“When you value yourself, you can stop giving discounts to others’’


By Laurin Kyle and Brian Sarwer-Foner

Waseskun’s 30th Anniversary, held on September 19th, was a celebratory event with guests that came as far away as Alberta to pay tribute to the longstanding history of the Healing Lodge. The attending guests included: CSC Elders, ALOs, POs, MAIs, Assistant and Deputy Wardens, members of Aboriginal Initiatives; two Healing Lodge Directors from out West, Claire Carefoot and Marlene Orr, the Regional Director of Quebec for the Parole Board of Canada, Martin Van Ginhoven; and the local MP for the Quebec National Assembly, Andre Villeneuve.  

This Change of Seasons began with a Sunrise Ceremony for the residents, staff and guests who were able to make it for its beginning at 6:30, followed by a delicious Breakfast spread for all attending. Marking the Fall Equinox, the day was crisp, and a light mist lifted by the end of the first sharing Circle. That Circle featured Waseskun Elder, Dennis Nicholas, and Helpers, Chad Diabo, Bryan Deer and Normand Guilbeault, sharing about Healing and the powerful Medicine that Waseskun offers the residents.

Teachings were interspersed with the Wisdom of visiting CSC Elders, including Mike MacDonald, Delbert Samson, Jean Stevenson, Silver Bear (Steve McComber), Charlie Commando, and Al Brant (who made the trip from Ontario, specially to be with us). 

Some of the ideas and issues shared by the Elders included: the essential need for Indigenous Communities to be better able to receive and care for men returning home from the system in order to support their successful social reintegration; how it is crucial for the recovery of Native people to be nourished by their connections with Nature; the importance of making the guys feel good and appreciated for nurturing their Healing; and how the eternal and ultimate Medicine for Healing and WellBeing is the Power of Love. 

Waseskun’s new project, Rebuilding the Circle, A Continuum of Caring, which is about to start this Season, was briefly described to highlight Waseskun’s commitment to taking action with initiatives such as Family Therapy and Training for Community Support Workers to foster positive social reintegration for Native men taking their next steps after incarceration. 

We were graced by the brief presence of Andre Villeneuve, local MP for the Quebec National Assembly, who was clearly surprised at the rich culture, tradition and Spiritual practises that Waseskun offered in this little corner of Lanaudière region, Quebec. As he was on the campaign trail his visit was short, but he promised to return and spend more time discovering Waseskun and its healing mission.

Special presentations were made by Kathleen Angus, Regional Acting Administrator, Aboriginal Initiatives- CSC, and Jean Stevenson, CSC Elder on behalf of the staff and men and Cowansville Institution, to the Executive Director, for 30 years of commitment to healing initiatives, who received a soapstone carving and commemorative dream-catcher to honour this milestone for Waseskun. 

The lunch Feast was a festive affair, decorated with the colours of Autumn which signalled Equinox, the Change of Seasons, and the meal was a bounty of bright salads, bison stew from the local Bison farm, turkey, pork and an assortment of desserts including a 30th Anniversary cake. No one left hungry and Lucie and her crew of residents were appreciated for their hard work and their impeccable teamwork in preparing and serving the delicious Feast! The residents truly were helpful beyond measure in preparing the grounds and setting up for the event. They were all fully invested in making this Anniversary a remarkable day. 

The Sacred Fire hosted drummers throughout the Day and embraced heartfelt sharing by three residents and one former resident during the afternoon Circle, each in turn bringing their healing journey to light as the guests sat in respectful silence, holding space for their courage. Former resident, Sylvain C. was presented a bear claw by his mother, who accompanied him. “Waseskun saved his life and gave me back my son”, she said with tears as she hung it around his neck. 

The Craft shed was busy and the residents were pleased to make good sales with a small percentage of their profits helping to build the Craft and Tool fund, which furthers the purchase of more tools. Drums of all sizes, jewellery, art and dream catchers were popular with all the guests. 

