“We can only be what we give ourselves the power to be”
REBUILDING THE CIRCLE – YEAR ONE
by John Willcocks
This year, Waseskun inaugurated its latest project, Rebuilding the Circle – A Continuum of Caring. This initiative brings together healing for residents and their families, training and self-care for front-line workers, and develops on-going support networks for anyone working toward successful social reintegration.
To date, the project has been introduced to more than a dozen communities in Quebec, and some 20 other stakeholders and organizations. Through these contacts, we have begun planning the training and expertise Waseskun will provide front-line workers as they support the reintegration of residents in their communities. We are also engaging with Aboriginal organizations in urban settings, as they prepare to reintegrate men into cities
The family healing portion of the project, in which a resident and his family are brought together for a week of intensive family therapy, has proven to be of interest during our prison visits. The Waseya Family Healing program has been presented in prisons in three regions (The Maritime, Quebec and Ontario), and the response among offenders has been very positive. Family healing sessions are now underway
Finally, in our continuing effort to ensure successful social reintegration in all communities, we will host a Rebuilding the Circle – A Continuum of Caring Gathering later in the year. This three-day meeting (colloquium) will provide the opportunity for Elders, ALOs, ACDOs, and other corrections staff, community support, frontline workers, and other stakeholders to meet, discuss and exchange ideas and best practices
This first year of the project has been busy and successful. We are looking forward to reaching additional communities and families in the coming months
FIRST WASEYA FAMILY HEALING SESSION
by John Willcocks
Transformative. That’s the word the mother of a Waseskun resident used to describe her experience in the Waseya Family Healing program – Rebuilding the Circle. Thanks to this new initiative, the resident and his family recently benefited from a week of intensive healing and therapy. With the guidance of the dedicated healing team, the resident and his parents were able to share and resolve feelings about issues that had strained their relationship. As the week progressed, the family demonstrated a deepened love and commitment, and prepared for the challenges they will face upon the resident’s release
The session was held at the beautiful Mshkiki Centre, in the foothills of the Laurentians. The centre is designed to be more like a family home than an institution, and indeed, the atmosphere throughout the week was one of harmony and love. The family members, healers and an administrator lived together at the centre, sharing meals and chores while developing a sense of community. The result was an emotionally secure and loving environment conducive to healing. The resident, along with his helper, travelled to the centre each day for the healing sessions and to share in communal meals.
The healing team, Dennis Nicholas, Kahienes Sky and Chad Diabo, conducted circles, provided teachings and lead ceremonies, all the while allowing the medicine to determine the course of the sessions. The participants felt particularly great power in the sacred fire that was lit by the resident and his father together. Family members released old guilt and regret, allowed long-suppressed feelings to be expressed, and shared forgiveness
While the family as a unit underwent healing, each member experienced deep personal insights and growth. As one family member said, “On a personal level, you’ve helped me so much put my past and present into perspective and given me so much guidance about my life choices moving into the future.” Another said that the four days of healing had taken him deeper and further into himself than he had ever gone. As Dennis simply explained to them, “That’s the Medicine working
Everyone appreciated the Mshkiki centre’s secluded location, which afforded quiet walks in the forest, and freedom from the distractions of the “plugged-in”, digital world. The location, healers, family and Medicine all came together in perfect harmony to provide a unique opportunity to rebuild the Family Circle.
Healing sessions with residents and families are being planned throughout the rest of 2019 and into following years.
INTERVIEW OF RESDIENT ON THE FAMILY THERAPY EXPERIENCE
Paul has done family therapy in the past with psychologists and it focused more on technical aspects, such as childhood trauma. Family Therapy with Dennis, Kahienes and Chad provided a cultural aspect that had such a big impact by helping us all open up and communicate in a safe environment with the Medicines. The Spiritual and Cultural aspect of the therapy stood out for Paul.
He wasn’t told that much about it beforehand, so Paul was kind of nervous. He didn’t know how intense it was going to be, nor what his parents were going to bring up. He found out later that his parents were also nervous as they too didn’t know what to expect. He had no hesitation however and was looking forward to the session and he knew that his parents were really excited to do it, since he had spoken to them on the phone beforehand.
