Homage to a great spiritual leader, teacher and Anishinabe Elder, Dr. Arthur Solomon,and to his lifelong partner, Eva (Pelletier) Solomon

Kesheyanakwan, Fast Moving Cloud

Joseph William Arthur Solomon (1913-1997)

Bear Clan (the Healers)

Nimkiikwense, Thundergirl

Eva Alma (Pelletier) Solomon (19IB-1997)

Deer Clan (the Gentle Ones)

Over a year has gone by since Art and Eva Salomon made their passage: Art on June 29, 1997, joining Eva, who led the way on March 8th, International Women’s Day. They walked this earth for 83 years, and I can’t fathom what it might feel like, from the earth’s perspective, to no longer hear the call of their steps. I would miss that, I think, if Art and Eva had treaded on my skin for 83 revolutions around the sun, and now lay quiet in my depths. From where I stand, though, on the face of the earth, I miss their voices. I miss feasting on their faces. I miss Art’s stubbornness and Eva’s joy. The path they have opened up is like a vast garden seeded with their values and vision. All the elements are present in that garden: love and wonder, anger, pain and courage.

The first time I met Art, it was at the airport in Montreal in 1993. Art was sitting tall and quiet in a wheelchair, with a red blanket over his knees. He was 80 years old then and had come to Montreal to speak at an international suicide prevention conference. I drove him home in my beat-up old Toyota, and he had to trudge up three flights of stairs to my apartment. We sat in my kitchen, Art rolling cigarette after cigarette and drinking cup after cup of espresso coffee. A little later, he told me his blood pressure was way up over 200.

That was just one indication of Art’s extraordinarily strong will. He was beginning to have kidney problems by then and was very tired, but he still consented to travel hundreds of miles to convey his convictions and teachings, and foster some kind of healing. In this case, he came to share his awareness with a large non-Na-tive audience from around the world. I can still see him standing alone on the stage, lighting sage in an abalone shell and fanning it with his eagle feather. He took his time before speaking, and first apologized for having to rely on a speech he had written ahead of time. He would have preferred to speak off the top of his head, as he usually did. As the sage smoke unfurled over larger and larger sections of the audience, Art began with these words, which ran right through my heart:

“There is a purpose and a meaning for every human life. It is given at the moment ofconception by the Creator God. There is not only a purpose and a meaning for every humanlife, but there is also a destiny and the power to accomplish that destiny. There is alsoa free will given to each child of God, and that free will is so special and so preciousthat not even the Creator God will interfere with it, otherwise it is no longer free will.”

There was so much grief in that auditorium, you could almost touch it. Everybody there had lost someone close to them. Art’s voice moved over us like a balm, sometimes gentle, sometimes outraged. I sat there feeling the sacredness of all of us, those of us who were still alive and those of us who were now in spirit. My heart lay open. This is what Art created, through his words and voice and powerful presence.

After the conference, Art’s son, Raymond, arrived from Shediac to drive Art back to Sudbury. His love for his father was as clear on his face as sunlight flooding a room. They left for Sudbury not long afterwards. In my closet, I found a sweater of Art’s that smelled like fresh wet cedar forest. I didn’t want to give it back.

A lot happened before I could see Art again and meet Eva for the first time. He had akidney failure — what he called his “plumbing problem” — and that meant he needed morecare and had to be on dialysis. His travelling was restricted. People had to come tohim rather than the other way around. I was shy to visit him, though. My partner haddied of kidney failure a few years before, and I was afraid of how I’d react when I sawArt. By the time I finally got up the courage to visit, everything was all right. Morethan all right — I met Eva, and she opened her arms to me like a sister.

I miss them both deeply. Yet I am just as aware of the fullness of the void left by their passage, as I am of its emptiness. It makes me wonder about the Great Mystery. After spending so much of my life trying not to feel empty — trying to avoid the void – I find it heartening to discover that this void actually feels pregnant and rich with offerings that have yet to take form. This is no small tribute to Eva and Art’s generosity. Thoughts and images of them fill my heart — their voices, their quiet presence, their humour, their gifts.

Their legacy is profound, powerful healing, and at the same time, challenging. Eva offers us deep acceptance and trust that we can be truly who we are and all will be right, through love and tears and laughter. Art incites us to act with courage and truth, and set things right. Both remind us of the power and will of heartfulness.

