Summer / Fall 2019
“Your eyes show the strength of your soul”
WASESKUN’S FIRST REBUILDING THE CIRCLE GATHERING
by: John Willcocks
Waseskun hosted the inaugural Rebuilding the Circle Gathering over two days in early autumn. On September 24th and 25th, over 140 participants came together to learn, share and develop strategies for successful social reintegration of Indigenous men and women following incarceration. The gathering was a part of Waseskun’s Rebuilding the Circle – A Continuum of Caring project which also incorporates Family Healing and Community Support Training to reopen the circles that close or break when an Indigenous man or woman is incarcerated.
Representatives came from nine communities, eight Indigenous support organizations, Correctional Services of Canada (from the Ontario and Quebec regions, as well as Headquarters), the Parole Board of Canada, the Quebec Ministry of Public Security, and many other stakeholders. Waseskun was proud to welcome sixteen Elders over the two days. Workshops, circles and ceremonies were the focus of the gathering. Participants also had opportunities to strengthen connections and friendships and expand their network of partners.
Each day, guests were invited to participate in a selection of six workshops and four circles. Participants discussed challenges and shared ideas and best practices in a wide variety of areas, all based on the reintegration theme. The fruitful exchanges with diverse groups and a variety of viewpoints brought forth many great ideas. The information shared and lessons learned will be invaluable to the support of reintegration. A summary of the workshops will be prepared and distributed as part of the Rebuilding the Circle Gathering 2019 final report.
The Rebuilding the Family Circle workshop focused on of the importance of family support to successful reintegration, and the obstacles to gaining it.
In Cultural Reconnection a Waseskun Helper presented the benefits of ceremonies and cultural activities to support a client’s reintegration.
One of the most popular workshops was Reintegration from the Client’s Perspective in which former Waseskun residents shared their healing journeys, and their experiences reintegrating in a community or urban setting.
Rebuilding the Community Circle examined the benefits and challenges for a client returning to his community, while A Different Kind of Community: Reintegration into an Urban Setting looked at the challenges facing clients as they integrate into an urban setting.
Finally, Supporting the Circle: Developing Partnerships introduced Waseskun’s Frontline Worker Training and Family Healing programs.
As well as the workshops, separate men’s and women’s healing circles were held on the topics of self-care for the caregivers and returning to the medicines. Guest Helper Veronica Johnny led very powerful women’s drumming circles each day
Both days were opened with sunrise ceremonies, attended by visiting Elders, guests, Waseskun staff and residents. On the first morning, a sacred fire was lit, and it maintained the energy throughout the gathering. A hardy community breakfast was served each morning, followed by a welcome ceremony, led by drum songs performed by Waseskun Helpers and residents.
On the first evening, Jean Stevenson, an Elder at Cowansville Institution, held a Sweat Lodge Ceremony for women, while Solomon Wawatie, an Elder from the Barriere Lake community, held a separate Sweat Lodge Ceremony for men. The second evening, Roger Echaquan, an Elder from the community of Manawan, held a Sweat Lodge Ceremony for men and women.
Waseskun’s traditional Longhouse, constructed by residents as a part of their cultural programming, and the sacred fire acted as central points for ceremonies, teachings and sharing. The tepee provided a fitting and inspirational space for the women’s healing and drumming circles.
The closing ceremony included a very moving speech and prayer by Waseskun Elder Dennis Nicholas. Veronica Johnny gave a very spirited and well-received buffalo drum song that had everyone singing.
As is traditional, each guest was offered a special gift prepared by a resident. Over the summer, residents took part in a unique project inspired by a woman in Winnipeg to honour and remember missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls. Residents were given photos and brief stories of 140 women and girls who were murdered or are missing. After reflection and prayer, each resident painted a distinctive stone to honour one of the victims. (see page 9 for a resident’s perspective on the MMIWG Stone Project).
