good because the longer he is here the more changes he sees in himself. He is able to take care of himself and his needs as well. He works out, he stays in good physical shape and he has gotten new dentures. He wants to be away from his region and it’s good because here he doesn’t know anyone from his neck of the woods, so he is able to focus and work on himself. He fi nds it hard to let go and truly be himself when he is around people he knows from his home region. 

JPs plans after Waseskun is education. He wants to study music production, in a 12-month program in the recoding arts in Montreal. He feels he does yet have a lot of experience and that he needs to upgrade his skills. 

He still plans on returning home to see his parents and family from time to time, but home is not a healthy environment. There is a lot of drinking and booze and one can easily go down. He was big drinker before coming to Waseskun. He did what he wanted to do. If he could not handle his emotions he would turn to the booze. A lot of shame, a lot of resentment, he couldn’t handle it, but since being here he has seen a lot of changes and his attitude changed. 

Since being here the fi rst time, he knew Waseskun was helping him out. He saw his attitude change. The way he thinks, the way he talks, the way he sees things, the way he stays away from negative things around him, the way he stays away from trouble and bad infl uences: he managed to do that for one year and a half between his fi rst and second time at Waseskun. He didn’t reoffend and for this he was proud. He was able to manage. 

JP used to be shy all the time, afraid to speak up. He used to put himself down all the time and was afraid to stand up. After being at Waseskun he has learned to go after his dreams. The more he helps himself, the more he goes after his dreams. He see’s that, and the goals he’s chasing are not that hard, but healing is not easy, it’s hard work. 

He’s not the sort of guy who wants to go out and buy a car or a skidoo. He doesn’t want that fancy stuff, he only wants to buy his DJ equipment and to promote himself. It’s dreams that help him keep going. The more he expresses himself, the more he let’s things out and the higher he goes. His dreams keep him going… 

WASESKUN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH

THE QUEBEC MINISTRY OF FORESTS, WILDLIFE AND PARKS

Quebec’s Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks collaborates with the traditional activity mandate of Waseskun Healing Center. The Ministry harvests injured animals and is also responsible for disposing of road kills. As well the Ministry seizes game that was illegally poached. 

Waseskun has told the Ministry that we will take all animals they collect, including game for fur and birds for feathers, and use them for cultural activities, even when they are road kill and the meat is not fi t to consume. They have agreed and bring us animals from all three categories (harvested injured animals, seized animals from poachers, and road kill). 

When game is seized from a poacher it is possible that the meat may be good, and the Ministry determines upon delivery of the animal whether or not the meat is fi t to consume. Waseskun is very pleased with the great relationship we have with the Ministry and we give them our word that we won`t eat any meat unfi t to consume. Waseskun is also under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Diet (MAPAQ) and we are obliged to follow their food regulations, which includes not consuming any possibly tainted meats. 

Recently, the Ministry has brought us: a deer that was hit by a car, of which we only used the skin; an injured deer that they shot because it was stuck in a fence, of which we used the skin and ate the meat; an injured bear that they shot, which we used only the skin with fur because in became evident that it was sick; a bear skin that they retrieved from a poacher; and most recently (March 6, 2018) a coyote that the Park Rangers shot because it was a nuisance to nearby farms, of which we will use the skin with fur, use its brain for tanning the fur, keep the complete skull and claws for ceremonial purposes, and eat the meat as well. 

BEAR AND DEER FROM MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES

On Nov 23, 2017 a black bear was dropped off to Waseskun from the wildlife offi cers from Ministry of Natural Resources. They had shot the bear after thy found it lying in a ditch, presumably after being hit by a car. They left the animal here provided it would not be eaten. Their request was followed. 

We proceeded to skin the bear, taking care to remove the skin on the head and face, with the claws still on the hide. The residents that had experience skinning animals gladly took part. Several residents who did not know how were taught, they learned hands on. 

We saved the bear skin to be tanned at a later date, saved the skull to be cleaned and saved all of the fat to render down as bear grease. The bear grease will be used for medicinal purposes. The remaining carcass was properly disposed of. 

This was an enjoyable and learning experience for the residents. 

Not long after this we received another delivery, a deer (doe). The doe was caught in a barbed wire fence and her leg was severely damaged. So, the Wildlife offi cers had to kill her. Since they killed the animal and it was fresh. We were allowed to butcher the animal to eat. As well as saving the hide for future tanning. 

A fi re was made in our outdoor kitchen right away and the residents cooked several large pieces that night as part of their supper. Arrangement were made to have as supper the following evening as well. The fresh meat was delicious. The remaining meat was frozen for future. 

SPECIAL TRADITIONAL PROGRAMMING

Sometimes at Waseskun we temporarily suspend regular programming (Healing and Talking Circles within the various Components of the Waseya Program) and engage the whole Community in Special Traditional Activities under the Waseya Program. We did so in the Fall of 2016, where the whole Community worked together over a couple of months to build a new Medicine Lodge. 

