Monday, June 4, 2012

Suicide Surviors Gathering opens my eyes

We had our Circle of Life Gathering this past week. The Gathering was held for the third year. We are trying to hold it for four years. The Gathering is a place for people to come and speak about the consequences of suicide; the promise of some healing; and the loss we mourn.

You know its something to be a part of an event like the Gathering. We talk to people, we ask for help and we do many things to make sure we can feed people, have people to listen to and have some Ceremony for good feelings.

I have trouble in my head at the Gatherings. I am not sure why. I get upset, angry and have to really control my thinking. Try to just get through the day. Last year it was cups on the floor that got me upset. I swore at people to "pick up a fucking cup". This year Don and David told me not go and swear at anyone. I did good and did not get upset with anyone. Only some guy was taking a pee on the side of Thunderbird House. I was outside visiting my cousin Debbie and she saw him and she was upset at that. So I started yelling at the guy, "what the heck you doing?" He just walked away. To me that is a big symbol of what is wrong with our people sometimes. We literally shit and piss on ourselves. I know the building is just a building. Really it is not. It is a symbol as well. It is a symbol of what we need to embrace. We need to be happy and proud of our heritage. We need a place like Thunderbird House. It houses our people when we send them on Their way. Wakes are held at the Thunderbird House. We have the building and it is there so we can go and pray there, have Ceremony there. And than we come along and piss on it. What does that say about us? I told the story before about how this one guy in our Reserve took a shit at the base of the Sun Dance Tree. We literally shit on ourselves. Last week I saw pictures on the internet of this Sweat Lodge that got burned up by people in a community/Reserve that was opposed to prayer. At least that kind of prayer. We don't see people going around burning the Churches in the communities. So what gives? How can a Sweat Lodge threaten the Christian community in the Reserve? I would never ever go pee on the side of a Church building, not because I hold it in reverence, but because it is just not right. Same thing with burning down a Sweat Lodge our peeing on Thunderbird House, its just not right. The Thunderbird House is located at the intersection of Main Street and Higgins Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This area is the start of the North End of the city. Not a very rich neighbourhood. Lot of poor people and home to many Natives. The ground area of the Thunderbird House is a regular drinking place for people.

I was thinking about these things because I was upset at the Gathering and I wasn't sure why. My brother told me to just accept things. "People who need to be at the Gathering will be there". Not to worry about who comes and who does not. I was upset that no one from our Reserve came to the Gathering other than a few of my close relatives. My cousins that live in the City came out to the Gathering. Three of my cousins came to the  Gathering; Ernest, Frank and Sheryl Daniels (now Blacksmith). Ernest was cool. He is recovering from heart surgery. He came and spoke to the people. He said "you have to be genuine, not be phoney, people don't like that kind of shit". He was referring to when you work for the people. He made me smile. Frankie came and donated items from him & Chantal for the Give Away Ceremony. Sheryl was there to speak and to run the Give Away Ceremony. So why the heck was I upset? We have had our share off suicides in the Reserve. Seems that it happens and than what? I guess there is nothing that can be done or its accepted?

Don asked me again to think about the Why, why do we do the Gathering? I thought about it and came to the realization about the why. You see if we know the why than we can go about and do it. I really had to think about it, why the Gathering? Is it to help people? Is it to educate the uneducated about suicide? Good reasons, but don't think that is the why.

It is not altruistic reasons. I know I have been pretty selfish in my thinking. I want people to understand my pain. I want people to know my Boy. That's what I want. I want him to matter. That's the why. I want my Boy alive. And I want people to know that I love him.

But you know what I know. I know we are surrounded by good people. My wife and her family supported so much. Suz's friends continue to show their love for her. They take time off work to come out and help. Annette's Dad was taken to hospital that first night. She was up all night, and still come to drop off some food the next day and back to the hospital. So all the people, my wife, my in-laws, my family, my cousins and our friends were there for us. That is what the Gathering is about. Meeting new friends and seeing old friends. Keeping our Boy alive.

But you know it does make me feel bad as well. With the Gathering we put burden (even if they think not) on our family and friends. They come out and work hard, Give their time, loss pay from work, and many times do not get the thanks they should be getting. We burden the community with asking them to support with donations of food, cash or tobacco. It is something to think about if we are thinking of continuing that journey of one more year.

We could not do the Gathering without help and this year we got a lot of support:

Circle of Life Gathering: Healing Our Grief – Survivors of Suicide 2012
Kitchi-Miigwich to Our Supporters. A very big Thank you for your support and kindness.

We are very grateful for the people that are helping us. Without you, we would not be successful in reaching out through the Gathering. We know that there is a great demand for support from many people out there. We are sincerely honoured that you have given us your support. There are many worthwhile and well established causes and organizations out there with proven records of assisting others. It would be understandable that support should be lent to those with broader experience. Thank you for putting your faith in us to do right and work for the people. We  see that people are generous and are always giving, but we realize that there could be donation fatigue, due to the enormous need and requests of help. You decided to help our cause and we cannot express enough how much that means to us. We will do right by you and for the people.