Eva and Art were born in 1913 — Eva in Sagamok, Ontario (on the Spanish River Reserve), and Art in Killarney, Ontario. Both Eva’s mother and father, Cecilia Miller and Onizime (Dan) Pelletier, were Ojibwa. Art’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Leger, was French-Canadian and his father, Joseph W.A. Solomon, was Ojibwa. Eva’s mother died when Eva was 11, and she later had a stepmother, Jane Zack. Art had a stepfather, Joseph Burke, who married his mother after his father died, when Art was 15.

Art and Eva were sent away from their families to residential school in Spanish, Ontario, and this marked their lives profoundly, in ways beyond words. They went to separate schools — one for boys and one for girls — and knew each other by sight across the school yard fence, since Art was friends with several of Eva’s brothers. (Girls and boys were forbidden to talk to one another over the fence, so Eva couldn’t speak to her brothers, much less to Art.)

When Eva was about 16, she moved to Toronto where she worked as a housekeeper and trained as a hairdresser. Art returned to Killarney after completing Grade 8. Without even being tested there, he was put back to Grade 6. Art went to work at the age of 14. By the time he was 18, he’d left school. As he put it, he didn’t drop out — he walked out.

Those experiences didn’t quell Art’s thirst for learning and his ardent interest inthe world, however. Even in the last months of his life, he would get up in the middle of the night and read. His piercing intelligence and knowledge won him three honorary doctoral degrees: a Doctorate of Laws from Laurentian University in 1986, a Doctorate of Divinity from Queens University in 1988, and a Doctorate of Laws from Concordia University in 1992.

Eva also held a deep interest in the world of people and community. Her wisdom camefrom her great and gentle heart — her love of people and of life itself. While Art satreading a magazine like the New Internationalist, she could be found delighting in a bookof Tibetan sand paintings or stories written by her granddaughter Ang le, or creating ather sewing machine.

I had the honour and pleasure of becoming friends with Art and Eva when they were already in their eighties. My favourite photograph of them, though, was taken sometime in the 1930s. They are standing together in the wind, Art looking straight ahead, tall as a tree, and Eva laughing, her head at his shoulder, her hair blowing wildly

Back in the early ’30s, Art was a fisherman in KNIarney. In the throes of the Depression, he also worked as a pulp cutter, road builder, logger, hunter, farmer, blacksmith, and carpenter. In 1935, Eva came to Killarney for her brother Johnny’s wedding. She hadn’t planned to stay, but changed her mind after meeting up with Art again. Eva worked in Killarney for a few years before she and Art went to Blind River. They got married in Spanish when they were 25 (in 1938), and began raising the first of their many children.

Neither Eva nor Art could stand injustice or exploitation. When Art worked as a miner in Sudbury from 1937 to 1944, he became active in forming Local 598 of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. I imagine him putting great energy into his union work. His sense of serving a greater cause – his calling to

serve a greater cause — may well have been kindled and fanned in that period. He and Eva were not yet in their thirties.

In the early 1950s, Art was asked to join the Nickel Belt Indian Club. Reclaiming his Native roots was a “the hard way to go,” as he put it. It was a path strewn with thorns and sharp rocks and fallen branches, yet one that was also lined with sage and cedar and sweet grass. He and Eva chose this path that they would walk until the end of their days, claiming their destiny and the power to accomplish that destiny. Others were making similar choices, creating a broad cultural, spiritual and political movement of Native people in the 1960s.

Art’s interest in Native crafts led him to help found a number of organizations to promote Native craftspeople and open up new markets for their work. In 1964, Art helped create the World Crafts Council in New York, and in 1965, he was a founding member of the Canadian Craftsmen’s Association in Winnipeg. He also created an organization called Indian Crafts of Ontario. Art was given the name Kesheyanakwan (Fast Moving Cloud) by the Cree community of Kasabonika (northwestern Ontario) when he single-handedly linked their craftspeople to the larger markets in the south. His interest in Native crafts took him all the way to South America. Art himself was a wood carver, and Eva sewed, quilted and did beadwork.

By the late 1960s and early 70s, when Art and Eva were approaching 60, Art was a well-known and respected advisor to many Native individuals, including members of the American Indian Movement (AIM). He offered spiritual counsel and worked for justice for Leonard Peltier and many others, including some non-Native people. Art also traveled to Geneva for the World Conference on Indigenous People in 1977 as a delegate and spiritual advisor. Eva’s commitment to the cause of justice was just as deep and heartfelt, if less public.

