Traditional Medicines

Winter 2016/2017


Traditional medicines are a combination of skills, practices, knowledge and beliefs used by many indigenous cultures to treat, prevent or improve either physical or mental illnesses. We are all so grateful to now have our own Traditional Medicine Lodge where the Medicines are forever present and shared by residents, staff and visitors who are able to open their eyes, hearts and souls to their presence and healing properties.  


Understand how to live by and never look back but just embrace what sits on the horizons of our life:  

  • Be awakened
  • Be transformed
  • Be enlightened

By simply wholeheartedly and truly understanding.

W ith these three principles, successes in life becomes the norm.

Christmas Day Celebrations

The residents were very helpful in decorating and setting up props for the activities that would take place in the dining room and for the sports activities to be held outdoors.  

At first, some just sat around but when they found out that there were prizes attached to many of the events they were more enthusiastic and began to participate more.

What would have Christmas been without Mrs. Claus and her Elf? Gifts weredistributed and the holidays were celebrated with Drumming, sharing circlesmovie nights and a variety of other activities.

The skills competitions were of interest to many and once they got started,the guys all got into it and had lots of fun testing their abilities at the differentstations that were set up. They were all cheering on for each other in eachteam. Randy’s uncontrollable laughter often echoed throughout the diningroom. In a nutshell, laughter and fun are the two words that best describe theholiday activities.  

Interview with a Resident

Nelson is a Métis, of Mic Mac origins born in Matane in the Maritimes. His fatherwas an alcoholic and his mother could not manage on her own. As a child, hespent a lot of time with his grandmother who lived on the Restigouche reserve.Between six and 16 years of age, he was bounced around from foster home tofoster home, often deprived of the very basic needs such as food, clothing, andlove. Enduring frequent physical and verbal violence, he thought that fear wasnormal. He considers himself the product of his life experiences; of what he saw,what he heard and what he learned, unaware of that which he needed to build asolid foundation necessary for him to have a happy well-adjusted life. He hasreceived three Federal sentences and through it all, he never forgot what hisbeloved grandmother had said to him: «Never forget where you came from».   

 When he was introduced to the seven grandfather teachings, he realized that he had never followed any of them. This was a major discovery for him, a new tool to guide him on the right path. He started to be more attentive to others, to listen to what they had to say. After being in charge of committees that represented 700 or so inmates, he had been used to mostly being heard. The teachings taught him to be a better listener and also made him realize that he needed to work on his own healing and to give up the things that distracted him from that objective.   

He arrived at Waseskun in May of 2016. Having met Dennis, Waseskun’s Elder, and Brian our recruitment officer, he felt a very strong conviction that this was the road to his recovery and felt the need to develop the spiritual side of who he was. He wrote his life story, learned to share and to listen to others. The cultural teachings about the grandfathers, the masks, the crafts filled him with a sense of who he was and gave him the foundation he had lacked. The AA program, the Land program, the sweats, smudges and being able to attend church helped him with his medicines. He decided to become a peer support for the other residents, for he strongly believes that “Waseskun is the place to be if you are truly ready to work on yourself˝.  

His family is a very strong one, however, he has always felt a lot of guilt about the hurt he brought to everyone around him. He wants to end his life in peace with his family and to get rid of that guilt. Finally, he wants to say thank you to all his brothers and sisters who listened to him, shared with him and helped him. 

« Waseskun saved his life! »


Respect – the buffalo represents Respect. The buffalo gives every part of his being to sustain the human way of living, not because he is of less value, but because he respects the balance and needs of others. To honor all creation is to have respect. Live honorably in teachings and in your actions towards all things. Do not waste and be mindful of the balance of all living things. Share and give away what you do not need. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Do not be hurtful to yourself or others. 

Bravery – the bear represents Bravery. The mother bear has the courage and strength to face her fears and challenges while protecting her young. The bear also shows us how to live a balanced life with rest, survival and play. To face life with courage is to know bravery. Find your inner strength to face the difficulties of life and the courage to be yourself. Defend what you believe in and what is right for your community, family and self. Make positive choices and have conviction in your decisions. Face your fears to allow yourself to live your life.   