Thank you:

Penner Oil:  “Penner Oil (Larry Penner Enterprises Inc.) has been in business for over 20 years as a wholesale distributor of petroleum products. The primary business of the company is sales and distribution of gasoline & diesel fuel and oil products in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario. Our customers are mostly rural, and range from service stations, bulk fuel dealers and farmers, to First Nation gasoline stations on outlying reserves as well as urban reserve stations.”

MPI: Manitoba Public Insurance: Manitoba Public Insurance is a non-profit Crown Corporation that has provided basic automobile coverage since 1971. Our services are available throughout Manitoba in claim centres and Customer Service centres.

Hugh Munroe Construction

Founded in 1959, the Munro Group of Companies (MGC) provides excavation and heavy construction services. MGC operates as a heavy construction contractor… Hugh Munro - Founder
1959 – 2008
As a young man Hugh Munro started his business in 1959, the year his daughter was born. He operated his one piece of equipment by himself. Each year the company progressed until, in 1979, Hugh incorporated his business.

Arboc Smoke Shop & Gas Bar is a full service gas bar and convenience store in Headingley Manitoba. We are 100% Aboriginal owned and operated, and have been in business since November 2006. We are located on Swan Lake First Nation land.  We offer an 11.5¢ per litre discount on gas to registered customers with treaty status. Registered First Nations customers do not pay GST or PST on their purchases at the store.

Circle of Life - Thunderbird House: Stephanie Eyolfson Executive Director: “We believe in the seven sacred teachings as the path to leading a good life: respect, love, courage, humility,
honesty, wisdom and truth.”

CTV News, On Nov. 12, 1960, CTV Winnipeg launched under the call sign CJAY-TV.  In 1961, CJAY formed an alliance with other television stations across Canada to become part owner of the newly created CTV Network, a national system offering a broader spectrum of programming and news opportunities for Canada. The first privately owned television station in Winnipeg, CTV Winnipeg now provides service to more than 95 per cent of Manitoba and offers viewers the most-watched newscasts in the province and top-rated entertainment and sports programming…

Manitoba Hydro: At Manitoba Hydro, serving the communities where we live and work is a strong part of our corporate culture and history. Our historical community roots are built on a legacy of over 50 years of providing a highly reliable, efficient and renewable hydroelectric generating system to serve Manitobans. In this section, find out what local programs we offer to help your community, our unique partnership with Aboriginal communities and our programs to support education in the province.

Here are a few more individuals that have and continue to support the Circle of Life Gatherings.

David & Sheryl Blacksmith: Edwin Twoheart: Corrine Kennedy: Arlene Patzer: Al & Rita Spence: Annette & Lauran & Leslie Dugas: Susan Courchene: Barb Nicole: April Kakapetum: Cheryl James: Teekcas Aboriginal Boutique, Native Addictions Council of Manitoba, Don Courchene, Peter Kinew, Steve Courchene, Larry Solider, Larry Penner, Sally & Ron McDonald: Mitch Boubennier Denise Everett,  Heather Dobson Connie Buck: Margaret and Jules Lavalle, Jessica Burton, Compassionate Friends of Winnipeg, Chickadee Richards, Stephanie Eyolfson, Nation Talk, CTV News, Billie Schibler, Oliver Boulette, Laura Sanderson, Gerald Folster, Don Robson, JT Turner, Ernest Daniels Sr & Jr. Bertha Fontaine, Barry Fontaine: Frank & Chantal Daniels: And many more.

Sorry we did not list you all, but you know we appreciate your support and help.


  1. Steve I thought of You when I went to the Wisdom Keepers gathering then again when we went to the resturant I saw a poster for the Circle of Life gathering .
    I really thought of attending too but I was honestly so tired from driving and having visitors for the Wisdom Keepers .but Steve maybe I am just a mum , a homemaker but I know about your son because of Your blog . I know your journey and struggle others have gone through because you take the time to share . it may not seem like much but if your sharing touches , helps one person , that has to be a good thing . I've lost two friends and a cousin to suicide , no children of mine buso I can't even begin to imagine the loss for a parent . it is the worst pain I think it must be because we've been close to loosing a child via illness and it was terrifing .
    so with you sharing we do know your pain in some way and as a Mum & parent have such sorrow for you and your family .
    My eldest son loves thunderbird house , it is his connection to going back to who he is when the rush of school , downtown , looking for work all build up , he can go to the sweat and share , laugh , be himself . it has led him to want to learn more .I get mad too and its okay to get mad when we see others harming their own . the party house where a woman was killed continued partying 5 days later as if nothing had happened . it made me so mad . there are ways to handle situations . I think telling someone to go pee in the bush across the road rather then on the house is fine , maybe they didn't even think about unless you spoke up . my nieghbours , well I'm not going to speak up when they are partying because frankly I might get stabbed but when they are sober I can remind them my kid is sleeping and his window faces the street they are out yelling and swearing on .
    anyway I just wanted you to know ordinary people do learn and read your blog and your sharing is worth something .Thanks for all You do ♥

  2. There were other people from Sagkeeng there. Maybe you don't know them, maybe they were there at the times when you weren't, maybe your frustration blinded you to their presence. But they were there.