Forgive them

Dear editor:
As a mother, and an education counsellor, my concern for the education of our children is very important to me.
After hearing about the gas leak and fire at one of our local schools on Feb. 28, I knew something had to be done to stop the hurt and the pain we inflict on one another through racism, discrimination, and whatever ugly word you want to put on the way we treat each other.
I met with a few elders and told them how I was feeling. Because I was away at a conference when this happened, I felt very much helpless.
I spoke with the elder who was there, who also is one of my teachers of the Anishinaabe way of life. I told her I was feeling like something had to be done, but I didn’t know what.
She agreed with me and told me that I would find out. I told her I needed to go home and she agreed.
As I was driving home, I kept thinking about what was going on at home and how many of our young children were now being affected by this. I had to do something.
When I got home, I called the elder I go to with all my thought and feelings. I told him what I was feeling and told him that I knew that something had to be done. He agreed and asked me what I was going to do.
I told him I thought a healing ceremony needed to be done for everyone to allow us to move forward and begin this new learning process that was started. He agreed, and told me to start planning it.
I went to work the next morning and spoke to my supervisor and co-worker about it. My supervisor quickly called the band manager and told him what I had said. He gave the go-ahead and offered the use of the multi-use building to hold the ceremony in.
The wheels were in motion.
I didn’t know if I could pull it off, but I knew that the Creator has never let me down in the past and I was positive that this also was meant to be.
Well, the ceremony was held last Tuesday (March 4) and was a huge success. There were about 100 people who attended and participated.
The chief of Couchiching, Chuck McPherson, started by welcoming everyone to the community and the day progressed from there. Many people were asked to speak from both the native and non-native communities.
There was an honour song done for the youth after they spoke of forgiveness towards each other. There was a special ceremony of forgiveness done for the girls and their families. The wrong that was done was corrected through a special ceremony directed by an elder from Lac La Croix First Nation, where the girls and their families danced and everyone joined them in support of their forgiveness and for correcting their mistake.
This was followed by a special that was done where an eagle feather was presented to Mr. McMaster that came through a dream that I had. This sacred feather is meant to help him with the healing and the new way of learning that needs to take place within the education system.
There was a giveaway done where all participated. We came together as one and learned from each other. The day was ended with a feast and socializing with each other.
While speaking with some of the parents of the girls, I noticed that Mr. McMaster was speaking with them. The girls looked upset and I asked what was going on. One of the mother’s told me they were asking him if they could join their team on the bench at their last home game.
I went over to where they were standing and asked if I could interrupt their conversation. I asked Mr. McMaster to please allow them to rejoin their team as they were forgiven here today and the wrong that they did was corrected.
They should be given a second chance.
That was when I received another teaching that I am sitting here struggling with as I write this letter. I guess I am not as informed of the non-native culture as I thought I was.
He said he couldn’t allow them to participate in their last home game because he didn’t feel they had learned their lesson yet. He said he wasn’t ready to forgive them yet, and that he felt they needed to do more in order to learn their lesson.
I am confused and left to wonder how much more suffering and pain does he, or the non-native society in general, want to see inflicted on these girls and their families before they (school board and administration) forgive them?
This is a question I can’t answer.
I am proud of our Anishinaabe people, our way of life, and the teachings of our grandfathers. We were provided with the gift of forgiveness and a way to heal from situations like this. I am proud of our youth and their ability to stand strong.
In the view of the Anishinaabe people as guided by the elders that were present at this healing ceremony, we have done what we needed to do in order to correct this mistake and move on with life.
My prayers will continue for the girls and their families that some day soon their pain and suffering will end. I will continue to pray that those in the decision-making positions open their hearts and minds to a new way of learning.
I will continue to pray for Mr. McMaster and hope that some day he learns the significance of the feather he was given and start working towards making positive changes to our education system.
Joanne Bruyere
(with support of my
Anishinaabe elder and
advisor Gilbert Smith)