Summer 2017

Kanakwen:sera entewarihwa:seronni

(Settling Matters That Cause Anger)

Bryan joined the Waseskun team as a Helper in late July 2017. Bryan is a traditional person from Kahnawake and has been participating in Ceremonies in the Longhouse since he was a teenager. There are certain things he has learnt to do through working with other Healers and Medicine People over the years and gifts that he has developed for working on healing, which has led to him coming to work at Waseskun.

Bryan was and still is a Warrior. He was part of the Oka Crisis in 1990 and was named War Chief in Kahnawake 7 years ago, which he has recently stepped down from. Bryan has been a volunteer fire-fighter for almost 20 years and is currently the Assistant Fire Chief in Kahnawake. He helps out his community however he can.

Bryan, as a Helper, is here to work with the guys to help them get ready to get back out and he feels that his role is to trigger them to make sure that they are OK when they leave. For example, if a guy gets angry or doesn’t like to be teased, they can be set off when they don’t like something. So, he triggers them to see if they can control their anger and control their feeling so that they pause and think before they do anything. In this way, we can see how they react and this gives us a good gauge on how they will be on the outside. 

He is very straightforward and blunt with the guys telling them that he is here to work with them to guide them in their healing, “but if you don’t want my help, don’t bother me or waste my time”. The guys like this honest approach where he doesn’t hold his punches. 

We are trying to get the guys going down the right road, following their Red Path. Some of the guys say that it is OK, that they have dealt with certain issues in the past and that they don’t bother them anymore. Bryan is here to check if that is true based on how they react. If they react badly, then he and they themselves realize that they still have stuff to let go of and issues to work on. Healing is multifaceted, and for the guys to be whole, they need to work mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Some of the guys have something they lack in one of these areas and this is where they need to act. If we can get the guys to work on coming back into balance, then they should be all right. 

Bryan is giving the Waseya Kanakwen:sera entewarihwa:seronni (Settling Matters That Cause Anger) program this Fall at Waseskun. Bryan sees this as a central problem most of the guys face: they are angry at themselves, at the world, and at everybody. He works on this not just in a conventional sense, but also by performing certain ceremonies that help the guys release and develop tools that help them bring themselves back to a place where they are grounded. They can use these tools when they are back in society to help prevent themselves from messing up and getting locked up again. He tells the guys, “when you leave here, I never want to see you back here again`. 

Bryan’s advice to guys behind walls is to take a deep look inside and see if you actually can and want to do the work required and not just give lip service to say what you think people want to hear to get to go to Waseskun to do “easy” time, because we’re going to know it. We’re here to help you, but if you come just for the fun of it, stay over there and don’t waste our time. You have to really want this and if you sincerely do, we can help you get to where you need to go. 

Senators’ Visit

A group from the Canadian Senatorial Committee on Human Rights came to visit Waseskun on May 18, 2017, including four Senators from the Canadian Senate. One of the central issues currently being looked at by the Committee is the overrepresentation of Native People in the prison system. To investigate this issue, they decided to visit various Institutions in Ontario and Quebec, with Waseskun as their last stop. It was an honour to receive them! 

Upon arriving we hosted the group to a delicious lunch with our staff, followed by a viewing of extracts from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentary on our Center, simply titled, Waseskun. After this the Senators and their entourage had a very interesting meeting with Waseskun staff, followed by a meeting with five residents,

who shared from their heart about their experiences within CSC institutions and Waseskun. There was a very enriching dialogue that followed. The Senators mentioned how refreshing it was to be with us in contrast to their visits to the prisons. They also mentioned that the Traditional and Therapeutic Community approaches used at Waseskun ought to be used throughout the Corrections System as it becomes reformed. This would better meet the needs of Native People to better help them heal so that they are better able to move into successful social reintegration. 

After the meetings, the Senators and the rest of their group were officially honoured with a Drum Song from our residents and they were genuinely moved. An official tour of the center followed, with some of the Senators and guests purchasing some crafts made by the residents. All in all, it was a very positive visit and a great pleasure for us to host the distinguished guests. We thank them for their visit and spending this time with us.          


