On June 3-4 in Chisasibi, the Nishiiyuu team hosted two days of sharing, reflection and Ceremony to kick off planning for a 2020 regional assembly on integrating Eeyou/Eenou healing methods into CBHSSJB services, alongside clinical services that follow the Western medical model.
The planning and envisioning meeting included sharing of spiritual teachings and Ceremonies such as the Tobacco Offering, Sacred Pipe, Drum Ceremony, Sweat Lodge, and Walking Out and First Moon Rites of Passage. First Moon is a celebration of a girl’s transition into womanhood. In keeping with the aim of awakening traditions, part of the meeting took place in a shaptuan, women wore ribbon skirts, and traditional food was served.
Nishiiyuu is the group within the CBHSSJB that leads the integration of Eeyou/Eenou culture into services. The team has the mandate to organize the Gathering of Knowledge and Wisdom Keepers, "Nistuupitau Amousjinimikw Dabeeyouitimuun" in April 2020. The event will be the third regional assembly on health and social services hosted by the CBHSSJB recent years. Previous assemblies in 2016 and 2018 helped the Cree Health Board establish its current strategic direction and way of working with partners. The CBHSSJB’s aim in devoting its biennial regional assembly to traditional healing is to accelerate the fulfilment of a key aspect of its mission since the organization was founded in 1978: to offer health and social services that reflect Eeyou/Eenou knowledge, culture, language and values.
Members of the Nishiiyuu Council of Elders and Chisasibi Elders were present at the planning session, along with CBHSSJB senior management including the Chairperson Bella M. Petawabano and Executive Director Daniel St-Amour. Other guests included former Chairperson Diane Reid and former Grand Chief Matthew Mukash. The discussions build on work already done in this area, such as integrating Eeyou/Eenou teachings into midwifery services, research on beneficial plants, and the use of land-based programs to address trauma and addiction.
Looking forward to the next steps, the Nishiiyuu team plan to tour the communities to get local feedback on the direction they are taking. A literature review is underway, and the group is also looking across the country and the world to find successful examples of health systems that have integrated Indigenous healing into their services. The aim is for the Nishiiyuu team to come to the Regional assembly in the spring of 2020 with a clear idea of the approaches that are working. The Gathering of Knowledge and Wisdom Keepers will also be an opportunity to continue Nishiiyuu’s ongoing work: to document the quickly disappearing Elders’ knowledge of Eeyou/Eenou medicines and healing approaches, including their connection to long-suppressed spiritual traditions.
The participants were honoured by the presence of Arvol Looking Horse, the globally recognized spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people, 19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle, and his wife Paula, a Dakota singer and artist. The couple travelled to Chisasibi to be part of the two-day gathering. Both talked about reclaiming Indigenous Ceremony, visions and history, and shared the spiritual teachings of their People as well as insights from a lifetime of involvement in the American Indian and environmental justice movements.
Mel Chartrand from Eyaa-Keen Healing Centre in Saskatchewan shared the successful experience of the centre based on traditional healing that he co-founded with his wife Shirley.
For more information about the upcoming Gathering of Knowledge and Wisdom Keepers, contact Grace Ortepi, 819-855-2744.
Photo: T. Philiptchenko.