Honesty – the raven represents Honesty. They understand who they are and how to walk in their life. It reminds us to be ourselves and not someone we are not. Raven accepts himself and knows how to use his gift. He does not seek the power, speed or beauty of others. He uses what he has been given to survive and thrive. So must you. Walk through life with integrity. Be honest with yourself. Recognize and accept who you are. Accept and use the gifts you have been given. Do not seek to deceive yourself or others.  

Humility – the wolf represents Humility. For the wolf, life is lived for his pack and the ultimate shame is to be outcast. Humility is to
know that you are a sacred part of creation. Live life selflessly and not selfishly. Respect your place and carry your pride with you
and praise the accomplishments of all. Do not become arrogant and self-important. Find balance within yourself and all living

Wisdom – The beaver represents wisdom because he uses his natural gift wisely for his survival. The beaver also alters his environment in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way for the benefit of his family.To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom. Use your inherent gifts wisely and live your life by them. Recognize your differences and those of others in a kind and respectful way. Continuously observe the life of all things around you. Listen with clarity and a sound mind. Respect your own limitations and those of all of your surroundings. Allow yourself to learn and live by your wisdom.  

Love – The eagle represents love because he has the strength to carry all the teachings. The eagle has the ability to fly highest and closest to the Creator and also has the sight to see everything from great distances. The Eagle’s teaching of love can be found in the core of all teachings, therefore an eagle feather is considered the highest honour and a sacred gift. To know love is to know peace. View your inner-self from the perspective of all teachings. This is to know love and to love yourself truly. Then you will be at peace with yourself, the balance of life, all things and also with the Creator.   

Truth – The turtle represents Truth as he was here during creation of Earth and carries the teachings of life on his back. The turtle lives life in a slow and meticulous manner, because he understands the importance of both the journey and the destination. Truth is to know all of these things. Apply faith and trust in your teachings. Show honour and sincerity in all that you say and do. Understand your place in this life and apply that understanding in the way that you walk. Be true to yourself and all other things.   

Waseya Holistic Healing Program – 2017

The Waseya Holistic Healing Program is the umbrella for all Waseskun programs, encompassing all aspects of residents’ lives at Waseskun: from their original intentions, arrival and healing plans, to circles, chores, committees, outings, education, training, traditional and cultural programs. Waseya is a Cree word that means “Light of the Spirit”.

The Waseya Program is objective oriented and is composed of culturally relevant components based on Native Teachings, including: facilitated Healing Circles, where residents share amongst each other, focused on different themes, topics and subjects related to dynamic factors and problematic areas; 1-on-1 therapy with Native Helpers/Counsellors, to guide and support residents as they work deeply on their personal issues; the Land Program, where residents go out to Waseskun’s land in the woods to practice traditional activities, learn survival skills, gather medicines, re-connect with the land, and help regain their cultural identity; and other traditional program components, ceremonies and developmental activities that further foster the complex and multi-faceted Holistic Healing process. 

Holistic Healing involves identifying issues that require attention and working on them through an integrated approach between the four domains of the Medicine Wheel: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. Since everything that takes place within a human being is interconnected, Holistic Healing works in an integrative manner between the different issues at all of the levels. When a new resident arrives at Waseskun, one of the first steps of their Healing Journey is to create a Healing Plan, with aid from their Native Helper and Case Manager, which maps out the issues they want/need to work on under each of the four Medicine Wheel domains. 
The accompanying realities of grief, pain and loss are looked at to help our residents understand the impacts that have affected Native culture and how they still play out today. Highlighting and putting names to these impacts helps to make them no longer a mystery. By focusing on Native cultural teachings and values, Waseya helps residents replace criminal values with cultural values, thus transforming the perception of themselves as having a criminal identity to the recognition of and feeling connected to their cultural identity instead. 