(by Chad, Helper)

At 6am on the morning of May 29th, the residents and Helpers at Waseskun gathered for a Sunrise Ceremony. This was to open and prepare our new garden for planting. This was our Seed Ceremony. In the Mohawk tradition, the opening address was recited by a Traditional Helper. In this address, he thanked all of creation for following the original instructions of the Creator. In doing this ceremony, we were reminding the seeds of what their duties were for us to have a good harvest, we were thanking the bees and bugs for doing their duty to pollinate all the plants and, we were giving thanks for all of them so that they would provide us with a good crop this year. The ceremony was finished by all the residents partaking in a Delaware Stomp Dance around the garden.

I can truly say that these natural elements have delivered; the vegetables are big, juicy and tasty. 

The Garden Program was started back in late March. We started with planning and budgeting, then we got some core residents involved and this grew into a full fledge program that we have had all summer. We had a total of 18 residents enrolled in the program. We broke the ground the first week in May and, by June 1st we were planting in the soil. The size is approximately 40 feet by 80 feet. The pictures are a token testament to the hard work that was accomplished by the residents. This was their medicine and it helped many when they were feeling down. 

This program was also used by our Parenting Core Program, especially when we were teaching the fathers healthy eating and meal preparation for their children. Many Inuit and Natives present had never had some of these vegetables. We demonstrated different ways of preparing meals and barbecuing the vegetables on the grill. All who sampled these foods said that they were delicious. 

We had so much produce come out of the garden; it supplied a lot of the fresh vegetablesthat were prepared and served in our kitchen. The garden is still producing food as thisarticle was being written. We have been blessed by a bountiful harvest of zucchini, 2kinds of squash, kale, spinach, 4 kinds of lettuce, onions, Spanish onions, beef staketomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow string beans, Mohawk pole beans, picking pickles,cucumbers and a variety of herbs and spices as well. Plans are already underway to getthe garden up and running again next year.       


Waseskun celebrated the Summer Solstice by a Change of Seasons Ceremony on June 14, 2017, with 40 guests in attendance, including guest Elders, CSC and CSQ personnel, community partners, and residents` guests.

The day`s festivities started with a Sunrise Ceremony followed by a community breakfast for residents, staff and visitors. We officially opened the day`s program after with Drum Songs, Entering the Eagle Staff, Opening Prayer and Words of Welcome and Orientation. Throughout the rest of the morning residents and visitors divided themselves between four different Circles: Pipe and Sweat Lodge Teachings, Elders` Teachings, Drumming, and Sharing about Addictions, which were all very well appreciated. A Tour of Waseskun was then held for anyone interested, followed by all participants (residents, staff and guests) assembling inside for a Feast, which was, as usual, delicious!

After the Feast, everyone was invited to participate together in a Round Dance to the chants and drumming of our resident drum group, after which the morning Circles continued with participants switching the Circle they attended. 

The Solstice Activities concluded with a Sweat Lodge for staff and visitors, while simultaneously a Lacrosse game was played on our field. 

It was a memorable day and everybody had a very good time.     

Kahnawake Pow Wow

On July 9, 2017 five Waseskun residents with 2 staff volunteer escorts went on an outing to the Kahnawake Pow Wow. It was a really nice day spent watching the dancing and listening to the drummers and singers. We also visited the crafts stalls and did some shopping, visited the food stalls and sampled delicious foods and strawberry juice. As well, we had the opportunity to chat with various dancers, drummers and friends that some folks in our group knew and ran into. Everyone had a great time!  


I am the smiling wolf; I howl at the moon;  

I will call you in the night to tell you anything;   I need you to laugh with me;   

I will protect you and support you during difficult times;  

Because I know that a smile is important in life and on my healing path.

‘It is during a summer day at Waseskun that I discovered my spiritual name with Elder Bill while praying in the Sweat Lodge. I offered sacred tobacco and Elder Bill had a vision of a big smiling wolf and then told me what my spiritual name was: Smiling Wolf.

I am very proud.’


Sylvain arrived at Waseskun on December 22nd, 2016. He is an alcoholic. He didn’t grow up on a reserve. His grandparents were Malecite from Gaspésie and from Cacouna. His father was a hunter and a fisher. His parents taught him good values and traditions without saying they were Native traditions. He started drinking when he was 14 years old and he started having problems with the law when he was 18 (driving under the influence). He tried to resolve this problem many a times (therapies, programs, etc…) and, without having any success until he decided to come to Waseskun. He said he was guided towards Waseskun…he is talking about a spiritual guide.