Following the success of this year’s Gathering, Waseskun staff have already begun the planning for next year’s events. If you are interested in attending the 2020 Gathering or would like more information on the Rebuilding the Circle initiative, please contact John Willcocks, Community Development Officer, at (450) 883-2034 ext. 243, or johnwillcocks@ waseskun.net
Waseskun would like to thank the following individuals and organizations whose generous contributions and participation made the 2019 Rebuilding the Circle Gathering a huge success:
Catherine Lesey, Parole Officer / CSC Liaison Officer to Waseskun
Christopher Roberts, Former Waseskun Resident
Cree Nation Government
Dan Shannon and Isabelle Depelteau, Videographers, ID Communications
Delbert Sampson, Elder
Dominque B., Former Waseskun Resident
Jean Stevenson, Elder
Joseph Moar, Specialist in Detention Environment, Cree Nation Government
Keri Thompson, Aboriginal Community Development Officer, CSC
Lorraine Spencer, Psychologist, Cree Nation Government
Roger Echaquan, Elder
Roger V., Former Waseskun Resident
Shannon Nicholas, Gladue Aftercare Caseworker, Akwesasne Community Justice Program
Solomon Wawatie, Elder
Susan Willcocks, Still Photographer
Terre des Bisons, Rawdon, QC
Veronica Johnny, Traditional Helper, IndigenED
Waseskun Residents and staff, whose efforts and spirit made the Gathering a great success!
MMIWG STONE PROJECT
by: Kenneth B.
When Normand G. (Helper) first told me about the commemoration to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, I was apprehensive because I am serving a life sentence and didn’t feel worthy to participate in a project so important. I also wanted to be respectful of those murdered and missing women and girls so that their spirits may rest peacefully. As a brother of seven sisters, I couldn’t imagine the pain if one of them were ripped from my life in such a manner. I needed time to reflect first and see how I should move forward with this tribute. After a while I decided to do a special Sweat Lodge Ceremony and ask permission from the spirits of Roxanne Charlie, Roxanne Thiara, Ruby Hardy, Sabrina Polchies, and Samantha Paul. These were among the hundreds listed, and yet somehow, I was drawn to choosing them. Their spirits told me in their way (it’s hard to explain how) that it was alright and when they ‘visited’ the Lodge that day. I was able to take a good look at who each one was as a person because the photos we received were limited in detail (small photos).
I was also able to experience their personalities and the pain they endured in their lives (which was terrible). It was a very difficult and emotional Sweat. When I went back to my room after the ceremony, I began the emotional process of portraying them on the rocks. I didn’t understand at first why we were using rocks, but I later realized that they represent the wisdom of the spirit world and have a greater understanding of the meaning of life.
When I finished the portraits, I decided to make leather cases to protect them. The rocks became a reflection of who they were. I didn’t put draw strings or snaps on the cases because I knew that the spirits didn’t want that. I can’t explain how I knew; I just did. When I presented the portraits painted on the rocks at the Rebuilding the Circle Gathering, I knew who the recipients were going to be only at the very last minute because I was getting guidance from the spirits. As I presented them, it just popped in my head to give them to people who also lost someone in the same circumstances. This was one of the hardest experiences of my life because of the connection I needed to make with their spirits in order to pay them proper respect. It was also one of the most insightful and rewarding experience because of the medicine I received from doing it.
I hope that they are all at peace now and that this somehow provided comfort to their families in a spiritual way
PROCESSING ANIMALS FOR HIDES, FUR, BONES AND MEAT
by: Stephan (Two Bears) J.
Waseskun from time to time receives animal pelts from different partners, such as the Buffalo Farm or from the Quebec Wildlife Department. This summer we received two bears, one in June and one in August, from game wardens who had to shoot and kill them as they were being a menace at a neighboring town and at a public school. When game wardens give us an animal they have shot, the time and place of the kill can be traced back to their origin, and if they are fresh, we can use the meat, skull and bones, as well as the hides. This was the case for the two bears they brought to us.
When we receive an animal or hide, the first thing we do to honour its arrival is to offer tobacco and our prayers to express gratitude for the life it gave for us. The next step is to skin the animal. Supervised by Waseskun Helpers, the residents with more experience share their knowledge and skills with those with less experience so that anyone who is interested in participating and learning can do so. Even newcomers to Waseskun can have the opportunity for this hands-on learning. Cuts are made along the length of the animal and along their limbs and then the skin is pulled off, away from the flesh of the animal. Once the skin is off, the meat is butchered, again with the more experienced guys sharing their knowhow with those with less experience. Its all about sharing and transmitting the knowledge. The process of skinning and butchering the animal takes about 3 to 4 hours.
