At Waseskun we offer several types of educational programming, including literacy and language training, computer skills and correspondence courses. Residents can take classes on the premises, accredited through Quebec’s Ministry of Education. These are offered when resources are made available through funding by either Correctional Service Canada or individual communities.
Computer courses are offered on the basic operation of computers and on using Microsoft Office. Residents are also free to take correspondence courses to further their education at the post-secondary or college levels, according to their personal aspirations. Education provided at Waseskun helps improve residents’ self-esteem and increases their employability, facilitating their successful social reintegration.
Waseskun is developing an Educational Resource Centre, named after our first President, Barbara Montour Malloch, that will provide books, DVDs and other literature to allow residents to research and learn about many subjects as well as data bases and kits for learning Indigenous languages.
Residents are encouraged to write about their experiences, learning and healing in a journal, which helps improve their literary skills. When they creatively express themselves through writing articles, stories and poems, some get published in our newsletter, The Waseskun Circle. Computer courses are offered on the basic operation of computers and on using Microsoft Office. Residents are also free to take correspondence courses to further their education at the post-‐secondary or college levels, according to their personal aspirations. Education provided at Waseskun helps improve residents’ self-esteem and increases their employability, facilitating their successful social reintegration.
Residents are encouraged to write about their experiences, learning and healing in a journal, which helps improve their literary skills. When they creatively express themselves through writing articles, stories and poems, some get published in our newsletter, The Waseskun Circle.
The information contained in this pamphlet is only an introduction and small portion of the many native teachings that exist. As teachings may vary from one region to another and from one First Nation to another, it is advisable to consult with Traditional Healers, Elders and Medicine people for more information.
THE MEDICINE WHEEL
The Medicine Wheel is a circle with a cross inside, emanating from its center. The four directions are represented by where each of the cross’ four equal lines touches the circle’s edge. Many First Nations use the medicine wheel as a model for sharing teachings about finding balance between different factors: 4 directions, 4 races, 4 seasons, 4 elements, 4 stages of life, 4 levels of being (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual), etc…
Smudging is a ritual purification by smoke, common to most of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It has been widely adopted by many non-natives. All ancient cultures burned things of various types for spiritual reasons. Native Americans use various herbs that are thought to purify a person, place or thing. A space in which a ritual is to take place is smudged with smoke, as are all the ritual instruments and the people who pass into the space.
Herbs used in smudging are typically sage, cedar or sweet grass. Herbs are typically tied up in handsized bundles called smudge sticks. Sweet grass, a tall plains grass with a sweet vanilla scent, is braided into ‘whips’. In a ritual purification, the smudge stick is lit at a flame. After a few moments, the flame is blown out and the herb continues to smolder, releasing quantities of smoke into the air. If a space is to be purified, the smudge stick is carried throughout all parts of the space. Smudging an object just entails passing the object through the smoke several times. People can be smudged by fanning the smoke over their bodies as they stand.
Native people know that everything in Creation has spirit. The plants, the trees, the water, the wind, the rocks and the mountains have spirit. The sky world, including the moon and the other planets have spirit. All of these are part of our First Family, the natural world.
The Moon is called Grandmother Moon and great respect is paid to her as she represents the femaleenergy. It is said that Grandmother Moon watches over the waters of the Earth. We see this in herregulating of the tides. Grandmother Moon controls all female life. Much of the water life spawnsaccording to the cycles of the moon. Just as Grandmother Moon watches over the waters of the Earth, itis said that women watch over the waters of the people. Water always comes before new life.
HEALERS, ELDERS OR MEDICINE PERSONS
When Healers talk about healing, they ask that the Creator and the spirits work through them to help the people. If they are asked in what way they are different, they say that the gifts they have and that they are allowed to use is what makes them different. They always express their deep gratitude for the healing powers of everything that the Creator has put here and for the spirits that do the healing. Each Healer has a purpose and that purpose is to help people. They tend not to call themselves Healers but might refer to themselves as helpers in Traditional Healing or helpers to the spirits. The help that they give is credited to the spirit that they have, the Creator, and the spirit helpers who come in many forms to assist them. They can be animals, trees, sticks, rocks, fire, water, plants and earth.
Some Healers are called Medicine People because they work with the plant medicines. They know about plants and they prepare medicines. There are special procedures for everything. If a Healer needs a powerful medicine for someone, the Healer has to find out how to get it, how to keep and store it, and how it should be used and given. One plant may have five or six different uses. The Healer may need to fast in order to learn about a particular medicine. Healers say that they are continually learning.
A Traditional Elder is someone who follows the teachings of our ancestors. It is said Traditional Elders walk and talk the good way of life. Traditional Elders teach and share the wisdom they have gained of the culture, history and language. The sharing of their wisdom is healing. An Elder does not have to be a senior but could be someone younger who has many teachings and who has earned the respect of their community by contributing to its spiritual developments.