The day concluded with a Sweat Lodge, which Cowansville Elders, Delbert Samson and Jean Stevenson, poured for the enjoyment, healing and well-being of those who entered, including Elders, returning residents, guests and staff. 

All in all, the day that was hoped for was delivered by the Creator and many received the blessings and the wisdom that they were meant to receive, and relationships were strengthened to further the Healing vision of Waseskun, building strong, healthy, spiritual and conscientious men.             


By: Kenneth B.

Aboriginal Day at Waseskun has a much deeper meaning than that of just celebration. It is a day of reflection of one’s own personal triumphs of the insight that a person gets from the traditional teachings that are offered here.  

It is also a day to relax and have some fun because we have learned that this is also goodmedicine for the spirit. The Helpers at Waseskun have a very difficult task of helping menthat have undergone extreme trauma in their life and use traditional teachings to restoretheir medicine wheel to a balanced state. This is exhausting work for both the teacher andthe student. When breakthroughs are accomplished, celebration is necessary for not justthat person, but all those involved in the community. I enjoy being a part of that celebrationknowing that my brothers are closer to finding an inner peace that they crave so much. Italso helps my spirit be more content as well. I celebrated Aboriginal Day with my bothers,the two-legged, the four-legged and the winged ones. I also celebrated Aboriginal Day withthe spirits of my ancestors and family members who have crossed into the spirit world, aswell as with the Elders who watch over me.  

Much respect and Love,


By: Chad Diabo, Helper

This year for Summer Solstice, residents, Helpers and staff came together to have fun. A lotof work went into planning the event. Many of the ideas, came from the residents themselves.We started off the day, with a Sunrise Ceremony at 5:00 am to welcome this change ofseason into our lives and healing.   

We enjoyed a Cribbage tournament in the morning and all residents came out to participate.All the winners collected coupons. The more coupons you won, the better chance you had atwinning prizes. A ‘quicksilver’ horseshoe game was played before lunch. This version of thegame was for a team of two players to score as many points as possible in a limited amountof time (7 minutes). The team composed of Frank M. and Poasi Q. got 19 points in that timeand the highest scoring team of Tamusi K. and Alec N. got 33 points. All won more coupons.After lunch, many of us joined in a medicine game of Lacrosse. Our school teacher (Barry B.)gave us the teachings in this traditional game and conducted a sweetgrass smudge prior tothe beginning of the game. This was a non-contact game, and the good nature and medicinedid their part, and all enjoyed themselves. A notable mention is that it started to rain andthat despite this, the players stayed and continued the game until it was over. 

 In all, a total of over 35 prizes were given out at the end of the day, with many participants walking away with portable fans, stickers, t-shirts, bags of chips, vouchers for the canteen and some cash prizes. Everyone got a prize and the grand winners cleaned house with them. It was a great event for everyone!  


By Normand Guilbeault, Helper

As Spiritual Helper at the Waseskun Healing Centre, one of the great joys, but most importantlyone of the great privileges, is to facilitate the «Honoring our Traditions» program. This programtouches a wide number of subjects related to aboriginal culture and more particularly to artforms associated to the many nations that encountered at Waseskun.

 As a Helper, I also make sure to open this program on very large horizons. It’s important to mention here that often, and for many different reasons, the residents have lost, somewhere on their pathways, this precious connexion to their culture and found themselves devoid and lost from cultural reference from that factual situation.  

The main goal of this program is then to re-establish, in some small way, this connection or «re-connection». That’s why my approach to the program touches multiple aspects of those cultures: languages, music, traditional singing and drumming (pow-wow singing), preparation and tanning of hides (deer, moose, foxes, bears, buffalos, etc…), fabrication of drums, shakers, sculpture and wood burning, leather work, painting on canvas or feathers  

Furthermore, an important part of the program is given to the education and knowledgeof the aboriginal culture and people. To do this, the projections of films and documentaries(particularly the NFB ones) have a place of choice in this program. The discussions andsharing that comes with it shows to that extent this «re-appropriation» as its importance.The residents, by their comments enjoy being part of those «Traditions» programs and manytimes mention, «what, it’s already finished?