Some of the internal organs are harvested for food, such as the heart and liver, while the kidneys, gall bladder and fat are processed for use as medicine. Nothing goes to waste! The bones are collected after all the meat has been removed and put into a pit specially for that purpose to let the bugs clean them up. Once Nature has cleaned them, many of the bones, teeth and claws can be recuperated to make tools, crafts, jewelry and traditional pipes and other ceremonial objects. A cleaned bear’s skull gets proudly displayed in a prominent place and is used in many ceremonies.
Next comes the time to work the hide. First, we need to decide on exactly what we want the hide to become, and then depending on the answer we choose the appropriate method for its preservation. The next step always involves fleshing the hide to remove any meat, fat or membrane still attached to it. Then we work the skin scraping it and stretching it while having it dry. This is done over the period of several days. Once finished, furs and pelts can be used to make jackets, boots, moccasins, mittens, hats, carpets, blankets, etc.
By using as much as possible of the animal parts we show it our respect and recognition that we have for its having given its life for us. The giving of an animal’s life is a precious and sacred as when it was living and by the fact of its sacrifice for us, so by we are honoured too.
Every individual has their own personal medicine and mine is working with hides and bones: it’s not just a task to accomplish but real therapy. I execute this undertaking with a holistic approach. When I start working with an animal’s hide or bones, I begin by asking the Creator, the Great Spirit and the animal spirit to guide my hands and actions while I work. For the connection to happen between the Spirits and myself, I must let go of all negative emotions (frustration, anger, sadness, rage) and I must empty out my heart and my mind and let the Spirit take them away; by doing so, the Spirit fills my heart with Love. This is even more important when the animal is a Bear, because it’s my Totem Animal. I carry the Spirit and Medicine of the Bear.
Whenever I finish working on an animal my mind and emotions are in a lot better state. When an animal spirit sees that you are abandoning yourself to them, they will guide you through your action: skinning, fleshing, butchering, hide tanning, and even cooking.
Let’s talk about cooking! It is often said that bear meat is hard, tough and doesn’t taste very good. Well, I had the chance to cook bear for the residents and staff of Waseskun and demonstrated that it can be very tender and delicious. The secret recipe: Respect, lots of Love, double dose of Patience; add to that carrots, celery, onions, and a little bit of water; cook for 6 to 8 hours and Bingo!!!
On August 5, the day we received our second bear this summer, was the same day that two new residents arrived at Waseskun to join our healing community. What an amazing way to reconnect to your culture to have the opportunity to skin an animal on your first day. They both expressed how happy and thankful they were for that wonderful experience.
Waseskun’s program is not only for acquiring new skills and therapy, it also gives residents pride and gratification through their new knowledge gained and allows them to live their real identity.
by: David A.
Hi, my name is Dave. I am a Plains Cree from the west. I am a new resident here at Waseskun Healing Centre. I chose to participate here for many personal reasons; so yes, I have a lot of work to do… However, being that this is my first time in a healing lodge setting I wasn’t sure what to expect or how I was going to go about learning or healing.
Then one day, one of the Helpers approached me and asked if I was interested in working on a freshly killed black bear. I was excited to do so, being that I had never cleaned or worked on a bear ever in my life. I grew up hunting deer and moose with my grandfather. To my knowledge, we never hunted bear nor had we ever eaten a bear. Not sure why …
So, I was very eager to see this bear and work on it with all the other residents and Helpers. I did have some prior knowledge of cleaning and processing animals I had hunted in the past. But this was my first time working on a bear. As I was taking the hide off the bear I began to talk to this bear in my mind and with my heart. Silently praying and giving the spirit of the bear thanks for this chance to experience working on him in a good manner. I was taught by the elders that the grandfather bear is a very powerful teacher. His medicine is courage.
So, as I worked, I continued to pray in silence, feeling a strong sense of respect and gratefulness towards my spiritual relative the bear. I found myself really connecting in prayer with this bear. Something in my spirit felt like I needed to say what I needed to say… and even as I was praying, I felt stronger and clearer. And as we all finished taking the hide off and taking off all the meat, we saved all the bones as well as the skull for spiritual reasons to be used in a good way.