Sylvain arrived at Waseskun on December 22nd, 2016. He is an alcoholic. He didn’t grow up on a reserve. His grandparents were Malecite from Gaspésie and from Cacouna. His father was a hunter and a fisher. His parents taught him good values and traditions without saying they were Native traditions. He started drinking when he was 14 years old and he started having problems with the law when he was 18 (driving under the influence). He tried to resolve this problem many a times (therapies, programs, etc…) and, without having any success until he decided to come to Waseskun. He said he was guided towards Waseskun…he is talking about a spiritual guide.

He says that the most important teaching he has learned are 7 Grandfathers. He had never used them before. Honesty was an important one, for he has learnt to be honest with himself first. He plans to continue applying the teachings once he is outside. 

Mostly, he learned how to trust and also take responsibility. He is very proud of what he has accomplished and has been able to overcome. 

His hope for the future are to stay on a good and traditional path, always be honest and respecting the 7 Grandfather teachings. He used to live the life of other people’s expectations, but now he wants to live his life with his goals and, that includes remaining sober. 

He would like to say a huge thank you to Waseskun and its staff, without forgetting his ‘Brothers’, for it is here that he learned his traditions and will now leave and keep this knowledge inside himself.       


On August 19, 2017 Waseskun participated in an official event for the 175th anniversary celebrations for the town of Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez. The event was called “Balade d’Antan sur le Lac Pierre en Costumes d’Époque” (Stories of Yesteryears on Lake Pierre in Costumes from the Era) and involved members of the public coming to the municipal beach dressed in costumes from the past to enjoy a corn roast, canoe rides on the lake, sing songs and tell stories. Waseskun had a craft table at the event and we lit a Sacred Fire and one of our residents, told some traditional stories and passed on some Native teachings to the attending public. Waseskun also served freshly cooked bannock and did some drumming and traditional singing during this fun day.  


(by Chad, Helper)

The newest addition to Waseskun is our outdoor kitchen. It is a combination of a smoker to cure meat and a 16’ x 16’ roof over it and a 4’ x 8’ outdoor grill. We can use both wood or charcoal as fuel to cook the foods. This was designed to be used year-round.

During the planning stage of the Honouring Traditions Program, which is part of our Waseya Program, we came up with the idea to have a permanent structure to both cure and cook our traditional foods. The original idea called for only a smoker to be built. This idea grew into having a permanent year-round grill and area to prepare and cook our wild meats, fowl and foods. 

As you can see by the pictures, the outdoor kitchen was central in preparing traditional foods for our Fall Equinox Festival that we just celebrated on September 20th. On the grill, we cooked 100 buffalo sausages, three whole Atlantic salmon and we roasted 7 dozen ears of corn. Many visitors commented on this new addition to our facilities as an amazing idea with a whole host of interesting possibilities. As a Helper, I agree, we are now poised to add cooking activities to all our existing program blocks.    

Interview with an Elder

Bill is from Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, but now lives in Sudbury Ontario. He is a Pow Wow Dancer and hosts a Sundance on his property every year. Bill has come to Waseskun on several occasions during the Spring and Summer of 2017 to work with the guys, do sweats with them and share some of his teachings.

Bill looks forward to coming to Waseskun because he meets many men from different backgrounds who are ready to take advantage of what it has to offer. From what he’s seen at Waseskun, most of the men are really willing to work on themselves and wanting to do something to change their life. Many have expressed a deep remorse for what they have done and they have identified what it is that has taken them there, including what was happening around them and the bad choices they have made. The program at Waseskun has helped lead them to the place where they can honesty relate what had happened, be accountable and to take responsibility for it. They see the suffering they have created for others and themselves and he believes that most of them would never do it again. 

Bill himself, has been in and out of the system when he was a young man, but luckily, he made good choices in is his early twenties which led him down a different path. He was able to understand that he didn’t need to indulge in criminal life anymore. He realized that he only gets in trouble when he drinks, so he decided to stop, and when he left prison for the last time, he never went back to drinking and he never went back inside. Over 40 years now. 

At the time Bill quit drinking, in his mid20s, he was scared andhe asked himself if he could survive out in the world without it. He felt he didn’tknow how to live without alcohol, how to pay a bill, how to maintain his own home,how to be a good husband, a good father. When he first went to AA it was veryscary because he did not know how to live in a world were there was absolutely noalcohol. So, he reached out for help and some of the old timers at AA told him whatto do and he listened. He was able to trust them because his desire not to drinkoverpowered everything else. He put his whole life in their hands because he knewthat his decision-making processes about his life at that moment weren`t working.After a while Bill began to realize that it was he himself that was making good choicesnow, and this was a revelation of his own power. He had to keep it real and honestthough, and not let it go to his head.     

