Sacred Space of Womanhood: Mothering Across the Generations from NCCAH | CCNSA on Vimeo.
...with Dad: Strengthening the Circle of
Messages from the Heart - Supporting the Next Generation
October 2013 - Proceedings and a documentary video of The Sacred Space of Womanhood: Mothering Across the Generations forum (described below) are now available! The proceedings report includes a summary of the presenters and the main themes of the forum, while the video beautifully captures the atmosphere and spirit of the event along with several highlights. Both proceedings and video are freely available in hard copy by request and electronically from our website.
To request hard copies, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Close your eyes... Imagine the sound of women speaking...
Imagine song, imagine drumming. Imagine poetry and rapping and cheering and crying and, through it all, imagine stories...
Attendee Shannon Sasakamoose with son Kayd Pahtayken
Such was the two day gathering on mothering and womanhood hosted January 24-25th 2012 by the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) in Ottawa, Ontario with the support of the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch and the Public Health Agency of Canada (see agenda and background paper). The gathering drew over 160 participants from coast to coast to coast, representing more than five generations and the perspectives of multiple communities, leaders, and professions. The Sacred Space of Womanhood: Mothering across the Generations was the third of a four part vision, begun in 2009 with a gathering focused on First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and childrearing, dedicated both to translating and exchanging Indigenous knowledges and to linking the wellness of Aboriginal families to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal communities and populations.
Two attendees with keynote speaker Maria Campbell
Maria Campbell, prize winning author, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother spoke eloquently about the power of stories: “It was always the best thing if people who told good stories came through your house in their travels…the winter stories; those were what taught us our values. They were the stories that taught us our protocols. And they were funny.” Humour, Campbell reminded the room of riveted people, is an elixir of strength, on par with forgiveness. “Don’t worry” Campbell reminded the dozens and dozens of listeners, “I failed miserably as a mother. But I am a good grandmother and great great-grandmother. We have to be kind to each other. We have to honour our children, remind ourselves we have children of all colours and no tree is more special than any other tree.”
Mothering across the generations panelists (left to right) Diane Steinhauer, Emma Gladue, Alexis Steinhauer
Life experiences reverberated in the stories of young women, all of whom charted their strengths to their mothers and cultural communities. Panelist Jocelyn Formsma praised her mother for “learning alongside” her children, while Jessica Yee called passionately upon everyone to remember that “we are all responsible for mothering in our communities. There is strength and beauty in looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see. There is strength and beauty in making mistakes, in hardships, and in still knowing what you’re about.”
After the emotional and strength-filled showcasing of Aboriginal programs and initiatives from across Canada (see panel to the left), peppered with dozens of reflections and questions from participants, three beautiful and poised grandmothers brought the two day symposium to a close. Grandmother Shirley Tagalik shared stories from her community where Inuit children are treasured and situated at “the centre of the universe,” while Métis Elder Jo MacQuarrie emphasized the “need to recognize our strengths and reach out to the people that can help us move forward.” Cree Elder Madeleine Dion Stout left a transformed and moved audience with a poignant lesson: “In order to create blood memory, we have to bleed into each other. Let us wake up from the dread. All our failures are ultimately transformational and they are gifts…we need to cast kisses on one another, not only the babies, but on the mothers and grandmothers and the fathers and grandfathers. Live your lives fully, because it is our human purpose to explore the universe.”
As women and men across generations hugged and dried tears, laughed and held tight the lessons they’d learned from two days of sharing stories, there was a sense of renewed human purpose. Health and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples is not only ‘possible,’ it is. It is in every kiss cast, in every set back that is a moment of transformation, in every glance of love, in every kitchen, no matter where that kitchen is or what that kitchen contains.
So close your eyes. And imagine a healthy future. It is alive.