It goes too fast»…and ask for more.

Facilitating this kind of program is a privilege and extremely gratifying for the Helpers. The concrete results obtained confirm the high importance of having those programs. At the end, the residents are mentioning at what point this «reconnection» is salutary on their Red Road journey.


By Laurin Kyle and Brian Sarwer-Foner

On July 26 we visited the “Centre de Santé par le Cheval – Koinonia” just a short drive from Waseskun to meet the owners who are passionately committed to foster healing through bonding with their horses. A partnership is in the making and is in process and in its final stages.   

At this beautiful and peaceful natural setting, Residents of Waseskun will have the unique opportunity to spend time in Nature, learn how to care for someone or something other than themselves, communicate and connect deeply with a designated horse and help their horse to become a therapeutic support animal.    

The farm has a large grazing area, a barn, as well as a training ring. Residents of Waseskun will be able to volunteer and have outings to the farm throughout the year.


Back in June, we did many ETA trips to the land to harvest trees to rebuild the sweat lodge. Each time we found a suitable tree, we put down an offering of tobacco to honor taking the life of that tree for our needs. We asked them (trees) to help us work on ourselves and heal from our hurts. In this way, we honor creation and our traditional ways, in this way we know our sweat lodge will be strong for us. 

Mid-June, saw lots of black flies and later deer/horse flies out in the forest. Some residents were smart to wear dark clothing with long sleeves, others wore protective mesh hats and others covered themselves with all repellents available. In the end, many of us made huge donations of blood in those trips to the land regardless of what we tried to do.   

Another fun activity was cooking lunch by the campfire. Hotdogs, sausage and some moosemeat were shared for lunches on the land trips. Residents are looking forward to our nextset of trips. Soon we will begin planning and preparation for our yearly Fasting Ceremony.Tentatively, were targeting the first week in October. We’ll have more to share soon.  


During some of our recent ETA trips to the land, we brought residents fishing. It’s long been our people’s way to be self-sufficient, to rely on ourselves to provide food and Shelter to our family. We tapped into these proud traditional ways on our Waseskun fishing trips.

Many residents got the chance to cast and try to catch some food to eat. In all honesty, many were out of practice, because at the end of day we had no fish to show for our efforts. Better luck next time!


(Outing to Ste-Béatrix)

Three of our residents participated in an outing to the Land in Ste-Béatrix in preparation for the upcoming annual Fast which is scheduled to take place in October.

Most of the hours spent there were used to do ‘spotting’ and cleaning up the site. There is for sure, a lot of work to be done in revisiting and refreshing some of the structures.

It is a beautiful area for the Fasters to put up their tents and, they are very much looking forward to the future outings and to the Fast itself.


(Mats G.)

Mats is Algonquin from Kitcisakik. He arrivedat Waseskun in October 2017 and he willsoon be leaving. This is Mats second time atWaseskun. He has worked very hard this timearound, mainly on understanding his emotionsand especially on managing his anger. He haschanged a lot, especially his attitude. His firsttime here he hardly talked at all, now he sharesopenly in Circles and actively participates inmany Waseskun activities.    

Mats felt a lot of anger for the world, but when he entered the sweat lodge for the first timewith visiting Elder Bill Constant last year, he screamed continually for a half an hour non-stop.Later that night he didnt have any voice left and the next morning he had still lost his voice.Mats did another ceremony more recently with Waseskun Elder Dennis - the Bear Ceremony.Again, he screamed and screamed and let a lot out. After, he felt much lighter and that iswhen he started to change. He didnt see it at first, but when Waseskun Helper Chad told himyou have changed he started to see it himself.

Mats started into deep personal reflection about what this means. He started thinking, it`s true, it`s true, I have changed. He changed his manner of thinking. At times he finds it difficult. He learned many things, how to manage his anger, he talks more about how he feels, and he shares much more with his Helper about many things. He used to talk with anger, but now he talks much more calmly.   