When the session began it was made clear that there was to be no judgement and that they were here to heal. They were here to move forward as a trio, as a family. The feather was passed around and Paul shared that when things get emotional, he tends to close down and talk softly in an almost robotic tone. But this didn`t happen at all. He teared up and cried quite a bit. It was very emotional, and this was a surprise for him
Paul always felt that his B & E and property crimes didn’t really have anything to do with his family, as they didn’t affect his family dynamic. But his drug abuse did impact his family relationship quite a bit. He feels that there is a lot of blame on his side, and they brought up how they felt that he was blaming them. He also used to steal money from them to support his drug habit. These were things that they have looked at a little bit in the past, but they never really resolved. They were addressed and then swept under the rug. But in the session with Dennis and Chad they really went into it and focussed on forgiveness and how to really move forward as a family. He was surprised about how simple they made it, over something that has often damaged families irreparably
Three days is a short time to fully resolve anything, but it did pave the road. The session was a real significant start. Paul found out that his parents never really thought about the guilt and shame that he carried. They told him that he doesn’t have to worry about that any more and that he could let it go. It meant a lot to him to hear this; it touched him deeply and made him cry
The same held for his parents. They had been worried about some of their parenting skills and about some of the choices they had made. Paul told them almost the exact same thing: that these things never cross his mind at all and that they have no need to feel guilty. Especially his dad: it was good for him to hear that he had been a good father.
From the group setting Paul learned that communication goes along way. Honesty goes a long way. Respect and Love go a long away. All the Seven Teachings (Love, Respect, Honesty, Truth, Wisdom, Courage and Humility) really go a long way. These were integrated into the Family Therapy session. Paul and his parents all felt safe. Paul feels that definitely the Medicines played a large part in helping them open up and feel comfortable. If people need forgiveness or want to talk about forgiveness, Waseya Family Therapy is a great atmosphere to do it in.
REFLECTIONS ON FAMILY HEALING
by Paul K.-J.
My name is Paul K.-J. and I’ve been a resident at Waseskun for over three months. Since being here I’ve learned more about myself than I thought I would, and I learn more every day. Waseskun has given me tools and insights that I can use when I’m released. One of the opportunities afforded to me was the use of Family Therapy. As we should all know, having support when released is vital to a healthy reintegration with society. During my years of addiction to crystal meth, I have put a lot of strain on my family and have negatively affected their well-being. I would steal from them on a regular basis and blame them for my own problems. It was only a matter of time before the stress became too great and they distanced themselves from me.
Since my incarceration in September 2017, I’ve been in communication with my parents in attempts to repair our relationship. Things have been going well and I believe that we have made a lot of progress. With that said, we never really dug deep into the issues that affected us on an emotional level. This is when I was offered by Waseskun to participate in a Family Therapy ceremony with an Elder present. I accepted the opportunity without really being too sure of what to expect
The therapy took place between March 4th and 7th. The way it was scheduled was that my parents would participate alone with an Elder to get some sense of what was on their mind and what their goals were. The next three days I would come join and we would begin our Family Therapy with my Elder and Helper present. The idea was to have therapy in the presence of the Medicines and have a more spiritual connection
Our first day together on March 5th we talked about past headaches and traumas. We went in-depth about what affected each other and why. For all of us, it was an extremely emotional day because I felt I got to understand my parents’ pain and suffering. It was also a meaningful day to me because I learned that my parents had forgiven me and just wanted me to be happy. This was a big relief since it meant I was able to let go of the guilt and shame I carried around with me all these years
The second day was focused on the present and what I was doing as an individual to heal. I was able to talk to my parents about what work I was doing at Waseskun, giving them insight into my own personal therapy. The third and final day was focused on the future. We talked about what my plans were and the support roles I needed my parents to play. Since I would be living with my parents upon my release, it was important that we covered some basic boundaries and expectations
Family Therapy is a safe, non-judgemental space for families to get closer and build trust and respect. Everything that is discussed, no matter how painful, comes from a place of love, honesty and respect for one another. I would recommend this to anybody who is serious about making a lifestyle change and wants to have a closer, more meaningful relationship with their family
Life is struggle Life is cruel Life is rude Life is made of nothing Negative is stronger than positive Love is blind Love is dark Love is empty Love is meaning of nothing Negative is stronger than positive Anger is hate Rage is poison Anger is heartless Rage is careless Anger plus rage equals to who cares Negative is stronger than positive Life is struggled, love is blinded, anger is hatred You are riding rough water, let the tears go through your eyes Go write a story, tell a story, story is action To tell you a truth there is life, love is affection, anger is a waste of time And yes, to tell you in reality Positive is stronger than negative.
