Healing Through Reconnecting to Culture, Land and Language



Elders and youth share inspiration for a path forward to healing

On the final day of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide (HOSW), keynote speakers Chase Campeau, Dr. Ed Connors and Dr. Lorna Williams shared powerful messages about nurturing individual relationships to culture, land and language.

Each speaker shared their own story of reconnecting to and reclaiming parts of their identity on their path to healing.

Chase Campeau, Youth

Identifying as Two Spirit, youth speaker Chase Campeau said they are proudly Ojicree Nehiyawak. Growing up in a Catholic environment, Chase shared how they often felt disconnected from their cultural identity and turned to personal addictions to face their intergenerational trauma.

“A lot of people think that people on the streets are lost. But what I was told by an Elder is they're not lost, they're still searching. Their spirit is beside them waiting to be called back to themselves once again."

Chase recalled hearing the term miyo pimatisiwin or “living a good life" for the first time while leaving a treatment centre in 2021. For Chase, miyo pimatisiwin means connecting with culture, community and Elders throughout their ongoing healing journey. They now work as a peer supporter, to gently guide youth in their own self-discovery.

“I've lived a very interesting life so far, being 30 winters years old. And I can say that from all of the mistakes, it's all life lessons, all of its medicine and finding ways to reclaiming our path and way of knowing."

Dr. Ed Connors, Elder

Dr. Connors began by noting the importance of gatherings like HOSW, as they create spaces for healing intergenerational trauma and connecting to culture. His grandmother was a survivor of residential schools and for generations his family stopped speaking their traditional language because they were taught that it was dangerous.

“We aren't only healing our spirits worldwide, we're healing our spirits beyond this world," says Dr. Connors. He also believes that healing in community or in a group, such as the space created at HOSW, heals us beyond the individual and can address intergenerational trauma.

Dr. Connors said that a crucial part of the healing journey, is changing our relationship with the land. Due to colonialism, First Nations people were violently displaced from their homes. This is why, he said, the relationship to the land is deeply interconnected with the healing journey.

Part of this process, he added, is understanding the relationship between people and the land as maternal. By relating to the land as Mother Earth, in a mutually sustaining relationship with unconditional love, Dr. Connors believes there will be greater compassion and care for action against the climate crisis.

“Mother Earth, we give thanks for your continued love and care and nurturing of our lives. Despite the disrespect and harm, you continue to nurture us. And by doing so, you teach us the lesson of unconditional love."

Dr. Lorna Wanosts'a7 Williams, Elder

Dr. Williams began her presentation with the word Nqwelutenlhkalha, which means “our voices: voices of the land". As a survivor of the residential school system, Dr. Williams emphasized the power of reclaiming traditional language and voice.

When speaking of colonialism, she said, “They knew that in order to gain control, they had to silence us. And so part of your work in health has to be—must be—supporting the regaining of voice, of language."

As a leading expert in Indigenous education and linguistics, Dr. Williams said she believes in the power of voice and inclusivity. She maintained that language has historically been a tool to oppress and separate groups. Looking forward, she said she is hopeful for a future where language honours every human being and every spirit.

“They tried to take away our singing, they silenced our stories, and it's something that we need to regain, because it's from those stories—told to teach us about life and how to be together—that will help us as Mother Earth shrugs and says “it is enough", and does what she needs to do to heal herself."

Coming together to heal

Throughout the week at HOSW one theme became clear: healing is not done alone. HOSW offered space for this kind of healing to occur. Chase Campeau, Dr. Ed Connors and Dr. Lorna Williams concluded the conference by sharing their personal healing journeys and highlighting the importance of gatherings like HOSW, which provide the opportunity to come together to reflect on the importance of culture, land and language.

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