We also did so recently, during 2 weeks in February 2018, where the whole community was engaged in working on deer and moose skins that had accumulated in our freezers. In total 23 skins were processed during the two weeks, some for making drums, and some for leather, including 2 deer skins that were worked into soft leather with fur on the other side. 

While working physically on the skins, the men also have the opportunity to think, refl ect upon and digest issues they are facing in their healing and teachings and lessons they have learned during program circles. As well many qualities and life skills get put into practice: safety, trust, respect, responsibility, team work, following instructions, visualization, planning, patience, etc. 

The various aspects of the Medicine Wheel work in conjunction while the men perform traditional work, providing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing. The residents produced great results, working very well together as a team and they had a lot of fun while taking great pride in their work.          

SWEAT LODGE FLOOR 

By: Chad Diabo, Traditional Helper 

Back in the Fall, we put some thought into keeping our sweat lodge up and functional for the coming winter. A suggestion was made by a resident, of something they had done at another Institution, in which they built a fl oor within a Tee-pee that they used during the winter. It was discussed with the elder and found that a wood fl oor did not confl ict with the teachings or protocols of the sweat lodge. So, the residents pooled their experience and built a fl oor within the Waseskun sweat lodge. A lot of thought and skill went into building this fl oor, the residents on this project did a really good job. I can say from experience of being in sweats this winter, that the fl oor was an amazing idea. Inside the lodge, it is a good platform for us to sit and pray within the hot embrace of that ceremony. We are all comfortable and are able to focus on our prayers. If this needs or wants to be reproduced in other places, we can share pictures and construction details upon request. 

Inuit Country Food Feast 

By Chad Diabo, Traditional Helper 

We recently had a feast of Inuit country food. All day, the Inuit residents prepared and cooked for everyone. On the menu was baked and steamed Arctic Char, a whole leg of Caribou that was roasted on the open fl ame of a coal BBQ, Caribou stir fry with potato hash browns and a Seal meat stew. Everybody ate well. After the meal was done, the experience did not stop, as they Inuit started to break open the bones of the Caribou leg and offered us the opportunity to eat the protein rich marrow within. This night, we learned a lot about the diet and amazing food recipes of our fellow northern brothers. We were very fortunate to get a sizable donation of country food from the community of Kangiqsujuaq (Wakeham Bay). We want to offer a big thank you to the families and hunters who made a donation of Muktuk (Whale blubber), Caribou, Seal and Arctic Char. Your donation was very appreciated by all the residents and staff who ate at the feast. Nakurmiik! 

REBUILDING THE CIRCLE – A CONTINUUM OF CARING

By: Brian Sarwer-Foner

 Waseskun is in the process of developing a new project called “Rebuilding The Circle – A Continuum of Caring” aimed at promoting and expanding the services we offer to Indigenous men within the Correctional system. This will further benefi t their healing journey and provide increased success with their social reintegration upon their release and return to their Families and Communities. 

This new initiative brings together healing for offenders and their Families, training and self-care for front-line workers, as well as on-going support networks. Strong Families are the foundation of Strong Communities! Our proposal targets the essential need for Family Therapy as a way to re-open and heal the closed circle that gets created when a Native man is incarcerated and removed from his Community and Family. 

‘Rebuilding The Circle’ is aimed at helping Indigenous men engage in healing at an early stage, preparing and coming to Waseskun, and then leaving equipped with the tools they need for positive social reintegration upon their return to their Family and Community. 

Waseskun will be expanding on-going working relationships with Parole and Probation Offi cers (POs) who have Aboriginal caseloads, Elders/Spiritual Advisors, and Aboriginal Liaison Offi cers (ALOs). Working together will establish a system of identifying suitable candidates for Waseskun amongst the Indigenous population within each prison and establishing a process for facilitating them coming to Waseskun. 

Waseskun will also be setting up a support network in identifi ed Indigenous Communities and urban centers to help facilitate a “Continuum of Caring” to further foster successful social reintegration. This effort will also be tied to Waseskun offering Community Support Worker training for front-line workers from the Communities of Waseskun residents or urban centers they will live in. 

TOOL AND CRAFT FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE

By: Kenneth Boose 

The Tool and Craft Fundraising Committee (TCFC) has recently purchased new tools for the Craft Pavilion. With funds recently raised, a new mitre saw, and a new drill press have been bought and are soon to be installed so that the residents can use them for woodworking. 

More tools will be introduced as the money is raised and, invested in areas that will benefi t most of the residents. Regular meetings have been conducted between the TCFC and Waseskun Administration so that all good ideas are considered, and momentum maintained. 

The TCFC is grateful for all the support being received because we believe that it is very important for residents to have ways of expressing themselves creatively. We look forward to continuing to help-out in the future.                                         

If you are interested in receiving our newsletter or in collaborating please contact us. If you wish to submit articles, stories, photos or other information, we will do our best to include your contributions in a future publication.
The Waseskun Circle
1 Waseskun street
PO Box 1159
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631
www.waseskun.net

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