Submitted by Crow Eddy. A version of this story originally appeared in The Canadian Disciple.
The shape of healing in Milton, Nova Scotia is a circle. For the past three years, Milton Christian Church has hosted a healing circle for area residents, in an effort to address past wrongs to the Mi’kmaq nation, and the present damage to both the Mi’kmaq and non-Mi’kmaq residents.
When I first attended Milton Christian Church, I was delighted to find other Mi’kmaq in the congregation. In getting to know these folks, I have heard horrifying stories of the abuses toward natives in this rural, and otherwise gentle, community. The people at the church and in the community were not responsible for these abuses, and most may not even be responsible for the hatred perpetuated toward natives. However, if a person turns a blind eye to these wrongs, are they not just as guilty? There are many ways we as a Christian community can reach out and bridge the ignorance that feeds this dark wolf.
One way being implemented in Milton is the Mi’kmaq healing circle. People from all walks of life, native or non-native, are welcome to attend. Everyone is accepted in the spirt of the Mi’kmaq ancestor’s belief that everyone is a human being, no matter what racial or national boundaries have been put upon them.
A circle begins with a drum song, the welcoming song. Everyone is then smudged. Smudging is the burning of certain herbs to cleanse those attending, and create an atmosphere of truth and honesty. Next, there is a prayer asking the Creator to walk with us on this journey, and help us to speak from our spirit.
All of us carry some damage throughout our lives, some more than others. We remember some of the hurts and losses in our lives, and others have been forgotten, buried in our subconscious to haunt the actions of our everyday lives. It is these hurts that lead to substance abuse, anger and violence, power and control issues, low self-esteem, and the inability to lead happy lives. In a circle, participants attempt to find these hurts and cast them out. We cannot forget what has happened to us, but we can give it perspective and understanding, thus overcoming it.
During the circle an eagle feather is passed around. When one is holding the feather they are the only one allowed to speak. More importantly, the others in the circle are given the responsibly of listening. Hearing the problems of others helps us to understand our own problems.
As the leader of the circle it is my task to guide the circle, not teach. I am there to take them down a path of self-discovery, based on their own needs. Native teachings are used as our vehicle to drive these discussions, and serve as the tools we carry on life’s journey.
I guide the group with the Seven Grandfather teachings and the Medicine Wheel teachings. For thousands of years these basic principles have stood to guide moral behaviour and promote social harmony among native peoples. The Seven Grandfather teachings are; Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility, and Truth. They are a nice bunch of words, but as words we read on a page they have little value. In order to make them part of who we are, we must, through discussion, look at each word individually, taking the word apart and putting it back together, in relationship to who we are.
A discussion on the Seven Grandfather teachings focuses on one word at a time. As we discuss each teaching, we begin to not only discover what each word means to us, but more importantly, discover the impact it has on our lives and the hurts we’ve suffered. We learn from listening to others’ stories how we can heal ourselves and make the changes that will put us on the good road.
It is the same with the Medicine Wheel teachings which are many. The medicine wheel is divided into four quadrants; north, east, south, and west. One Medicine Wheel teaching is the four aspects of self we try to keep in balance: Spiritual, Mental, Physical, and Emotional.
There is also the retelling of Mi’kmaq stories. These parables are intended to give an understanding of who we are in relationship with ourselves, others, and the natural world around us. In the Mi’kmaq creation story, we see the first being Glooscap encounter his grandmother, his mother, and his nephew. Through these encounters, we understand that the Grandmother represents the wisdom of the elders. The Mother represents the nurturing, love, and respect that is due women. The nephew shows us that the child is the strength of our future, who learns from what they see, putting the onus on us to lead exemplary lives, showing children how to become good adults.
The circles end with another drum song, the song of farewell. This song/prayer is to give thanks for this healing fellowship, and to end the circle with honour and respect.
After spending three years learning our traditional ways from the elders, I was told that I should now share it with others. Milton Christian Church has given me the chance to share what I have learned. It has given me the opportunity to do mission in the community, and it has given me permission to address truth and reconciliation by honouring and reviving, the traditional teachings.
The Good Road is an endless journey, a journey that, once begun, is walked our whole lives. Like all roads, there are potholes, detours, and wrong turns. It is through the teachings that we are given a map to keep us on this good road. As a Mi’kmaq and a Christian, I know I have been blessed by the Lord to find myself where I am, and doing what I am doing.
At the 2017 General Assembly, resolutions were passed to repudiate the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and recognize Canada as a traditionally underrepresented cultural community.