By Grace Jones, Abby Willms andBailey Brockman
This week was full of learning and engaging in culture. We had the privilege of being welcomed into several sacred ceremonies such as the pipe ceremony, smudging, and a sweat lodge. Our host for the week was Colleen – she made us feel welcome and introduced us to several sacred grounds. She also shared with us some of her personal journey – talking about her experience at residential school and how that has shaped her life since. We had the opportunity to interact with four generations throughout our stay on the reserve – each offering a different perspective and different insight into life in Roseau River. The eldest of the four generations was Peter who taught us the history of colonialism as well as origin stories of creation, the sweat lodge, language and the clan systems.
Not only did they offer us their wisdom and stories, they also extended incredible hospitality as they prepared daily meals for us and welcomed us to stay overnight in one of their lodges – this was the first time an Outtatown group has stayed on the reserve. The idea of being offered forgiveness and unity despite broken relationships and past injustice towards Indigenous peoples was something that impacted and inspired the group. Many hearts were touched by their hospitality and kindness and were inspired to show such kindness in our future interactions.
Listening to the stories of several residential school survivors was a powerful and heartbreaking experience that changed our perception of Canada’s history. All coming in with different knowledge, backgrounds, and views on reserve life, hearing firsthand stories challenged some preconceived notions. While some of the realities that indigenous people face are heartbreakingly unjust, the resilience and wisdom we saw was inspiring and displayed the strength of the community and cultures foundation. As Peter’s story came to a close, he spoke of what the word reconciliation means to him and what it would take to begin to heal. This lead to several group members feeling called to express heartfelt apologies on behalf of themselves and those they felt they represented in the colonial narrative. This was an emotional time and one of connectedness.
The combination of participating in ceremony, listening to elders, and witnessing such kindness and hospitality moved us and touched our hearts deeply. Overall, this culture has so much to offer and has so many great life lessons for all nations. It deserves to be practiced and preserved. Many misconceptions were put to rest and truth was found in the beauty of the culture.
It was an honour to be welcomed into the Anishinabe community of Roseau River – we will cherish their culture, kindness and teachings which have allowed us to learn and grow in incredible ways.