Today the honorees, their parents, 5 Elders and the leadership team at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission boarded an early morning bus for Turtle Lodge. It was a 90 minute journey. When we arrived we were welcomed by the local Elders and soon after witnessed a Sacred Water and Sacred Pipe Ceremony. During the Ceremony one Elder spoke passionately about what the land can do. He referenced that since Indigenous Peoples had not been free to practice their traditions the whole world had suffered as generations of people treated the Earth less as a sacred gift and more as a disposable resource. The result, we were reminded by the Elder, was not only the obvious destruction of species and polluting of the air and sea but also removing humans from the greatest source of healing, the land. Over and over the Elder spoke about what being in nature can do for our soul, our spirit.
In particular the Elder told us a young group of men had recently gone out on the land for days of fasting. Many of these men were carrying heavy burdens but the land lifted this weight, gave them wisdom and most importantly offered visions. These visions were later shared with Elders, who listen and reflected, cautioned and encouraged. This process of openly confronting one’s pain, going to the land, receiving a vision and testing it with wise Elders was an example of what we as a society have lost with Indigenous Peoples unable to practice their spirituality.
The healing of Indigenous people, the healing of all hurting peoples, can come from the land, beginning with a vision, further leads to a renewed purpose. It was obvious that the reason these young honorees were present at Turtle Lodge was to ask them what visions or images they see and how that can be part of a larger purpose of healing. Over and over the Elders asked the young people to ensure that their visions be more than words, that it be rooted in concrete actions.
To help the young people get to a link between their visions and future actions they were aided by an amazing young community activist named Michael Redhead Champagne. Michael founded a movement that offers young people an alternative to gangs and violence and addiction in Winnipeg’s North End. His work has dramatically reduced violence and increased community spirit. Michael spent quality time with Lucy and the other honorees helping to forge commitments.
I have always been moved by visionaries and doers, I find visionaries who never follow through on their dreams frustrating and doers who rarely reflect on their manic action to be like persons who dig a hole and then fill it in again. In order to be a difference maker one must see the big picture and one must act. But what I have learned from Indigenous Peoples is that the land carries the possibility of healing in a broken world. I resonated with the Elder when he talked about the land connecting us to visions. Every single imaginative idea that has come to me has come in the midst of the land. Healing has also come on the land and when I speak to parishioners walking with grief or pain or hurt or loss their connection to the land is always a critical step to renewed faith in a path forward.
Turtle Lodge is a healing and sacred place.