The theme for the 2017 session is: Building Values, Identity and Community. By working on building values and community residents learn to: transform negativity into positivity; replace dependency with autonomy; feel pride in achievement; feel belonging; focus upon doing and working together and getting along!      


  The Medicine Wheel is a circle with a cross inside, emanating from its centre. The four directions are represented by where each of the cross’ four equal lines touches the circle’s edge. Many First Nations use the medicine wheel as a model for sharing teachings about finding balance between different factors: 4 directions, 4 races, 4 seasons, 4 elements, 4 stages of life, 4 levels of being (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual), etc.,  

The Circle of Life

You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days, when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished.

The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop and thecircle of the four quarters nourished it. The East gave peaceand light, the South gave warmth, The West gave rain and theNorth, with its cold and mighty wind gave strength andendurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer worldwith our religion. Everything the Power of the World does, isdone in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard the earth isround like a ball and so are the stars. The Wind, in its greatestpower whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs isthe same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goesdown again in a circle. The moon does the same and both areround. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changingand always come back again to where they were. The life ofman is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is ineverything where power moves. Our Teepees were round likethe nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, thenation’s hoop, a nest of many nests where the Great Spiritmeant for us to hatch our children. ”     

Black Elk- Spiritual Advisor to the Oglala Sioux in 1930.

Spring is Around the Corner

…By Lorraine Hughes

During the winter months I find myself looking for things to do to fill my time. I can’t help it but one of them is looking forward to spring. I know I should try to be in the moment and enjoy those brisk winter mornings when my breath hangs on the air, the trees heavy with freshly fallen snow and my boots crunching along pathways where people have with heads down trodden before, coffee in hand briskly walking to work or inside to the next warm spot.

But I find myself drawn to the dream of the green. For just thisdream I have collected books about gardening, with lush colouredphotographs of gardens so I may dream of my garden next year andwhat I plan to do. You see to me a garden whether it be forvegetables or flowers and trees can be a constantly evolvingprocess. I was visiting a friend in another city just this past monthand we toured an indoor greenhouse. It was spectacular andalthough I had been there before I marvelled at the stones alldifferent sizes edging the walkway and different plant areas,thinking of my own garden next summer and how I might changethings. Some people have planted certain species of plants thateither dry out and create lovely shapes and shadows or make surethey plant something like holly that will stay green all winter, theseare called winter gardens.

Definitely my favourite thing to do is plan my veggie garden. I get all my seed catalogues out to begin my seed order, I usually keep a journal about my garden and start planning what I will plant where. If you have a place to start your little plants indoors now is a good time to begin that. There are some great companies to buy organic non GMO seeds located in Canada, they will ship to any address in the country.  

My dreams of green help me to get through the last few weeks of snow and cold weather knowing that yes spring will return.

 “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees Is my destroyer. And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.”  

(From Dylan Thomas poem The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower)

Ah yes! Spring will return as summer will surely follow and gift us with her bounty.


Normand is Métis of Anishinabe origins who grew up in Montreal. As a young man, he had no knowledge of this culture and it mattered little to him. He made a career as a bassist, songwriter and performer of jazz and contemporary music and was very active in the Quebec and Canadian market. Throughout this process, he developed a curiosity and decided to go more deeply intohis roots and culture and came to realize that it was veryimportant to him. Over time he himself connected deeply tothe native teachings and to the role they had to play in aperson’s well-being and happiness. Song writer andcomposer he brought traditional music to nativecommunities and was witness to the many benefits thatconnecting to one’s cultural identity brought. He did someshows in different Institutions and once again enjoyed thewarm welcome and appreciation he received.  

A native Elder suggested that he should apply to work for theCorrectional services. He did and worked at Drummondvilleas ALO plus giving many workshop at Lamacaza andCowansville. Now at Waseskun, Normand facilitates theTraditions and addictions programs. He had spent his lifewalking on a tightrope so he can relate well to the issues theresidents are faced with. The world of addictions has alwaysbeen close by. Traditions give people a sense of personalidentity and self-worth and belonging. It can reach that verypersonal and private part of you where personal truthstriumph and touch the very soul of an individual. He feelsclose to these men and constantly tries to find ways to helpthem progress along their journeys. They are not all at thesame place at the same time and he is always impressed bythe way they share their experiences and help each other out.Normand brings his heart and soul to his work for the benefitof everyone and he will bring all his love also. Goodcommunication also ties in to their healing. A very caringman, he has an open door policy and will be here for themwhen they need him.   


