Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Spectator View Of Sundance Ceremony

Just came from the Sundance Ceremony in Spruce Woods, Manitoba Canada. If you have never been, put that on your bucket list. It is not an event, it is a Spiritual journey. There is so much prayer and healing going on that you can't help but feel thankful for Life. Not going to go all preachy here, just saying it is a good place with plenty of good feelings.
Sundance Lodge complete with Flags. End of Ceremony

I was a spectator at the Sundance, so I watched, took pictures (no pictures of certain personal sacrifices) and visited somewhat. I got heck only twice this time around. Usually I am breaking all sorts of rules and protocols at Ceremony. People tell me I am a "paajhak". It kind of means I am a jerk. You know it could mean jerk in the good natured way, but also jerk in that arsehole way as well. So that's me, the paajhak. (Remember about being a "jerk" is all about context.)  I'm that guy that walks in and just goes to the front and says "what's going on? I  got here late".  I go be nosey at other people's personal space.  This Woman gave me heck for spotting a light into the Women's stalls at night. I was trying to get the attention of my daughter that was in the First Year Sundancer section of the Women's stall.  I shouldn't have been doing that, it was disrespectful and kind of creepy if I think about it-some old guy looking in on young women.  The other time I got heck, was when this older woman came up to me and said "you're the guy taking all those pictures?".  I said "yes".  She said she didn't like that, filming ceremony. I said I will stop if she wanted me to. She said "no, that's fine".  Guess she just wanted to tell me her feelings.

Tent for Ceremony meeting.
I watched as they put up a meeting tent for the first night of Ceremony. It is a big tipi style tent. Many people worked really hard to make sure the grounds were clean and that the tent was solid and up in time for meeting. That means coming out early for set up. All volunteer workers for the benefit of guys like me that just hang around visiting. That was something to see. Many of the men and women just came out there to work. To support the Sundance and all the people taking part. What selfless way to be. Someday I could try and give of myself.  I saw this guy cutting logs all day, and another person was chopping the wood into smaller pieces for fire wood. At five in the morning I went to watch the Dancers as they were greeting the Sun, this same guy was chopping wood. Some other people stayed up all night to keep the Sacred Fire going, they did this for the Four Days. Many people brought out food to feed the First Feast and the last Day Feast. Man I tell you it takes much people to make it happen. A few guys did Sweat Lodge Ceremony
2 Sweat Lodge were there for the many People.
for the people. People gathered rocks (Grandfathers) for the Sweats, made medicine, and put up the lodges. Others cut the Trees for the Sundance Lodge itself. Lot of people doing many different tasks and chores. There was this guy  who drove around everyday with his truck to pick up garbage. Campers would put the waste into bags and the truck would come by and collect the trash. Other people hauled trailer and truck loads of supplies for the Ceremony: tarps, poles, tools, camping gear, food, stoves, freezers, Ceremonial items. We don't really appreciate what it takes to have Ceremony for people. We just show up with maybe a tobacco pouch or some cloth and expect everything to be there for us. So I say as a spectator, I do appreciate what all of you Supporters, Volunteers, Dancers and Ceremonial Helpers, and the Sundance Chief do for the community and for the people. I say "mino pimatisin" - Good Life for you.

When it was all done, the Give-aways, the Dancing out and the Feast were done, it was time to get the camp packed and off we go.
Camping is easy for some of us. Just drive up.

Not for the Sundance Chief, the Ceremony Helpers, The Volunteers, the Supporters. They will stay and clean up, take down the tents, pick up the tarps, pick up loose trash, pick up cigarette butts that have been carelessly thrown around the grounds.  Many of thes helpers are the ones who back home work for the people in different capcities. Some are directors of organizations, Teachers, some are Sergeants in the Airforce, some are social workers, construction workers, polticial advisors,Cultural advisors, police officers, politicians, nurses, health directors, Chiefs of their community, Councilors in their communities, and so on. But they are the ones, who will stop as they are walking around and pick up someone else's trash that is laying around the grounds.The next week will see the Sundance Chief, his wife, his kids, and his friends, going back to the grounds and walking along the grounds making sure it is clean. They will also take the Prayer cloth & Flags  full of prayers out and do Ceremony to complete the Sundance while all of us are back home from a beautiful camp out.