-VISITS WITH HEALERS, ELDERS AND MEDICINE PEOPLE
When you go to a Healer, Elder or Medicine Person, be yourself, be respectful to them and to yourself. Take tobacco to give, as an offering. Tobacco is meant for that communication between you, the Healer and the Creator. The tobacco can be in any form. For example, it can be one cigarette from a pack, it can be a pack of cigarettes, it can be a pouch of tobacco or it can be loose tobacco wrapped in a small square of cloth (called a tobacco tie). Talk to the Healer or Elder, explaining why you have come to them. Refrain from taking alcohol or drugs for four days before going to a Healer.
THE FOUR SACRED MEDICINES
Traditional people say that tobacco is always first. It is used as an offering for everything and in every ceremony. “Always through tobacco,” the saying goes. Traditional tobacco was given to us so that we can communicate with the spirit world. It opens the door to allow that communication to take place. When we make an offering of tobacco, we communicate our thoughts and feelings through the tobacco as we pray for ourselves, our family, relatives and others. Tobacco has a special relationship to other plants: it is said to be the main activator of all the plant spirits. It is like the key to the ignition of a car. When you use it, all things begin to happen. Tobacco is always offered before picking medicines. When you offer tobacco to a plant and explain why you are there, that plant will let all the plants in the area know why you are coming to pick them. When you seek the help and advice of an Elder, Healer or Medicine Person, and give your offering of tobacco, they know that a request may be made as tobacco is so sacred. We express our gratitude for the help the spirits give us through our offering of tobacco. It is put down as an offering of thanks to the First Family, the natural world, after a fast. Traditional people make an offering of tobacco each day when the sun comes up.
Sage is used to prepare people for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than sweetgrass, it tends to be used more often in ceremonies. It is used for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy. Sage is also used for cleansing homes and sacred items. It also has other medicinal uses.
Like sage and sweetgrass, cedar is used to purify the home. It also has many restorative medicinal uses. Cedar baths are healing. When cedar is put in the fire with tobacco, it crackles. When it does this, it is calling the attention of the spirits to the offering that is being made. Cedar is used in fasting and sweat lodge ceremonies as a form of protection: cedar branches cover the floor of the sweat lodge and a circle of cedar surrounds the faster’s lodge.
Sweet grass is the sacred hair of Mother Earth. Its sweet aroma reminds people of the gentleness, love and kindness she has for the people. When sweet grass is used in a healing circle, it has a calming effect. Like sage and cedar, sweet grass is used for smudging and purification.
Fasting is one of the many ceremonies that have been practiced in First Nations communities for thousands of years. In the past, the Elders of a community would take the young people out to fast in order to help them find their direction in life. Today, as our cultural traditions and ways of healing are being revived in our communities, more Native people are seeking answers through the ceremony of fasting. Everything you see on a fast is important, even the little bugs around your fasting area. You may find yourself feeling closer to the sky world than you have ever felt before when the sacred light from the moon and the stars brightens the night sky. You may gain an increased awareness of the beauty of the natural world, our First Family. Your dreams and visions are all part of the journey. It is said that fasting bring you closer to the spirit world and that your spirit wakes up when you are on a fast. You may feel that the questions you were asking have been answered.
If you are on a healing journey, the Sweat Lodge is a good place to begin because when you are sitting in a sweat lodge, you are at the center of the Four Directions. The sweat lodge ceremony forms part of the ceremonial life of many First Nations. Even within one territory, there may be differences in the way the ceremony is conducted. The Sweat Lodge has been called “the most powerful structure in the world”. It is a place especially constructed to conduct ceremony. Sweats vary from purification and cleansing to healing. A sweat lodge is a dome-shaped structure. When people talk about the lodge they talk about entering the womb of Mother Earth. It is a sacred place. It is said that the Sweat Lodge ceremony “responds” to what the participants need.
A long time ago, before humans inhabited this world, it is said that the clans were already here. Before the humans arrived, the animals, fish and birds were told by the Creator that humans were coming and that these humans wouldn’t have anything and would be pitiful. So each of the animals, fish and birds said, “We will take care of them and show them how to live in harmony with all of Creation. We will sacrifice ourselves as food so they won’t starve and we will supply them with our skins so they will be warm. We will teach them what medicines and ceremonies to use to heal themselves.”
These clans are still with Native people today.
Your clan is with you from the day you are born. It is said that your clan walks with you and looks after you. Your clan takes care of you so that you don’t have to go through life without help and protection. The spirit of your clan is for you to use because you are a member of that clan; you always offer tobacco when you ask your clan for help. Each clan has its own duties and responsibilities.