Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Walking for the Survivors

I would like to introduce James. James is going on a journey. From his Facebook event site:

"Walking from Victoria to Ottawa Honouring Survivors and the Family that Never Made it Home. For Residential School Children and Murdered & Missing Women."

Thanks to the work of a local Idle No More organizer who stumbled on his journey and took it upon herself to help him along the way, and allow a few of us locals to know about James and his journey, we all were lucky enough to meet him on Friday when he literally walked in Calgary. We met him and had a bite to eat with some coffee. Immediately I was struck by how kind and genuine his spirit was. He told us his story about being struck by lightning, twice. The ease and tone of the conversation could have left us all there to chat all night but we had to get this man, who had been on his feet too long, in a warm bed already arranged. We made plans for a trip to the reserve land south of the city to the two Indian Residential schools (IRS) right away. Things changed up a few times but solidified on an afternoon trip down on Tuesday so that Wednesday morning, there could be the visits to the IRS.

Tuesday, April 22 a group of us headed down to Cardston from Calgary to stay the night. Across from the gas station stood an older building we found out was the Blood Indian Hospital. James immediately took some medicine and walked over the road to it. He heard babies crying. There were many other strange stories associated with that building that was told to us over the course of the night.

Former Blood Indian Hospital. Photo credit to Parks Canada
General view of the Blood Indian Hospital, showing the flat-roofed two-storey rectangular form, 1990.
Santé Canada / Health Canada, 1990

At the gas station, we were greeted by amazing hosts that were kind enough to feed us, sing original songs, have conversation and a warm place to sleep. I couldn't believe how hard the wind was hitting us through the night and how happy the kids were to play together!

The next morning came so quick. On Wednesday, April 23, 2014 James met up with a local Elder at St. Paul's IRS. One of the kids and James seen the image of a nun in the window. There were many young presences felt. He encouraged the kids to stay behind while he, with medicine, and the Elder walked around the ground. James has the gift of being able to talk to the spirits. He spoke to the children spirits to take them home, back to their families waiting for them.

While he was doing his work, I left some tobacco, prayed and took a rock. We were told a few different stories of encounters of these grounds. I hope there will be less activity now that James has been there.

St. Paul's Indian Residential School.
Next we off to St. Mary's with the wind still howling. While James and the Elder went around those grounds, one of our group told stories about not being allowed to go to the cemetery in the back. So much unresolved activity. She also told us of the importance of binds or drapes over windows at night, leaving us to question why the wind was blowing so hard at night. Again, I left some tobacco, prayed and took a rock hoping that James' work will help bring some spirits home. 

Former Indian Residential School, St. Mary's. (This photo was not taken April 23 but on Feb. 7/14)

Even though we had some breakfast from our wonderful hosts, we went into town for a brunch to fill up the kids for the ride home. We had wonderful conversations, and a few other stops before we were on our way. Just before we left, we were given water willow sticks for protection of our homes. There more exchanges of gifts that were nothing short of beautiful moments. After lots of hugs, we were on the road again to Calgary.

We made one more short stop to the Big Rock in Okotoks. James sang as we drummed. I left some tobacco for the moment and day. I felt much stronger after that.

I can't seem to put into words the gravity of his work. Is there a way to quantify or verbalize the gift of a person releasing trapped spirits here on Canadian soil, a legacy of our colonized history, to the next place of where they are meant to go? Very few of us use our knowledge in this way that James is doing. His work alone is helping the road of healing and recovery in our dark history. When we talk about truth and reconciliation, we need to start with K-12 programs nationally. Here is James, already working on a level there can not really be political interfered on. There are just somethings that can not have total government involvement in and spiritual peace and healing is one of them. Can you feel the depth of that? I wish I was a literary samurai that could use words to describe the magnitude of that work he is doing..

Pray for James. He is so humble, he would not ask for it. He needs our support, love, courage and strength. My hope is you will follow James and his journey. Tell your friends about him.

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Chi Miigwetch ~ Thank You