The Helper had asked us to scrape and clean and treat the hide further the next day. So, we did, and I continued to pray in silence with my heart and talk to this bear, my relative. It was at this time I started to have thoughts about the past and wondered was it like this for my ancestors as they worked on the bear. Did they pray in silence, did they feel as I felt? These thoughts made me happy. And in my heart, I knew I had a repeated an action of the past that was a reminder that I will always have a strong connection with my ancestors through our relative the bear
Being open to true inner change and to face all my personal issues I had is what I came here to deal with and overcome. It felt like this is what I needed to start my healing here at Waseskun, a real-life healthy reminder to have the inner courage to look deep into my past and to talk about all those childhood pains and buried traumas. I know it’s time to let go of all those painful moments I have been holding onto and running and hiding from. My belief in the culture and all the teachings is about how I live my life and how I connect with myself in a healthy manner and with others. I figure as long as I remain open to true change, teachings will present themselves in a good way. Even though all is completed with cleaning the bear, I still pray and talk to the spirit of the bear asking for the courage to face myself and who I truly am as a person.
I am grateful to the bear spirit because it is comforting to know my relative is always with me in spirit as I continue on my healing journey. I am looking forward to our next sweat lodge ceremony. I will be able to give an offering to the grandfather bear spirit and pray. There is much to learn and grow with the teachings of the bear. I look forward to always connecting with my relative. And I give thanks for his medicine of real courage. I am looking forward to tomorrow, because I know I am going to learn something that is connected to my inner healing.
So far, my experience here has been really good. Just what I needed real courage to do real work… Thanks for looking out for us grandfather bear, you can walk with me in my heart any time.
THREE DAYS CAMPING ON THE LAND
by: Raymond B.
I was happy to go camping on the Land for 3 days in mid-August. This time away from Waseskun gave me time for myself and to spend time with other residents Normand, Pierre, and Helper Chad. To prepare, we all worked together to round up all the necessary things we were going to need for three days on the land.
Once on the land we all set up our tents and cleaned up around the land. I was elected to do all the cooking, and I didn’t mind because everybody enjoyed the meals. We sat around talking about things that made us smile. I found myself bedding down early because I am an early riser. The nights were cold but refreshing.
Since my last time camping, during last year’s Fast, I found it easy to be in the dark. There were only the animals moving around in the night. I didn’t have any bad thoughts, no bad feelings and there were no bad spirits around to scare me. I could think of good things I want to achieve in the future. I sent my girlfriend Lorraine my best for her to feel better and asked the ones that I have harmed for forgiveness. My mother and father were on my mind and I forgave them and asked them for forgiveness for what I have done. I thanked the spirits that watch over me and looked forward to the morning sun.
I woke up the other guys a little early in the morning when I started cutting up dead trees and other tress that were cut down some time ago. After breakfast we all went for a walk to the lake and Chad passed on his knowledge and answered any questions we had about plants and animal tracks. Our adventure was enjoyable but as the day passed on it got a little hot. So, we rested from time to time, then continued our walk back to the camp. I was happy to be back on the land.
It was a lot of work to be out on the land, but it does us good to get a break from the usual routine. The days are different, there is no schedule to follow, and everybody is willing to do what is asked of them.
I really enjoyed the time out, but it was good to get back for a shower and a comfortable bed.
MY IMPRESSIONS OF CAMPING
by: Pierre R.
It was the first time I went camping under a tent in the woods, and I am 67 years old. I adored this experience. For me, the night was marvelous. My brothers and I sat together and contemplated the stars and the full moon. There were shooting stars the first night.
With a nice fire, we went to sleep when we wanted, and we also got up when we wanted. But me, I am an earlier riser, so at 5 AM I was up. We ate very well as well. We took some good walks and we played a bit of badminton and frisbee.
I enjoyed this experience very much and would not say no to a future camping opportunity. I would like to thank Chad, Helper, who brought this project to Stan, Waseskun Director. I also thank Stan for having accepted this outdoor project.
OUTINGS TO THE LAND
by: Dominique B.