SKI MONTCALM OUTING
At the end of September Waseskun residents had an outing to Ski Montcalm, a nearby community resource, over the two days of the weekend. Three residents participated on each day, accompanied by a Waseskun Helper
On the first day a kiosk was set up close to one of the chair lifts, with our drum, chairs, bench, and table for displaying crafts. Some people and family came by, asked questions and were impressed by the work of Normand L. (wood burning) and Adrien L.’s drawing
On and off, we performed a dozen drum songs. At one point there was a small gathering around us; some young children sat at the drum and played. It was a very nice and heartwarming seeing those kids’ eyes wide open accompanied with big smiles, drumming with us and listening to the songs!
Even though it was cold and cloudy, and not too many visitors, overall it was great outing and a very positive experience
On the second day our drum and two tables, one table for the crafts and one for cooking Bannock, were set up directly in front of the chalet, in a thoroughfare where the public was constantly passing. Very little crafts were sold, but members of the public really enjoyed our new recipe of freshly made Bannock samples that we were giving out for free
The staff at Ski Montcalm arranged to have lift passes for the residents and Helper so we could go up the mountain for a hike. Everyone loved the experience with the spectacular views from up on top of the mountains and the Fall colours at their peak. During our hike we saw evidence of a lot of potential medicines and a possible roost for an eagle
The outing was a great success. The residents enjoyed themselves very much and they all got something good out of it.
COLLECTION AND GATHERING OF GRANDFATHERS (‘OLD STONES’)
Outside, the day was particularly magnificent, full sun and a nice gentle end of the summer breeze. The opportunity was given to make good use of our ‘Honouring Our Traditions’ program, to gather some residents and go for a reunion (gathering) of our Grandfathers, these medium-sized stones that we utilize for our ceremonies of purification inside our sweat lodge and when they are coming in with the help of our Firekeepers, ‘red-hot’ directly out of the Sacred Fire
These ‘old stones’ are the representation of our oldest spirits on Earth and are essential for the proper conduct of the special ceremony that is the Sweat Lodge. These ceremonies of sweating and purification are sacred meetings with our old Grandfathers, the stone people. And these tents are the representation of being within the womb of our Mother the Earth. They allow us to cleanse ourselves, our body and our spirit, to cure us or, simply be in a connection with our Mother Earth
These ancient sacred ceremonies that have been used for millenniums are very important in our culture and are greatly appreciated by our residents. This year, the gathering of Grandfathers has been particularly fruitful (more than 500 stones) and it is largely due to the tireless work done by our residents
Ktchi Miigwetch to all the residents
FAST CEREMONY PREPARATIONS
Some of our residents worked together to build the shelters of the Elder and Helpers in preparation of the Fasting Ceremony that took place in October
Together they completed both these shelters in record time. The Land Program and ETA packages that some of our residents have allow for the Helpers to take them out into the bush. Sometimes they build structures that are needed and other times they do ceremonies to teach them what the forest has to offer
ANNUAL FAST – 2018
This year at Waseskun, there were total of six (6) residents, two (2) Firekeepers and one (1) cook go on the Fasting Ceremony. On the Monday, all of them set up their tents and put up the Sweat Lodge. Tuesday morning, they went into a 2-round Sweat and started the Fast
The first evening was clear skies with lots of stars. The next night there was lightning and thunder storms. That night, the temperature dropped to about 5 oC. On the Thursday, it was cloudy and rainy. On the Friday, of the fasters remaining, there was a 2-round exit Sweat
Every Faster got the Medicine they needed out of that Ceremony. It was an awesome experience and something none of them will ever forget.
A big thank you (Niawen Kowa) to the Firekeepers, the Helpers and the Elder.