After the sweat lodge with Bill Constant, Mats’ voice softened. He found himself looking and looking for something… something that was missing. He finally realized that it was the anger that was missing, it had left him.

Before he was always angry and people who saw him were scared because he gave off a very negative energy, full of anger and hatred for the world. His father was the same way, but when he told Mats about his stories from residential school he understood why he was this way. Mats’ father mistreated him when he was young, and he always put the blame on the White people for all their problems. Mat has learned that not all White people are like this; they are not all racists. Everyone is not the same.   

Mats was placed in a foster home when he was young because his parents were drinking, and his father acted violently towards his mother. Mats ended up reproducing the same behavior as his father. His father was verbally violent with Mats, and then he did the same thing and was verbally violent himself. Today he greatly regrets this. He understands why his ex-partner left him. He was physically violent with her, but he was extremely verbally violent. He had the tendency to always be putting her down.  

Matsuncle would say to him that he was just like his father. This same uncle also abusedhim when he was younger. He had a hard time forgiving his uncle for this. He tried, but deepinside he couldnt forgive what he did to him. His uncle had told Mats that he too had beenaggressed when he was young. Today Mats understands that his uncle was just reproducingthat same things that had happened to him, just like he himself ended up doing as well. Nowas part of his healing Mats has forgiven his uncle, even though he died 5 years ago.

Now Mats knows that there is no way he could do the same abuses that he had done in thepast, again. Today he understands so much more. The first time he came to Waseskun in2008 he wasn`t ready to leave. He was still full of anger, but despite this he managed to stayseven years sober: no consumption of alcohol or drugs. Then he experienced the death of hisgrandmother, the death of his uncle and his separation from his ex-partner. He went into adeep depression. Mats started to drink again, to take drugs, including hard drugs. He wouldconsume until he was numb.  

Mats had such anger at the world and he felt that he was betrayed. He didnt know howto manage his anger. He wasnt capable of expressing himself, but today he is! He can`tbe the same guy that he was before. Mats still feels some anger today, but it is nowherenear as intense as it was before. If his anger was at a 10 before, today it is only at a 1 or 2,depending on the day. Sometimes when alone in his room Mats stills screams, which helpshim to express himself. He screams like this because deep inside himself it helps him feelbetter. It is good for him.   

When Mats reflects on the work he has done at Waseskun, he feels that he has succeeded in his healing and that he is a changed man. When he leaves in September he is going to return home to his community. At first Mats thought that nobody was wanting him to come back. But his family is waiting for him and they are prepared to help him with his reintegration. They have expressed that they are very attached to him. They have missed him and are looking forward to seeing him and welcoming him home. Mats too is very excited to go home and to be reunited with his loved ones. He will also go hunting and trapping for beaver, which he loves doing. It has been a long time

If he needs help with his abstinence Mats will call the support workers in his community toask for help. This is something he wasnt capable of doing in the past. He used to believethat a man doesnt need to ask for help and that a man doesn`t cry. Mats now knows thata real man will be able to cry and to ask for help if he needs it.


by: Chad Diabo, Helper

Each resident at Waseskun finds something to do with their extra time. Some carve soapstone, some wood burn or start to make crafts.

Occasionally, we have residents whose extra work on a particular area goes above and beyond just passing time. In the case of these residents, they develop a passion for the work they do. Last year the garden was the success it was due to the efforts of Roger V. and Christopher R. 

This article is meant to give respect to resident Jimmy C. The Longhouse lodge has become his passion. He’s put his skills and experience in carpentry to amazing use in remaking and finishing this lodge. He’s worked tirelessly and through role-modeling he has inspired other residents to get involved. 

In the pictures, see the quality of the work. The Elders have told other residents, when you find your passion (in working on something) you have found your medicine. Once outside, these medicines will help keep you sober and on the good path. 

We encourage all residents to find their passion, their medicine. These works benefit both Waseskun and the residents. We welcome you to come find yours with us.      