Art consistently denounced the injustice of a system in which “the government thatdetermines to steal from the Original People of this land” turns around and judges themaccording to its own laws. Art advocated justice through peaceful means:

“Our part is to get up and change the world.

It comes from the hearts and minds andhands of the Children of God

Who affirm Life for all that is living.

The colours are black, red, yellow and white.

They are engaged in the dance of liberation, And the name of the power that they are using

Is called L.O.VE.

The invincible, irresistible power of God


He called on each child of the Creator to know that “it is vitally important what we do with our hearts and our minds.” “We will either willingly, or mindlessly, be a part of that destruction (i.e. of the Earth) or we will set our hearts and minds against it.”

Art also trusted that “the Great Mystery will take back possession of this Creation again,” and that the sacred Native prophecies of justice and redress would come to pass – the Hopi prophesy of the “Great Purification” and the Ojibwa prophesy of the Seven Fires. This redress could not come about, however, without the contribution and participation of each person. For Art, it was essential that we “offer our lives to the Creator for our sacred Mother Earth and for the People,” to bring about healing, balance and justice.

“We have come to see that we are the people who were spoken of, The People of the Seventh Fire, And it is said that if the seventh fire was able

To light the eighth fire, There would be peace on Earth for all the Creation.”

In 1975, Art was asked by Dr. Newbery, a professor at the University of Sudbury, to collaborate in creating a Native Studies Programme. Art’s experience and commitment to sharing knowledge were central in bringing this project to fruition. Over the next decade Art expanded on this work by helping to create a special social work program designed for the Native community: the Native Human Services Department. He was also instrumental in creating the University Prisons Programme, with a curriculum designed for Native people in prison.

Don, the eldest son with Eva.

Art’s outrage at the indignities suffered by Native people drove him to take on what he called the Canadian criminal “just us” system on various fronts, and he became intimately familiar with the prison system. He often traveled hundreds of miles visiting Native prisoners as an Elder and spiritual counselor. (Art was a member of the Spiritual Elders’ Council for the Kingston-area federal prisons.) He also acted as an advocate for individual inmates, speaking out and writing letters on their behalf, creating a place for them in a healing community, offering them love and support in very practical and creative ways. His profound compassion and insight into their needs also led him to create new structures like Newbery House in Sudbury, the first halfway house for Native ex-in-mates. Art and Eva’s sense of solidarity and connectiveness with this brotherhood and sisterhood remained with them all their lives.

When Art first began to serve Native inmates as a spiritual counselor and teacher, traditional ceremonies had no legitimate status compared to other religious ceremonies, and Native Elders were not granted equivalent respect. It was Art’s persistence in raising the consciousness of prison authorities that opened the way for Native spiritual practices in Canadian prisons. Art’s second book of poetry and essays, Eating Bitterness: A Vision Beyond the Prison Walls ( 1994), includes a poem called “Freedom of Religion,” which starts:

“For these past eight years the Native spiritual ways

have gone into the prisons in Ontario as a social thing, in other words as a privilege not as a right.

Native spiritual ways must go into the prisons

under the established principle of Freedom of religion and with the same respect and rights that are accorded to any other faith tradition.”

Art challenged the very foundations of the prison system, and advocated that prisons be abolished. In the essay, “Prisons are an Abomination,” he asks, “Why do we persist in trying to heal social ills with a prison system that fails 80 per cent of the time?” He continues, “There are alternatives to prisons: in fact, there need be no prisons at all. But it takes right living. It takes sharing the gifts of God equally with all of God’s children. That is what I I faith traditions teach, but between the teachings and the living, there seems to be no connecting link.”

Art’s first book, Songs for the People: Teachings on the Natural Way, is dedicated toNative women in prison:

“If this is poetry, It is given and dedicated to the Native Sisterhood

In the prison for women

At Kingston, Ontario, “lb the women’s side of our Indian nations

And to all true women.


We must walk in beauty and with power.”

