Ceremony held to begin healing

In response to the controversial situation stemming from an Internet-posted video disrespecting the traditional pow-wow, Couchiching First Nation hosted a healing ceremony at its multi-use facility yesterday.
Co-organizer Gilbert Smith explained the purpose of the ceremony was for both sides to come together to begin to heal as one community.
The video, which surfaced on the Internet in mid-February, depicted six Fort Frances High School students dancing to the sounds of a pow-wow while acting drunk and holding liquor bottles.
The six individuals, along with members of the Rainy River District School Board, political representatives, and First Nation residents, were among those who participated in yesterday’s healing ceremony.
“We’re proud and honoured to see so many people out here today,” co-organizer Joanne Bruyere said as she began the session.
She acknowledged the drums, pipes, features, and sacred medicine which played a significant role in the ceremony.
Then she explained how this particular healing ceremony came to be.
Bruyere described the questions that came to mind when she first viewed to video and that the First Nations students were removed from the high school so things wouldn’t escalate.
“We brought them here and spent an hour talking and sharing with them. And we asked them to be strong people,” she said, noting some returned to school while those who didn’t had been asked to control their behaviour.
Most of the students had returned to school following the long weekend.
Even though the video was not made within the school system, the school board played a role in disciplining the six individuals, who were members of the Muskie girls’ hockey team.
Many meetings were held between the school board, parents, and students—both native and non-native.
“But I still felt we need to do something to start bridging the gaps that have been there for a very long time,” Bruyere stressed. “I knew there was more I had to do—I had to organize this healing ceremony.
“I do believe some good can come out of the situation,” she added.
The whole day was set aside for the healing ceremony so it wouldn’t have to be rushed.
It began around 10 a.m. with drumming, followed by a prayers and some native dancing.
Bruyere explained during the ceremony that elders would be called upon to provide teachings about the tobacco offered, as well as the medicines used, such as sage, sweetgrass, and cedar.
John Rafferty was set to speak on behalf of NDP leader Howard Hampton, and members of the community were encouraged to share their feelings and to begin a healing dialogue.
As a traditional healing ceremony, attendees were asked to bring a gift of offering. And a feast was held to end the day.
“We want to maintain a partnership,” Smith remarked. “We want the healing to begin and we have to learn from one another.”