Sudance Chief hugging Dancers as they leave stalls. Along with prayer flags.

Its funny because many of us see these guys and girls as "big shots". We say the usually bad stuff; "oh they think they're good". We see the young women helpers all "dolled up" and say "Hey they must be in a pageant". We silently wonder how come they get to stand up there in the front. How come they get to sing at the drum. How come they get Sundance ceremony? We don't see how hard they work. How committed they are to trying to make things good for the People. That what's it all about. It's not a calling for everyone that is for sure. Many times it's full of people giving you grief, hardship, complaints, anger, saddness, critic, and name calling. So why do they do it? The people that sacrifice for others?
A few of the many Helpers. Oshkaabewis
These are the people that make sure you are safe; that there is wood for the Ceremony; to make sure there are Healers present to help you; to make sure there is First Aid; to make sure that the Fire never goes out-rain or shine; that make sure there are rocks (Grandfathers for the Sweat); that make sure the garbage gets picked up; to make sure the Ceremony has what it needs. These are the volunteers, the Helpers who do it for the people.

I had some very good visits at the Sundance. While people were working, while others were fasting and sacrificing, I was visiting, having snacks, drinking tea, listening to music, going on the cell phone. Yeah, I was just a visitor, a tourist, a nosey bugger, a paajhak.

I had a chance to visit my cousin. We talked about some of the Non-Native folk at the Sundance. How they work so hard for the Ceremony. How some come from another world to be here with the People. How some of our own can't go down the road to be with the People. How some of them have been coming for years to the Ceremony, and not just being tourists, but working and working hard. He said "it's funny how we don't recognize our own, but outsiders see what we don't".
2 Indians and a Belgian.  Dancers

I was in awe at the amount of families that were there. The little ones, playing visiting, singing and dancing. The Sundance Chief even has a Ceremony for the Little children to take part in. It is a beautiful thing to remember and acknowledge the kids. We say it so many times, "what about the children?". Here the children are embraced.  I saw my grandson sitting with a can singing a song, banging on the can like a drum. Can you imagine how good that is? Just a little bit of exposure and they are enamored with the Life. My grandson; "see that Windigokan over there? He's gone now".   This was before the Windigokan even came to the Ceremony.  The had the little Ones line up and dress for the Sundance and they went in and had songs for them.
Kids enjoying "A Little Bit" before Horse Ceremony

 We can't forget about the Singers and the Drum Keepers. Boy those people give of themselves. There is also the others that do many of the jobs to keep the Ceremony going like the Pipe Keeper. Keeping all the Pipes filled and cleaned for the Dancers, the Healers, the Ceremony. There were lots of People there showing support for the Sundance, other Sundance Chiefs came to take part. Some were denied entry at the Canada border. I guess being an activist is not a good border thing?

I can't get you to realize or understand the Teachings, the Healings, that take place at Sundance. I was visiting with a friend there and she was telling me that Health Canada, does not recognize Sweat Lodge or Sundance as Healing, but rather it is an "event".  Unreal. Insult to injury. Where is all this goodwill,  understanding and education the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been asking about? 

Speaking of good, the Sundance was open to all who came, Indians from all over, U.S. and Canada, but around the globe. The Two-Spirited held Ceremony in the Lodge. The Cheers for the LGBT community was loud and happy. Children had Ceremony, the Horse came, the Windigokan came. The songs were song, Dancers danced and people were good.

Women outnumbered the men in the Sundance. That just reminds us that they are the back-bone of our society. They are the important ones. They are the people that always seem to sacrifice the most.

You know what is great?  This is just One Sundance. There are Ceremonies like this going on all around the Turtle Island. Lot of good hearts going on with good Teachings. With that you are going to get more and more people understanding the strength, the goodness and the well being of our people. Lot of good life being lived.