LIVING IN THE COMMUNITY
Living in the Community is a new Waseya program component geared for lifers, and residents with other long-term sentences, to learn practical day-to-day life skills to help them get reacquainted with life on the outside after a long time spent inside. While serving time, things change in the outside world and one must learn to adapt when the time to leave custody approaches and one is preparing to reintegrate back into society. Living in the Community fosters deinstitutionalization by helping residents become independent while encouraging the responsible management of their personal affairs
In Living in the Community residents will learn how to budget, shop on limited income, clip coupons for shopping, apartment hunt, look for employment, produce a CV, etc. They will learn the things they need to know when they leave Waseskun that a half-way house won’t teach them. There will be theory sessions that show residents how to perform day-to-day life skills, as well as outings to stores, restaurants and banks so they get used to interacting with people and making exchanges in the public
INTERVIEW WITH A RESIDENT (Adrien L.)
Adrien has been in the system for more than 25 years. He has been at Waseskun for almost 3 years, over 2 sessions, with a brief return to prison in-between because of a setback. According to Adrien, a healing journey is very specific for each person, and it starts with the self. One has to be honest to oneself as to why one is going into healing and what one needs to work on. One must be serious in one’s efforts. One is here to work on oneself, not to sleep. There’s work to do. One needs to take the time to work on one thing at a time in order to fix the things that are bothering oneself inside.
Adrien takes healing to heart and embraces a teaching he has learned here: Nothing Happens for Nothing. If you do good things, they work. If you do bad things, or for bad reasons not knowing the consequences, chances are that bad things will result. There are many teachings that Adrien has been exposed to and he stays close to the ones that speak to him. They all address why we are here and to help us for our healing, but it’s up to each person to choose the teaching that best suit them. He has acquired a lot of knowledge. For Adrien, it’s the spiritual teachings that speak strongest to him. When he enters a sweat-lodge or smokes the sacred pipe it brings him into his cultural beliefs and in contact with the Ancestors. Adrien believes there is always someone there to listen to what you have to say while being prepared to help you. He believes that his mother is always there with him as well as a CSC Elder he worked with, who passed away. Both are very close and guide and support him. Drumming also brings one in contact with the Ancestors
Adrien feels very calm when he feels in contact with an Ancestor and he then knows what to do in order to handle any situation he is facing. He feels a wisdom that comes to him, which together with Honesty helps guide him. There are people who he knew from the past who weren’t honest and now they are no longer part of his life. Honesty is important. If you tell lies and say things that aren’t true, you end up lying to yourself. And then you believe your lies and that is not a good thing. Adrien tries very hard to stay away from things that are not right.
Adrien likes to work with wood, doing carvings, drawings and making traditional crafts. He makes dreamcatchers, walking sticks, pipes for use in ceremonies, and he has even carved his own ceremonial Mask. When he works on his crafts it is like he enters another world and forgets the rest. When he draws, he does it alone in his room. He likes to share some of his techniques with others if they ask him for advice on how to make or draw some things.
Adrien takes his community responsibilities at Waseskun very seriously. He diligently works in the kitchen; he is a hard worker when it come to shoveling snow. Adrien loves animals and feeds chipmunks and squirrels at Waseskun; they become his friends. Adrien often serves as Firekeeper for Waseskun’s Scared Fires and for Sweat-Lodges and he takes this honour to heart, providing excellent support to his brothers.
Adrien has a lot of confidence in the Medicines. He is very serious about the Medicines. He doesn’t play with the Medicines: he RESPECTS the Medicines, and this is extremely important. He also works with the Mask he carved, and it is powerful. One time he was bothered by something and the Mask told him to leave it alone, and it went away. It might not sound like much, he says, but it you believe it then it is very strong. According to Adrien, everybody needs something to believe in.
He really appreciated the Fast, last summer. Adrien received a visit in his tent during the Fast when he lit his pipe. He is sure it was another Ancestor. There was a storm brewing and he was told during the visit to pay attention on the path he is walking because certain people may come to push his buttons. So, watch out! Adrien believes that it’s important to listen to lessons when they are received. Later on, when certain people tried to push his buttons, he was able to deal with it and not lose his cool.