Waseskun’s Land Program allowed me to get back in contact with Nature, something that I had lost long ago. I was able to put into practice certain survival techniques that I learnt during my residence at Waseskun. These little adventures in Nature helped me to better heal my anxiety and to feel good in the silence and calm. They are also important for providing a change of scenery from time to time. We did a lot of different activities during our outings, including: fishing, swimming, boating, and camping. This makes for good fun!
MY FIRST SWIM IN 40 YEARS
by: Pierre R.
Les sorties sur la terre m’ont permis de reprendre contact avec la nature, quelque chose que j’avais perdu depuis longtemps. J’ai pu mettre en pratique quelques techniques de survie que j’ai appris pendant ma sejour à Waseskun. Ces petites escapades en nature m’ont aidé à plus gérer mon anxiété et être bien dans le silence et le calme. Ils sont aussi importants pour changer d’air de temps en temps. Nous avons fait beaucoup d’activités pendant nos sorties, incluant : la pêche, natation, du bateau, et camping. Ce fut très plaisant!
RESIDENT’S SUMMER PROJECT – WOODWORKING
by: Terry S.
My name is Terry. I have been a resident at Waseskun Healing Center for 7 months. During my stay I have been working on projects such as: building boxes for medicines, as well as building furniture for residents to use during outdoor programs.
Using scrap cut-offs from the sawmill which would have otherwise been discarded or burned, I began by building tables that were taken to the land and used when residents have outings.
I have found that woodworking projects, like the construction of garden furniture, contributes to my healing journey. For the chairs, I used cut-offs from the fence project. Collecting these bits of scrap reduces waste and provides residents with a supply of material to build pipes, pipe stands and other small crafts.
It is important that we do not waste the resources that Mother Earth has given us. These projects also allow many residents to heal and move forward.
by: Richard P.
My name is Richard P. I have been at Waseskun for 1 year now. In April 2019, we started to plant seeds of different vegetables, flowers and tobacco, with the help of Chad Diabo, one of our Helpers. As we do not have a green house, we had all that grown in a building on our site
We planted many kinds of vegetables, like radish, cucumbers, squashes, Jalapeno peppers, lettuce, spinach, parsley, beans, shallots, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil and sunflowers. Many said that the soil was poor, but as you can see on the pictures, everything grows very well. I must say that to maintain the garden is a lot of work. I start in the morning and finish around 16 h, and I water at sunset.
This garden brings me a lot of benefits and I am just not talking about the vegetables. When I am in the garden, I can relax and reflect more on my personal issues and on my future. As well, when something stresses me or when I get angry, I go in the garden and walk in-between the plants and I become calm again. I thank them for taking care of me and seeing them grow is their way to thank me of well taking care of them. I would like to thank the staff members for accepting to let me care for the garden. I would also like to thank my Helper Chad who brought me a picnic table, nutrients for the garden and animal repellent, etc. Each time a staff member or resident tells me that the garden is nice, I feel happy. It is the first time ever that I am caring for a vegetable garden and I would like to thank Mother Earth for the beautiful sunshine, the rain and the good vegetables that she is providing.
INTERVIEW WITH A RESIDENT
I have now been at Waseskun for two years. I have spent almost 25 years in the correctional system. I had to spend time in many Institutions, but I always followed my Native culture. I wanted to follow my culture because I felt that I was going to find the reason why I committed the fatal act that cost someone’s life. I went to a medium security Institution because the evaluation of my past showed that I was not a violent person. I started in Drummondville Institution and I didn’t know where I was going from there. Later on, when I arrived in La Macaza I was close to home and I knew I would have my family’s support. I saw that there was a Native brotherhood and I said to myself: Go! You’ll find what you need.
I thought that I’d find out the reasons behind my crime, all the abuses from my childhood, the sexual abuse. My mother and her father were Mohawk, and my father was Irish. I was the oldest in my family. My maternal grandfather didn’t like my father and I endured all the repercussions of my grandfather’s racism. But that didn’t matter, I wanted to look at my heritage without old thinking and bitterness.
I was often rejected. I am the first kid of the family. My younger brother became handicapped, so my parents had to care more for him than for me. I got to understand this later on, but at 5 years old, a little boy doesn’t comprehend these things. I ended up alone looking for attention from anyone, anytime. I quickly got into drugs and alcohol. My father and grandfather are both alcoholics. In school, I was bullied. I was the clown of the school, and the only way to get attention was to make the other kids laugh. It’s all I could do. I withdrew myself and closed up, already at my young age. The only way was to fight to express my feelings.