Now that is worth looking forward to, and searching for.

***For more pictures go to photobucket  and also on this photobucket page.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


It is interesting how someone's loss gets you thinking of your own loss.

Today the community of Swan Lake First Nation lost a good person. Elder Joe Esquash had his funeral service today.


JOSEPH ESQUASH Beeshegogun (One Feather) Peacefully, at the Notre Dame Foyer, on Saturday, June 6, 2015, Joseph Esquash, of Swan Lake First Nation, passed away at the age of 91 years. Joseph leaves to mourn his children, James (Flo), Gerald (Linda), Charlotte, Yvonne and Dorothea (James); 20 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren; one sister Francis (Charlie Montagne), one sister-in-law Vina Swain; one brother-in-law John Swain (Theresa); two sons-in-law, Elvis and Lionel, and numerous nieces, nephews, friends and relatives in Canada and the USA. He was predeceased by his wife Rose-Marie (nee Swain) in 1967; his parents, Louis and Sophia (nee Walker); nine siblings, Elizabeth (Gilbert), Charlie (Mabel), Mary (Frank), George (Edna), Theresa (Tom), Lena (Gordon), Agnes, Alice and Alexandra (Tony); one son-in-law Ernest Daniels, Sr. A Traditional Wake will be held at the Swan Lake First Nation Hall on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 4:00 p.m with David Blacksmith officiating. A Traditional Feast will be held at the Swan Lake First Nation Hall on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 12:00 noon. Funeral Mass will be celebrated in the Mariapolis Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. with Father Armand Le Gal officiating. Interment to follow in the Mariapolis Parish Cemetery. Grandpa Joe was a sundance teacher to Spruce Woods Sundance Family. As well as Matheson, Chisasibi, Whapmagoostui, Moose Factory, Merritt, East Main, God's Lake, Grand Rapids, Norway House, Roseau River and Henvey Inlet Sundances. Our grandfather received the Horse Ceremony when he was eight years old and he was a singer at many sundances in Canada and the USA. All his life he carried the songs of our ancestors and shared his teachings.

The Sundance Ceremony that the Old Man passed on to many is starting tomorrow in Spruce Woods, Spirit Sands Manitoba. This is where Joe taught it to his Grandchildren and his friend David Blacksmith.

This Lodge has traveled to many places and it is through that Lodge many people seek comfort, healing, guidance, prayer for their people.

My Girl will be dancing.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Truth & Reconcilation Commission Report C Priest Bought Me A New Truck.

The Truth and Reconcilation Commission on Indian Residential Schools held a report release event in Ottawa Canada. Lot of people went out and took part.

Beautiful Kookum  at TRC Report Event Ottawa June 2015 

 Just one of the many many people that were in the Boarding School system of Indian Affairs; Indian Residential Schools.

If you were there you might find your picture here:

A cousin of mine walked into the local restaurant in Sagkeeng. He says, "Look what Father Plamondon bought me!"   Outside the restaurant was a new truck.  He was teasing of course. Lot of people would say stuff like that about the Residential school compensation process. They would say to someone "what did you get for being "pooch-tay-gade" (did in the bum) by the Father?"

You see they joked about it but that is not really the way people feel. I think its a mask. A mask we put on to protect from the ugly and all that hurt. My Mom and Dad were not much for sharing what took place in the School run by the French Oblates Fathers and Nuns. I don't think many people were.

I mean who wants to admit you were beaten?  Or worse?

But I admire and I do like the way we can tease and laugh at the harshest things. It is what makes us part of who we are - Anishinaabe. Cool eh? Some people could stay mad all the time, but many deal with their anger and hurt by teasing.

This Granny you see in the picture, can you imagine what life was like in that school?

But you know what, people are strong, resilient, and they know how to laugh. Not just Neechies but all sorts of people from different walks of life. It is telling how hardship can bring out some of the most craziest kind of laughs.

Bill Erasmus, chief of the Dene Nation
Bill Erasmus, chief of the Dene Nation

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time ...