Adrien has put his full trust in his Helper and Elder at Waseskun in order to stay honest and to work on what he needs help with. He has learned to speak up about things when they aren’t going well for him instead of keeping them bottled up inside. He can now identify exactly what isn’t working for him and is able to express it. He is putting into practice what he learned from his Elders. Now he speaks about whatever is on his mind. He has also learned how to speak English over the last few years
Adrien has really enjoyed his outings from Waseskun. He always finds them very pleasant. He has gone on many outings to the Land where he cut wood, performed other work and received a lot of teachings and they are always very fun. He went on an outing to Ski Montcalm where he and other residents presented Native culture to the public and displayed traditional crafts. He also participated in a cultural day in the village here, where everyone was dressed up in costumes from older times. He went canoeing during this outing; he made a presentation to the public by the side of the fire about Native values, beliefs and traditions, as well as performing drum songs and showing children how to do drum.
Adrien has changed a lot, especially in how he has become calm and more relaxed. Before he was always agitated. Adrien is proud of his progress. He is not only calmer; he is able to respond well to questions and act well in situations and to people he encounters. If something isn’t right, he is able to speak about it. He is also capable of reflecting by himself when he is challenged and to determine what is best to do and to think things through, including possible consequences for any type of action he may take. Adrien can look at things more deeply and assess what are the best steps to follow for his wellbeing.
Adrien feels evermore ready to take his next steps. He is not nervous. His goals are to go to the Parole Board for his Day Parole and after, to find work. He loves to work outside and as well to work with animals. He could also see himself working to collect fruit or to work on maintaining the land. Adrien is getting prepared for his next step which is Day Parole. He may choose to stay here at Waseskun or to go to a halfway house in Laval for his Day Parole. He will soon have a visit to the halfway house to see what he thinks and feels about going there and then he will make his plan. As well, Adrien will soon have ETAs to go regularly to the bison farm and/or therapeutic horse centre near Waseskun. He feels that 2019 is shaping up to be an excellent year for him.
According to Adrien, everyone has their own personal choice, but for someone who choses to work on themselves, Waseskun is a great place to come. You need to have the will to do so. You need to be able to accept things that you find here that you won`t find elsewhere. It`s very structured here and it`s difficult. We aren`t all alike and we won`t all respond in the same way. Waseskun is a preparation for returning to society and it is by no means easy out there. Waseskun is a comparatively small community and when you go step outside of it the world is big. If you can`t function here at Waseskun, what are you going to do outside?
OUTING ON THE LAND
November 21, 2018 – Chad Diabo
In the pictures you can see a resident using the flint fire starter to manually start the fire. He did it in short order and was proud of his efforts. It’s no small feat to start a fire in this way in -5 oC degree weather. His hands were cold, and it took him two tries to get the fire to catch.
We took the time to scan for tracks and we found definite signs of a young deer in the area. No scrapings for its antlers but signs of it eating bark off low hanging branches. There was also signs of some squirrels and a rabbit in the area too
Overall it was a good start to the winter outings on the land, for this year.
Intensive LAND Program
Waseskun’s new Intensive Land Program relies on our ancestral and traditional ways to address the needs of Waseskun residents, many who have become institutionalized and are in need of practical skills for living in this day and age. Residents who have lost the connection with Mother Earth and only know a city-based urban life need to become acquainted with Indigenous traditional ways that have been passed down from our Ancestors.
The Intensive Land Program is designed to teach residents bush-craft and outdoor skills to help them to live outside of the walls of an institution. When the control of the guards and inmate hierarchy is taken away, how will a long-time incarcerated person react to living in society again?
Traditional men have the knowledge of how to live on the land. For warmth we gather wood and build a fire. For transportation we place one foot in front of the other. For light we ignite a lantern. What we haven’t brought with us into the bush, we do without. The benefits we derive from living on the land provide us with a feeling of self-reliance and a linkage to our forebears. When we put residents in the same setting as our ancestors 200 years ago, they will flourish as new men.
INTENSIVE LAND PROGRAM – IGLOOS
by Chad Diabo
On February 12, 2019 as part of the new Intensive Land Program residents took part in learning the skills and gaining the experience of making snow shelters. These aren’t the snow caves you may have made in your child hood, there is more to this than you know
The Inuit lived and still use Igloos to survive in the North. These are shelters we learned have specific features within that make them excellent shelters to live and use when you are out to hike, hunt or fish
Many times people have had to be rescued from the backcountry when the equipment they had could not cope with the weather conditions. These residents now have the shared knowhow for building a shelter and the benefits they afford those who use them, helping them live off the land
INTENSIVE LAND PROGRAM – SNOWSHOEING
by Chad Diabo
On March 11, as part of the ongoing Intensive Land Program, we four did an outing to Rawdon. We practiced snowshoeing with heavy packs and techniques for making and clearing trails. The residents commented how peaceful it was to be out on the land
Snowfall this year is truly something to behold on the land. We tested the snow depth, we were looking at 9 feet of snow, off the trails. So, if any of us took off our snow shoes and stepped off the trails…you would only find us in the spring
On another outing to the Bison Farm, some Inuit residents pose beside an Inukshuk.