Two boys were always bullying and beating me up. At some point, I defended myself. The next day, they chased me, attached me to a phone pole, and put my face in spider webs. This triggered my arachnophobia. I was 9 or 10. I was unable to talk about it because I was always told to make a man of myself, to fight. If I were to tell that I cried about this, I would have been slapped. I grew up scared of repercussions, scared of expressing myself. I would get a slap for making a face to my father. My father was himself raised that way, so he did the best he could. Today, I understand, but back then I did not, and I grew up scared of everything and everyone. Over the years, I tried to work on this. The way of white people never worked for me, I felt they would only hear what they wanted to, not how I honestly felt and why. It wasn’t deep enough for me. I had other things going on in my childhood. My grandfather tried to drown me, and he’d beat me. I couldn’t trust anymore.
I got older and had two beautiful big daughters who gave me wonderful grandchildren. I try to be the grandfather I never had. I am so happy when I see them! It’s harder with my daughters. I think sometimes that they have not forgiven me, I understand, but I wouldn’t 26 want them to do as I did and become closed, without expressing how they are hurt. I always try to have them speak about it, but maybe they will have to do as I did and attend programs to learn how not to hold onto resentment. As with my grandfather, it wasn’t resentment toward human beings, it was a cry for help that I was unable to express. I didn’t find the right person to help me, and, unfortunately, someone died because of it. Over the years, I tried to understand why. I am not someone who is violent or aggressive, maybe a bit swift, somewhat insecure, but that can be worked on.
Coming to Waseskun, I had to relearn how to know myself and to manage my emotions in a healthy way, because I was doing it the wrong way since childhood, managing my thoughts with my emotions. With Waseskun’s programs, I started to understand that managing my emotions with my thoughts works much better. I can see the consequences of my actions and analyse them better. There are many things I understood from the programs. Instead of saying it’s someone else’s fault and feeling sorry for myself, I could let go of my past traumas. I still feel emotions when discussing difficult events of my life, my grandfather, the sexual abuses from my uncles, the arachnophobia, but it doesn’t overwhelm me like before. I have been a victim, but that is over, it’s time for a change. I have a beautiful life ahead of me, a great healing path.
At Waseskun, I really feel like I have received what I came looking for and I don’t want to leave for day parole anymore. People here know me. If I am a little too swift, we can work to smoothen my insecurities. People here are more receptive to my needs. I was afraid to dig inside myself. I realized, when I did dig, that I was way too scared for nothing. The correctional system and Waseskun gave me a way to live, but I was in fear of what was outside. I became comfortable. I have visits, I thought I don’t need to go out… but I realized something was missing. I need to reintegrate into society to practice what I have been learning. That’s what I do now, being on day parole at Waseskun. I try to bring my achievements, my experiences, my seven teachings, to a new level of challenge, to go further in my spirituality, my healing path.
I now understand a greater deal of my story but am still in the healing process. When I committed the deadly act, I had lost control, I really needed help. I did not find THE key, but I went a long way and I now have the means and resources to help me.
Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity
“May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.”
MEETING WITH COMMUNITIES
As part of the Rebuilding the Circle initiative, Waseskun welcomed representatives from the communities of Akwesasne and Tyendinaga, as well as the First Peoples Justice Centre of Montreal (FPJCM) on May 1. The full day of talks centered around reintegration of men released from prison and healing centres into community and urban settings. In the first part of the day, each group shared the challenges they have faced and different initiatives they have tried. The afternoon was spent exploring ways in which Waseskun can use its expertise to help to communities and community organizations facilitate successful reintegration.
It was clear throughout the discussions that healing and successful reintegration cannot be accomplished in isolation. They require the concerted effort of family, community and support organizations. The conversation centered on the importance of family, the value of healing and sharing circles within communities, the power of ceremonies and access to Elders, and the grounding effect of being able to reconnect with the land and traditional crafts. In each of these areas, Waseskun offers support through the Family Healing program, Frontline Worker training, Elder teachings and ceremonies, and the traditional craft workshops. Waseskun residents have the added advantage of the On the Land Intensive Healing program.