Women hold an honoured place in Art’s vision of setting things right. “When women take hold of their part and start to come together, that will right the balance. We have to wait for that.” Art’s words bring images to mind of Eva – finding joy in others’ accomplishments, sharing quietly in their pain, tempering anger with insight, helping us to “see with our hearts what we cannot see with our eyes.” It seems to me that the profound respect Art had for women – respect as deep as any I have ever experienced – was rooted in his life with Eva, who stood true in her quiet strength. She knew her power and how to use it wisely. With few words, she imparted to her family and friends the sacredness of the place that women hold in traditional Native life. In their family life together, Eva was the healer, always seeking to bring about understanding and reconciliation. True to her Deer Clan, she could melt the heart of fear and anger with love. When I hear Art’s statement, “our women carry the doorway to life for all humanity,” I think of Eva.

Art belonged to Bear Clan, known as healers. Although he refused to call himself a medicine person, to me he was an extraordinary spiritual healer as well as a teacher and friend. In my mind I can see him now, sitting quietly in my kitchen. I was talking about my life, and tears streamed down my cheeks. Art was very still, listening. He sat there like a great tree, receiving my grief without judgement or question, letting my tears wash all the way down into the Earth.

Art worked hard to help create healing circles for Native women and men respectively, and proposed that mixed healing circles be the next step. In 1992, he wrote about a men’s healing circle in Montreal which two women attended:

“It was a real blessing to have those two women in the workshop because women can articulate so well. But… men need more time, there were 12 or 13 men in that workshop, they spoke very little. The

men needed to experience a healing workshop a few times to get comfortable with it. Another point that is vitally important to men is that a man has to present an image of strength (and) certainty not only to his woman and his family, but to every one else he encounters. For that reason it is extremely hard for a man to expose himself in an emotional way whereas it is more natural for a woman. We need healing circles for women and men together. We need to be sharing together again.”

His challenge to all of us, women and men alike, remains: to overcome our fear, heal ourselves and realize the sacred dream.

“God’s dream for us will not be accomplished by hiding in our little dark corners and shaking in our boots.”

Art and Eva’s concern for peace and justice led them to work with people of all different backgrounds in every corner of the globe. Art helped create the Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with Native Peoples and the World Council on Religion and Peace. He was a guest speaker at conferences all over the world, bringing his vision and teachings to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1977, for the World Council of Indigenous Peoples; to Holland on two occasions; to Vancouver, B.C., and to the Island of Mauritius for the World Council of Churches in 1983; to Nairobi, Kenya, in 1984 and Australia in 1988, for the World Council on Religion and Peace, and England sometime in between; and to Beijing in 1989, for the World Council of Churches. Eva accompanied him to Australia, Switzerland, Mauritius and China, to her great joy at helping weave the fabric of such a vast community. Eva and Art also toured the United States for several years with the travelling college, “White Roots of Peace,” in the early ’70s.

Art spoke his mind and gleaned satisfaction from speaking the truth and shaking things up. He challenged individuals, both Native and non-Native, and he challenged the system, denouncing the greed, the racism, and the rape and plunder of the land.

This frank outspokenness did not always earn Art friends, but it did earn him re-

spect. His unwavering dedication and tireless work were recognized in many differentcircles. Art was awarded the Citizens of the Year Award in Sudbury in 1984. TheGovernment of Ontario granted him the Medal of Merit in 1989 and named him a Member ofthe Order of Ontario. He was one of the first recipients of a Canadian AboriginalAchievement Award.

In 1986, Art was chosen to give the official welcome to Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“It is an honour and a pleasure To greet you, a peace warrior, A man whose life is dedicated To peace and justice on the Earth.

We are brothers in the same struggle, Peace Warriors.

Your dedication is to peace and tranquility On the Earth, And, as Dr. Alan Boesak said, ‘If there is no justice, There can be no peace.’


I want to say to you:


Welcome to this sacred land.

And my prayers will always

Go with you

And with my Black Sisters and Brothers

In their Sacred Homeland

Until peace is won.”

Art was also invited to welcome Nelson Mandela on his first visit to Canada as President of South Africa. This was a very great honour, and one which Art cherished deeply. But as official organizers allowed only a few minutes for the prayer ceremony, and Art had too much respect for the prayer ceremony to force it into such a time slot, he declined the invitation. Anyone who was familiar with Art knew that once he made up his mind, he stuck to his truth.