INTENSIVE LAND PROGRAM – ICE FISHING
by Chad Diabo
On March 18 we made an expedition to St Beatrix. It was the first ice fishing trip as part of the Intensive Land Program
All the residents enjoyed themselves. For one resident, it was his first-time ice fishing. So, the more experienced Cree and Inuit fishermen shared their combined knowledge with him.
As with all fishing trips, we could exaggerate about the ones that got away, but I’d rather be honest and tell you that we didn’t catch anything
INTENSIVE LAND PROGRAM – FLINT FIRE LIGHTING
by Chad Diabo
On this first day in April, three of us went out to the Waseskun land in Rawdon. We dug out the cabin and inspected the structure and interior. One beam needs to be replaced due to the weight of the snow
Thereafter, we made a fire using knowledge from our theory sessions. Making fires using only a flint striker is a skill that requires practice to be done efficiently. It took this resident about ten minutes of work to get the fire started. We kept the encouragements flowing to not let the resident give up. His perseverance paid off
Lastly, using a technique I learned from the Attikamewk, we made seats, into the snow. An efficient design, seeing as the snow is still five feet deep in some places
Another interesting part of the trip, we saw lots of tracks of local animals; martins, foxes, bobcats, rabbits and a solitary moose as well. All together, it was a very good day on the land
At Waseskun Healing Center, many residents are from the North and they particularly enjoy the time of the year when it gets cold and when snow reminds them where they’re from. So, in order to feel a little closer to home, one Inuk resident, recently had the idea to show the other residents how he makes the ULU, an Inuit tool he knows a lot about
The ULU is a tool used only by Inuit women living in the North. It is used for various activities, such as removing and cleaning the skin of animals, cutting a child’s hair and cutting meat, as well as trimming the ice blocks used in the construction of igloos
The resident benefitted from the «Honoring Our Traditions» program offered at the Center to explain to his fellow residents the making of the Inuit tool. He was able to take advantage of a few extra sessions to complete his explanation and the instructions for the fabrication of the Nordic tool. He first explained the various utilities offered by the ULU and especially that it is only used by Inuit women and not by men. He specified that in the North, depending on the age of the girl, the ULU will be offered according to the little girl’s ability to use it and the task that her age allows her to practice. Thus, the older she gets, the bigger the size of the ULU and the more difficult the tasks
Usually equipped with a wooden handle (or bone), the tool is provided with a cutting metal blade that can cut pieces of meat, snow or the skin of the animal.
The resident originally experienced some adjustment difficulties when he arrived at the Healing Center, but the ULU activity allowed him to feel closer to home, over the period of a few programs, and it also allowed other residents to appreciate his talents as an ULU maker, and for him to feel proud for having this knowledge to share.
INDIGENOUS SENSISTIVITY TRAINING FOR THE PAROLE BOARD OF CANADA
On March 14 a group of 20 Members of The Parole Board of Canada came to Waseskun for a Training on Indigenous Cultural Sensitivity. The Day began with Waseskun staff giving the Parole Board Members a tour of Waseskun, followed by an opening prayer, welcoming words from our Elder, and some drum songs from our residents. The morning continued with a meeting with Waseskun staff members to explain the various details of Waseskun’s functioning and delivery of programs
Next the Board Members had a Circle with some of our residents to ask questions and exchange points of views. A delicious Feast was served for lunch and right after some presentations were made to Parole Board Members by our residents
The visit ended with a prepared workshop on Indigenous Sensitivity Training facilitated byone of the Board Members, Dennis our Elder, and Bryan one of the Helpers. The Parole BoardMembers had a very enriching and enjoyable time at Waseskun. They all really appreciatedtheir experience
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1 Waseskun street
PO Box 1159
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631