Traditional Tobacco at Waseskun

Oien’kwa’ón:we (Mohawk), or semah (Anishnaabe), or tobacco (English),which ever name you use…it is one of our most sacred plants.

Some Elders say that tobacco is used to connect the worlds since the plant’s roots go deep into the Earth, and its smoke rises high into the sky. This plant is highly respected and highly honoured. 

Ceremonies using tobacco invoke a relationship with the energies of the universe, and ultimately the Creator. 

This year, the crop of tobacco that we are raising at Waseskun is one of the strongest we’ve seen on record. The plants are large, healthy and strong. This medicine is special, it was planted by residents for the residents. Men, just like you, doing something ultra-positive for their brothers. We look forward to harvesting this medicine to use in our sacred pipe ceremonies and sacred fires for the healing of the men who are here now and for those coming to Waseskun. 

One of the Residents of Waseskun, who worked hard on the Medicine Garden and tended to the tobacco plants, had this to say in relation to his experience: 

The peoples` relationship to tobacco is with the Great Spirit, and its meaning is for the peoples` prayers. To grow the tobacco plant is to give love and care and in return the tobacco plant gives beautiful leaves and seeds for the next year. The Elders always carry tobacco for the prayers to help other people. Our medicine is very strong, as can be seen in the beauty of the tobacco plants; growing it brings a harmony between the humans and the plants. It`s a relationship between human, plants and Mother Earth, a coming together and combining to take care of something, so in return it takes care of you.       


By: Frank M.

Here I’m sitting in my chair close to the window watching the evening fade into the darkness. I look up to the sky. I can see each star coming out one by one. Yes, how peaceful they are.

This is the best time to gather my thoughts. Each star has a story to tell. Looking around for something as I turn towards the East. 

Focusing on two stars, as I thought they were blinking at each other, it would be nice to hear and listen to what they are saying. 

A true Spirit is around me. I can feel the cool wind around my room as I keep looking up toward the sky. As though they are looking at me. Fade into a deep sleep. 

My spirit leaves my body, so I can join in a circle with the Elders or with Grandmother. 

To receive from the heart is a gift of knowledge, wisdom or a healing song. Spirit we received the gift, allowed the message to come to you in a dream. 

Strong medicine is to keep me on my healing path. 

We need each other. I cannot do this on my own. 

We learn together. We work together. 

Programs are to open our mind.            


Pierre R. was admitted to the Waseskun Healing Center in 2017, arriving from the Drummond Institution. He was incarcerated there for more than 15 years. With a Program Agent and an Elder’s help, he started his life opening process.

Pierre has been incarcerated for almost 30 years. In CSC’s documents, he said that he wanted to die in jail. 

Upon his arrival at Waseskun, he progressively adapted to his new environment and, in a positive way. Afterwards, there was the question about his hearing before the PBC. The resident had never gone before the Parole Board since the beginning of his second penitentiary term in the middle of the 1990’s. 

Through programs, he acquired a better self-esteem and he accepted to meet the Parole Board for the first time in July 2018. He was then granted ETAs. 

Last August, Pierre went on an outing for the first time in 25 years. The outing was to the Land in Ste-Béatrix to get wood and grandfathers (rocks) for the sweat lodge. On the Land he was surrounded by the forest. It really made him feel good. He spent his time constantly looking around. 

It felt weird after 25 years of barbed wires and cameras everywhere in the penitentiary environment to be on the outing and to feel completely disconnected from prison. There was nothing at all enclosing him. Just the woods. It was bizarre for him seeing the colours. He really loved it. It was truly a very, very beautiful day.       


Pierre R. was admitted to the Waseskun Healing Center in 2017, arriving from the Drummond Institution. He was incarcerated there for more than 15 years. With a Program Agent and an Elder’s help, he started his life opening process

Pierre has been incarcerated for almost 30 years. In CSC’s documents, he said that he wanted to die in jail. 

