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Wildfires loss grief and the spirit of the land

​Sep 21​, 2018

​​​A blog from Patricia Vickers, FNHA Director of Mental Wellness Clinical Services


​Delgamuukw’s address to the Crown:
For us, the ownership of territory is a marriage of the Chief and the land. Each Chief has an ancestor who encountered and acknowledged the life of the land. From such encounters come power. The land, the plants, the animals and the people all have spirit—they all must be shown respect. That is the basis of our law (Gisday Wa & Dalgamuukw, The Spirit in the Land, Gabriola BC: Reflections, 1992). 

The recent wildfires in British Columbia have been devastating for some as they’ve never experienced loss in their lives before such as losing their homes and belongings that can never be replaced. For others it is the devastation of their traditional territories where they gathered berries, hunted, trapped and fulfilled traditional ceremonial rites and practices.  

It was an honour to be invited by one of the Northern region’s communities to travel with their members and others to see the impact of the wildfires on traditional territories. I was reminded of Delgamuukw’s words to the Crown, of many ceremonies where I’ve had an opportunity to connect with the Land and the animals that inhabit the Land—a vital relationship that sustains and supports us all. The devastation arises from the relationship with the Land, where humans have had encounters with the Spirit of the Land, received direction, been parented, given abundance from her belly that has and continues to feed our hearts, minds and souls.  

Our E​lders have taught us it is best to face the facts. ​With trauma, it is important to be in the present moment, not to look to next month or next year but to be in this moment facing loss and devastation. Ceremony teaches us that being in the present moment is how and where we receive direction for ourselves and each other.  Our ancestors have given us the gift of ceremony that helps us to connect with the Creator, to live in the present moment and to accept loss. As we have experienced many times over, ceremony unites hearts and minds, connects us with the actual and in doing so healing is experienced.  

May those of us who are not experiencing devastation from wildfires unite by sending out good energy to those who are living in the moment of loss and devastation, embracing their territories as they are today.  

And may those communities and nations facing loss be comforted by their relationship with the Land and find peace and unity in goodness. May those who have spent long hours supporting others at a time of displacement be strengthened in all that is goodness.​

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