Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ceremonies: Celebrating Cree Culture

By Manna Sainju, 1st year MDP student

My experiences at Blue Quills has shown me another way to look at life. The Indigenous culture lays a path for living with a consciousness towards nature, and in a subtle way defining our position and responsibilities as human beings in this cosmos. Through the ceremonies, the Indigenous people accept the spiritual dimension of existence and attempts to align material needs to create a balance.

By promoting the retention of culture and ceremony, the fervent effort of Blue Quills First Nations College to protect and sustain this worldview can only be seen as an invaluable contribution to humanity.  I am very happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of this effort. I hope my little contributions in developing workshop curricula and research on literature related to Indigenous women’s economic security may add to the implementation of the vision of this institution.

Sweat Lodge at Saddle Lake Cree Nation Reserve
I am extremely privileged to have attended ceremonies hosted at the College. To be honest, I had always been resistant to cultural ceremonies back in Nepal, however my experiences at Blue Quills have flipped my view. Now I think that ceremonies, the like of which I have seen and experienced, go a far way in bringing harmony to communities. They show a pure way of celebrating and being thankful for everything in life. 

The Sweat Lodge ceremony on Saddle Lake reserve was a unique experience for me. The concept behind the ritual was to feel ourselves within our Mother Earth’s womb, to be cleansed and healed. The experience of spiritual rituals, though difficult to explain, leaves one with a feeling of being whole.

On our final day of the placement, as luck would have it, we got the opportunity to participate in a berry/clan ceremony. We prayed together for the fasters who would be fasting for the next four days as they committed themselves to search for answers and directions for their lives by staying close to nature and seeking guidance from the ancestors. As the ceremony went into midnight, we could see bright stars from the opening at the Tipi top. It was a beautiful experience.  

Dulce (R) & Manna (L) at Healing Walk, Tar Sands
The Indigenous culture, I have learned, places utmost respect to ancestors. Although it is difficult for modern society to accept that ancestors actually descend in spirit forms to guide us; going beyond our own experiences and reflecting deeply about the lives and experience of our ancestors can enlighten us about our own present conditions and give us confidence and strength to chart our future courses. This power of a reflective mind cannot be undermined and ceremonies, such as the berry-clan ceremony is a means to harness the mind’s potential.

 In conclusion, I would like to thank all the folks at the College for giving me a home for the last three months. Also, my stay would not have had such charm were it not for Dulce, my fellow MDP student, in whom I found a wonderful friend with memories that will last a lifetime.

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