The visit also included a tour of the property and workshops. Waseskun provided a community feast that gave the residents an opportunity to speak with the visitors and share some of their healing journeys.
Waseskun celebrated the Change of Seasons on June 19. Unlike past solstice celebrations, the number of guests was limited, allowing an event focused tightly on the community and residents.
Residents, Helpers and staff welcomed the day with a Sunrise ceremony. Although our Elder, Dennis Nicholas, was unable to attend the ceremony, he sent greetings to the community along with special messages for specific residents. Despite his absence, Dennis’ influence was felt by everyone.
Following the ceremony, residents and staff gathered in the dining room for hearty breakfast feast prepared by our cook, Lucie, and her team of hard-working residents.
The main event of the morning was a drumming circle, lead by Helper Normand Guilbeault. Residents Darwyn, Normand L., Kenneth, Ryan, David and Adrien sang a variety of songs, and Normand G. explained each song’s meaning and significance.
Another feast was held at noon, and enjoyed by residents, staff and guests from CSC and Makivik.
Helper Byran Deer held a powerful Sweat Lodge ceremony for the residents in the afternoon, after the guests had left. The entire community was present to support the men who entered the lodge. Firekeepers Adrien and Raymond did an excellent job preparing the Grandfathers.
This year’s event was particularly significant, as it marked the arrival of a new Waseskun resident. He arrived with his Elder and ALO in time to enjoy the noon feast. Afterward, he joined the other residents in Sweat Lodge ceremony before beginning the two-day preparations for his healing journey at Waseskun.
VISIT FROM A SENATOR
by: Brian Sarwer-Foner
On July 11, 2019 Waseskun was honoured with On July 11, 2019 Waseskun was honoured with a visit from Canadian Senator, Yvonne Boyer, her daughter (a young lawyer) and two of her parliamentary support staff. Senator Boyer and her team came to meet with staff and as well, with the residents. They were given a tour of our facility when they first arrived, which they all found very interesting.
Staff members had a very fruitful meeting with them, discussing current matters at Waseskun and our vision for future projects and expansion, including the development of an educational resource centre on site. Residents honoured the visitors with some drum songs and then proceeded to openly share their experiences and views in a sharing Circle with our guests. They also gifted the visitors with medicine bags.
All and all it was a fantastic visit predominated by open and frank communications about deficiencies and needs, and the good will and caring to bring forth these concerns and have them properly addressed by governmental authorities.
VISIT FROM JOYCEVILLE TEAM TO WASESKUN
by: Brian Sarwer-Foner
From September 11-12 Waseskun received a group of 7 visitors from Joyceville Institution, including a Manager of Assessment and Intervention (MAI), an Aboriginal Community Development Officer (ACDO), 2 Aboriginal Liaison officers (ALOs), and 3 Parole Officers (POs). It was a very fruitful Encounter.
The Joyceville team arrived in time to have lunch at Waseskun after which we went directly to Waseskun’s Land in Ste. Beatrix where a few guys had just returned from camping, to get a first-hand view of the set-up. Waseskun’s Elder, Dennis and Helper, Chad gave teachings and explained to workings of Waseskun’s Land program. Upon returning to Waseskun after, there was a very interesting and informative interchange between the Joyceville visitors and some Waseskun staff members.
At the end of the afternoon, the Joyceville visitors went out with Dennis and Brian, Liaison Officer, for supper in St. Gabriel de Brandon on route to Waseskun’s 2nd centre, Mshkiki, which is used for special, events, workshops and the Rebuilding the Circle Family Healing Program. Important team bonding, brainstorming and pleasant socialization took place at Mshkiki. Dennis performed a Pipe Ceremony with the group, which was very moving.
After sleeping over and having breakfast at Mshkiki, the group returned to Waseskun where the visitors had a comprehensive tour of the facility, followed by a Sharing Circle with Waseskun residents. It was an open and nourishing exchange and all who participated felt the positive energy. The Circle ended with resident Joseph J. offering some drum songs to the Joyceville team, honouring them and wishing them safe travels. After sharing a hearty lunch, then hugs and goodbyes, the visitors departed for their journey back to Ontario.