Bill likes to tell stories of the old teachings he’s heard from his grandmother and what the lessons are within those teachings. Because of the History of Native People and all the things that have happened over the course of the last 300 years, many of the Elders never had a chance to light a pipe or sit in a lodge and help young people understand life, and yet that may have been their gift. But because of the residential schools and government working with churches in a bad way to control the people, many of our Elders have gone back to the spirit world without having a chance to use the gifts they may have had. This happens still today. A lot of our people are out on the streets and have trouble connecting with their true selves.   

When he looks at the men here at Waseskun, he can see in many of them their true selves, who they really are. Society says that they have done things that make them not good people; what they did was not good, but from what he understands from his experience with incarcerated Native People across Canada, that over 90% of the crimes were committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Just one night can lead to 20 years of despair. They are still to blame, but at the moment of being intoxicated good choices are limited.

At Waseskun, and other places like it, Bill has seen miracles and wonders of how men can change their lives. He has seen people come out with amazing lives after with so many new skills, like making drums or pipes, when they never knew how before they went to jail. He sees men here with their paintings and carvings, when they didn`t know how to make them before. They learnt here at Waseskun. This program gives men something good to feel about themselves.

Bill feels that there is a good energy at Waseskun, the people living in a community make it what it is, and if there are beautiful things happening, of course it is going to be good. Men are here to help themselves but also, they are here as part of a community, where people live, eat and work together. There will also be conflict and down time in any community, but what he sees here at Waseskun is mostly positive and he believes most of the men here have grown enough to walk away from anything going on that is going to get them in trouble.

Bill did Sweat Lodges with the men and they love it! He sees the Sweat not as a place of hard rules, but a place where men can sit together and pray, sing, laugh and heal themselves from the heat of the rocks. He thinks that if you give people an opportunity to deal with whatever they are encountering on a daily basis and let them go to healing place, it helps them grow a lot faster. The Sweat Lodge experience is very good for the men at Waseskun and they say they feel good and that the Sweats helps them with their struggles. 

One of the teachings he has emphasized with the men is that all of us, each of ushas a gift. Nobody is born into this world for nothing. Everyone has a purpose onEarth. However, the lifestyles some of us chose to live, makes it so we never enableourselves to use that gift. However, there is always something good that we canmake out of our life, regardless where we have gone. We have a gift to share withthe world and it could be a onetime thing or a lifetime thing. We all have something.   


(by F.M.)

‘I lived a life of dishonesty because relatives promoted this lifestyle. As time passed, I only looked for what my relatives wanted me to steal for them. Instead of putting my thoughts towards an honest way to get something, I looked for better ways to continue the dark road I was being taught. As time passed, I thought I was doing right because this lifestyle was accepted by my relatives and there was always some kind of reward. I seemed to be liked more by the dishonest people that surrounded me. I was never brought up to respect people’s property, feeling any remorse, or have empathy towards the people I hurt growing up. Although there was people in my life that took the time to sit and talk with me, I just couldn’t see and listen to the right advice that was offered to me.

Today, through long and hard soul searching, through programs, through interventions,through assemblies and through ceremonies, I am no longer the person I grew upas. I am a better person that likes himself, I believe in myself, I am very remorseful.Through the empathy, I see and feel the pain that I have caused towards others. Whoand what I did in the past I can’t change. It will not be forgotten either. My past issomething that I have to live with every time I open my eyes in the morning. I canonly continue down the Red Road I have chosen and be a law-abiding citizen who willalways be a person that can be counted on when needed. This new lifestyle will affectmy daily routine as a better person and this makes me feel good. I will always wishthat I could change my past, even trade places, but that just isn’t possible. I am aresponsible person who is remorseful of my past with empathy for the people that Ihave hurt’.  

(by K.B.)

‘Hi, my name is K.B. I would like to tell you what Waseskun means to me. Waseskun to me, is the medicine for my mind, culture for my spirit and work for my body. I am serious about my healing so that I stay out of prison and prevent others from going to one. The teachings I get here can be traced back thousands of years and offer me a better moral compass to live by. Waseskun helps me get back to my community and gets the community to accept me and for that, I am grateful.’

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The Waseskun Circle
1 Waseskun street
PO Box1159
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631

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