GABRIEL – My role as a Helper is to facilitate healing with a program that focuses on rehabilitation. As a traditional dancer and singer, I strongly believe in the benefits of art therapy. It is of utmost importance to provide our residents with the tools they need to express themselves in a healthy way. Dance and song have provided me with many opportunities to travel and to meet people of various age groups. So many people have spoken to me about the value of these teachings so I cannot help being optimistic that the benefits will be felt at Waseskun as well. The residents are proving to be fast learners who appreciate traditional teachings.  

Healthy Relationship – Anger Management –Mixed Cultural

Chad is a 42 year old Mohawk man who was born and raised on a reserve. HisMohawk name is Katsehake:ron (taking the campfires and spreading them). The firerepresents knowledge and he is confident that his role is to spread knowledge. Thatknowledge is on key issues such as men learning to be good men and how they playan important role in their community: fathers, warriors, providers, ceremony. Hisworking experience is with Youth groups and Kanawake community services. Hiswork has brought him all over the world attending conferences and cultural events asa chaperon, drum carrier or dancer. During these travels through France, Chile,Australia, across Canada and the North he met and spoke with aboriginals from allover the world. He has come to understand first nation cultures well, their similaritiesand their differences. He also has realized that all aboriginal communities are trulyresilient people when they are faced with hard times. They have all endured extremesuffering from conquests by people from the old world. Being resilient and hangingon to their teachings has insured their survival.  

People who he looks up to spoke to him about there being a position opening up at Waseskun. He sent in his cv, was interviewed and accepted the job. Another helper told him to always remember that ” you come here not only for the job but also for something that you need.” He knows that he is here not only to help the residents but to teach them how to teach themselves to heal. His job is to help push them toward that objective. It is clear that they are broken men who at some point in their lives made wrong choices. They need to learn new ways to cope with their past, with their hurts, so they can heal and become better men.  

Waseskun is a men’s healing center; not everyone is ready to work on themselves and those who are not will try to discredit the one tool that can get them to never go back to jail; If a guy wants to live a better life than he did before he got arrested, he should seek out a healing center and commit to becoming a better man.  

One of many teachings:

When you hold in your hand as much sand as possible, your instincts will tell you to try and keep it there and you will automatically try to close your hand and keep it from spilling out; however the tighter you close it, the more sand you will lose. The only way to save it is by getting help from other hands. The more hands help, the more you will keep.Think of sand as being what is most important to you.  

Native American Legend

How Catfish got a flat head

“Long ago, when fish and animals could talk, the chief of the catfishcalled council. He said to all, “Hau, brothers. I am very tired of eatingthings from the mud at the bottom of the lake. I think we should havemeat as do the wolves. Let us watch for the moose when he wadesinto the lake to eat the lily pads and let us spear him and kill him formeat. He comes when the sun is at the edge of the sky, so we willhide among the lilies and grasses and spear him when he comes.”The other old catfish agreed and the whole tribe hid along the lakewhere the lilies and pads grew the thickest.

When the sun was at the edge of the sky, the moose came. He did not go into the lake right away but ate at the edge where the sweet grasses were. At last he entered the lake and the chief catfish said, “Now, he is in! I will spear him as soon as he gets further from the shore where the water is deeper.”

They all waited until the moose was in deep water and then thecatfish chief speared him as hard as he could! The big moosebellowed with pain and jumped around in the water. He was hurt andfrightened at the same time. “Ho!”, he said. “Ho! What is this? Whohas speared me in my leg? I will find out who has done this!” Hethen stuck his head right down into the water until he could seebeneath the surface. There, in the grasses, he saw the catfish tribegetting ready to spear him again. They were going to kill him for hismeat! This made him very angry! His eyes turned red and his heartwas bad toward the catfish tribe. He bellowed his war cry and said,”Ho! Listen to me! Catfish has speared me in my leg! I will make waron them! I will trample this tribe into the mud! Ho! Hear me! I will goto war!”