GUEST ELDER PROGRAM * PROGRAMME DES AINÉS INVITÉS
Solomon Wawatie is Anishinabe (Algonquin) from Barriere Lake in La Verendrye Park. He grew up on the land and learned from his mother and grandmother in the traditional settlement of Kokomville. Solomon has been involved in traditional and spiritual practices for all of his life.
Solomon was a CSC Institutional Elder for several years; now he is a regular guest Elder at Waseskun to share teachings in Program and to run sweats. His goal is to help people reconnect the spirit with the body through the teaching methods.
Solomon says that when the people gather around the Sacred Fire, the Ancestors are listening, and when you hold the eagle feather during ceremony it becomes a microphone to the spirit world.
Roger Echaquan is an Atikamekw Elder from Manawan. He received teachings from when he was five years old just up to today. He was a victim of the residential schools. He works with some special teachings he calls the Star Teachings which allows people to see how the Spirit is. They also help them to be able to see what mandate the Star Spirits want for them. They allow us to dream and see the problems we have and to learn what needs to be done in the face of these problems.
Roger is a person who sees things that other people do not see. He can see for others if they let him do so. He works in this fashion. The Star Teachings are similar to how he works in the Sweat Lodge. The teachings are fluid and continue like this. He received these teachings in a dream. The goal is to truly recognize one’s own Spirit and what to do in relation to our Spirit.
The Spirit is there for us, but it is there for the present moment. If presently we have a problem, the Spirit helps us to overcome the problem so we can put it to the side. But sometimes we don’t succeed and so Roger helps people succeed in connecting with the Spirit in treatment in the present moment in order to complete the process and arrive in a state of completeness.
Ernie Herodier, a Cree Elder from Chisasibi, first came to Waseskun at the request of one of our residents who is from the same community. While the visit focused on that resident, the entire community benefited from Ernie’s teachings and the sweat lodge ceremony he held. «I heard of Waseskun in the 1990’s,» he said. ‘I’ve wanted to come here ever since.»
After 25 years as a professional musician working in bars across Canada, Ernie turned his life around when he entered an Indigenous recovery program. Later, he received teachings from David Blacksmith of Cross Lake First Nation. David told Ernie that he would help many people one day, but Ernie didn’t believe it at the time. Now, Ernie provides counselling and leads a variety of ceremonies. Each year, he is active as a piercer at Sundance ceremonies. For Ernie, the great reward for his work is seeing positive changes in someone’s life.
Waseskun would like to thank Cree Nation Government Department of Justice and Correctional Services for its cooperation and support of Ernie’s visit.
MOCCASIN MAKING WORKSHOP
Angela Moar and George Loon – For the first three days of October, Waseskun residents were fortunate to have Angela Moar and George Loon of Mistissini present a three-day, moccasin sewing workshop. Angela and George brought the materials and patterns and guided the men through the process. For many, it was their first time doing this sort of project. The activity was well-received by the residents, and everyone looks forward to having Angela and George visit again. Special thanks to Cree Nation Government Department of Justice and Correctional Services for making the workshop possible.
SAMUEL CENTRE FOR SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS
Over the summer, Waseskun residents shared their experiences and thoughts on the topic Over the summer, Waseskun residents shared their experiences and thoughts on the topic of Restorative Justice for Indigenous youth with a researcher from the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness. Shaista Asmi (seen on the left with research supervisor, Celine Thomas), prepared the report in conjunction with the Samuel Centre and Human Rights Watch. The residents who participated provided very useful and thoughtful insight, and greatly appreciated the opportunity to share their perspectives on this important topic. The final report is available online at
On September 21, Wardens from Quebec’s Wildlife Department delivered more than 20 ducks that they had confiscated from a poacher. A group of residents busied themselves with plucking the ducks to prepare and then clean them, ready to cook, for a future feast.
On September 1st, a group of 5 residents with 2 Waseskun staff went to the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kanesatake to attend their annual Pow Wow. The residents had a lot of fun watching the dancing, listening to the music, shopping at the stalls, eating food and drinking refreshing beverages from the vendors. A good day was had by all!
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1 Waseskun street
PO Box 1159
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631