Upon his arrival at Waseskun, he progressively adapted to his new environment and, in a positive way. Afterwards, there was the question about his hearing before the PBC. The resident had never gone before the Parole Board since the beginning of his second penitentiary term in the middle of the 1990’s. 

Through programs, he acquired a better self-esteem and he accepted to meet the Parole Board for the first time in July 2018. He was then granted ETAs. 

Last August, Pierre went on an outing for the first time in 25 years. The outing was to the Land in Ste-Béatrix to get wood and grandfathers (rocks) for the sweat lodge. On the Land he was surrounded by the forest. It really made him feel good. He spent his time constantly looking around. 

It felt weird after 25 years of barbed wires and cameras everywhere in the penitentiary environment to be on the outing and to feel completely disconnected from prison. There was nothing at all enclosing him. Just the woods. It was bizarre for him seeing the colours. He really loved it. It was truly a very, very beautiful day.       


One of the most appreciated outdoor activity for the Waseskun residents is surely the PowWow. The term pow wow comes from the Indigenous words Pau Wau or Pauau. The PowWow is the given occasion to recall our ancestral customs and to celebrate andpreserve our rich culture.

‘Jinngdamook’ is the term used to describe the vibrations felt by Mother Earth during the celebrations and, created by the dancers’ feet and by the drum beats of our traditional singers. No need to remind you how these celebrations have a beneficial effect on our residents. For many of them, it’s even a first experience! 

The opening ceremonies (Grand Entry, Flags Song, Veterans’ Song), the power of the songs,the skills of the dancers, the beauty of the costumes (Regalia, Jingle dress, Fancy Shawl),the kiosks (leather, art work, traditional cooking) are all reasons that make us appreciate andcherish our culture. For our residents, this ‘reconnexion’ to our rich culture give them anobvious sense of pride and joy that we see on their smiling and blooming faces!   


By Frank M.

As we arrived at the Pow Wow grounds I got out and asked where the bathrooms are. As Istarted heading toward the blue stalls a woman walked past me. I stopped, and she stoppedand then she started to walk back, and we looked at each other. She started to talk about ourfamily. I asked her name and she replied, Sandra. Excitedly I replied, it`s Frankie!.Yes, emotions where high, with tears of joy.

So, I called Chad and Normand (Waseskun Helpers) over and I introduced my sister to them. Sandra then called over her husband, Kenny, to meet me. We started to talk, and this was great! We entered the Pow Wow and she introduced me to my first cousin, John Cree, and other family members as well. Chad and Normand took photos of my sister and I and a few shots of the family as well. Later they took photos of me dancing. 

Yes, this was my first time in 40 years. What a beautiful day! This was my first time meeting my sister in 40 years.

Coming to Waseskun Healing Lodge for helping me get my life back, I have learned about myself by taking programs, step by step, and opening up about my problems. I am growing more and more and taking full responsibility for my actions. But it was way hard to say goodbye to my sister. Emotions were very strong. 

When we got back to Waseskun, after signing in, the first thing I did was run to the phone. I called home, but my sister beat me to it. Everyone already knew about our unexpected reunion. Even so, my happy emotions were still there. What an experience!  


by Brian Sarwer-Foner, Liaison Officer

Waseskun has regularly been making many prison visits in the Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes regions to present our Healing Center to inmates as well as CSC staff. During these presentations we explain about what Waseskun has to offer, the opportunities we provide for those wishing to transfer or come to us on release, the details of the admission process, our Waseya Holistic Healing program, and how the Medicines work and how they can help one on their healing journey. 

We have visited the Aboriginal Intervention Centers (AICs) at Archambault in Quebec and Joyceville in Ontario and are looking forward to visiting them more often and working closer with the teams in both places to facilitate the flow of interested and good candidates to our Center, including the possibility of pen-placements to us when men are assessed as minimum security. 

Early this Fall we shall be visiting the Atlantic Region, including the AIC at Springhill, and we are excited to have the opportunity of meeting and presenting to both inmates and staff out East. 

See you soon!          

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.
1 Waseskun street
PO Box 1159
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631

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