He began to jump up and down all over the edge of the lake and trample all the catfish he could find. He crushed them with his big hooves and trampled them deep into the mud, shouting, “Ho! Catfish speared me in the leg! Ho! I will trample his tribe into the mud! “He did not stop until all the catfish were trampled into the muddy bottom of the lake. Then he left satisfied he had avenged the wrong done to him. After the moose left, some of the catfish managed to wriggle out of the mud and get away. Now there are catfish in all lakes and rivers but everyone has a flat head because of the war from the big moose that flattened the heads of their grandfathers. In old times there were very large catfish but now they are very small. They still all carry spears. To this day, they are black and are flat headed and they are so afraid that they stay hidden in the daytime and only swim at  


In general people with this power animal are tough and can persevere when others cannot. Often they pick a life filled with challenges knowing that within each challenge lies positivity and opportunity for growth.   

The Salmon’s purpose is to overcome all obstacles that may present themselves and to be one with all that is. The salmon guides us to the wisdom of developing meaning and purpose in our lives, and also to move progressively on our spiritual journey. They have unbreakable bonds with their past.

Comparing the salmon’s journey to our own life journey helps us understand why the salmon is often regarded as the wisest of animals. In our life we frequently seem to be faced with low times brought on by both external and internal difficulties. Generally the internal state of affairs are most difficult such as resistance and fear of change. Taking salmon as an example can make life a lot easier!

Imagine the salmon’s journey upriver to spawning grounds similar to a human journey. Complications are always present, but in fact when jumping upstream the salmon does not fight the current, but travels with the reverse current flowing beneath the surface. The salmon’s long upstream journey every 5-7 years takes it to the place where it was spawned. If this is your power animal, then life changes often take place in this time period. The end of each cycle means a new start. Because the salmon’s origins are so important to them we are reminded to honor our true heritage. However, for humans be warned not to lay new ideas on a rough as do the salmon where they wither and die. 

In order for us to complete our journey, we must understand our own history, and frequently go back in our minds to our childhood for that understanding. We can learn from the salmon how to leap with joy and anticipation at the prospect of a new day, and also to know that no matter where we are we are always on our way home. Being light-hearted, open, innocent and childlike is not the aid to reaching the goal, but the goal itself. Flow with the currents beneath the surface. If you don’t know how to incorporate this medicine you may have to stop battling the currents of life. They also have strong spiritual desires and work tirelessly to manifest them.   


I can tell you that understanding begins with love and respect. It begins with respect for the Great Spirit. All things – and I mean ALL things – have their own will and their own way and their own purpose; this is what is to be respected.” 

–Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

Everything on earth has a purpose and is designed special. No two things are created identical. Sometimes in our minds we have a picture of how things should be, and often what we see is different from what they really are. When this happens we often want to control how things are, making them act or behave according to our picture. We need to leave things alone. God is running all things. How do we do this? In our minds we tell ourselves to love all things and respect all things just as they are.  

Great Spirit, teach me the value of respect and help me to accept people, places and things just as they are.


The preservation of our planet is an important issue for mankind. Here are some tips to help us preserve and protect Mother Earth.

  • Buy products that have very little packaging
  • Don’t use pesticides if you can.
  • Offer what you no longer need to friends (paints, oil, clothing etc.)

Over the past 11 years, Lyse has been one of our most loyal and committed staff members.She is responsible for the production of our newsletter – The Waseskun Cicle –, whichhighlights the healing journeys of many of our residents and the staff that guide them. Inaddition to her other duties, Lyse was also an art teacher and an instructor in businessdevelopment. She will be missed by everyone at Waseskun. We wish her well in herretirement  

… Waseskun Staff

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 our next publication.

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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