Art’s many accomplishments as a public figure have been recorded in his books and writings, and in articles about him. Eva’s achievements and influence draw us into the subtle and personal realms involving individuals and matters of the heart more often than institutions or structures. In my friendship with Eva, I felt as if she were initiating me to a deeper level of womanhood, and I told her so as I was brushing her hair and putting curlers in, of all things. She laughed receiving this with great enjoyment.

Eva knew that claiming our power can be a joyful thing, and one that empowers others. She also knew how to stand her ground. I once made a comment to her that it couldn’t have been easy, in the earlier days of their marriage, to be around Art when he was angry. She immediately laughed and said, “Oh, I guess he didn’t like it too much when I was mad at him either.” That re-

minded me of something Art had said to me a few years before: “women’s strength is the stronger strength.”

On the thank-you card that Eva’s family sent out to friends and well-wishers, a photo of her smiling face is at the centre of a star-shaped quilt, like many she made some years ago. This star quilt she sewed is a symbol of her own life:

“We wish to say “Gitchi Meegwetch’ for the part you have been in the creation of Eva’s Star Quilt of Life. She valued creating community through her peaceful, graceful, welcoming heart. You were in her heart and very much a part of the community of her life. She was a rainbow maker, a promise of new life for all. Your friendship, compassion and love were the various colours of the rainbow and pieces of the star quilt that she so intricately wove together with all her values.”

All of us who knew and loved her are delicately stitched together in a rainbow of colours. To really convey her magnitude, we’ll all have to shine at full strength. “She herself was the healing medicine, the centre of the star.”

Together, Eva and Art raised 10 children (two others died in infancy), and nurtured five more as foster parents. Many other children lived with them for various periods of time, receiving their care and nurturing as well. Their home was central to almost 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews (not counting the many friends and members of the sisterhood and brotherhood who passed through their lives over the years). Eva was the heart of this vast and complex family network. With Art devoting much of his time and energy to a more public life of service, Eva’s role as nurturer and healer was all the more crucial in their family. If Art’s introductory acknowledgements in Songs of the People are any indication, he was regretful of the sacrifices that Eva and his children had to make, sometimes involuntarily, because of choices he made and the challenges of reconciling family needs with the demands of others.

When Art and Eva were both in their eighties and could no longer live on their farm in French River, it was the devotion of their children (and close friends) which enabled them to continue to live in love and comfort, with all the care and support they needed. No one in the family was prepared for Eva to go before Art. Her health had been relatively good, and In 1996, she was still able to travel with her daughters to Toronto, Montreal, Thunder Bay and Chicago to attend meetings and ceremonies. Art was not as mobile by then, because of his “plumbing problem.”

The last time I saw Eva was shortly before she died. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I figured we’d see each other some other way. When her daughter Eva called me on the evening of March 8th to tell me that her mother had made her passage, I was sitting with my own mother, drawing the face of Grandmother Moon with colours swirling out to the four directions. This drawing turned into a portrait of Eva, living up to her granddaughter’s nickname for her as “Neon Nanny,” because of the bright colours she loved. I’m still waiting to see her in my dreams.

The last time I visited Art was a few months later, for Eva’s burial. The Earth had been too frozen to received her body until May. I couldn’t imagine seeing Art and not hearing Eva’s warm deep voice somewhere close by. They had been inseparable for 59 years.

When I stayed with him that last time in May, I had the feeling that his connection withEva was still fully intact, despite her death. Art was his usual self – soft-spoken,decisive, stubbornly determined to heal himself, fierce in his indictment of injustice.I wondered what he was going to do, and I dreamed about it. He was

making up his mind, I guess.

In the dream, Art “put on” a great brown bear. He was himself, the same age as usual (83), but as he slipped into the great bear from underneath, he also became the bear. I was impressed at how powerful and agile he was on all fours, at his age, as he ran along a snowy path. He skidded to a stop at a crossroads and tentatively turned to the left fork, away from us. We called to him to come our way, but he just turned his head toward us as if he were considering his options. It seemed to me that this dream meant he was returning to his vaster spiritual self.

Art didn’t talk much about his intimate feelings. When I once asked him what Eva meant to him in his life, he paused and said almost apologetically, “Oh, I don’t think in this lifetime I could find words for that.” But shy though he was to speak of his feelings, after Eva’s burial service, Art told a close friend that his sweetheart had gone ahead of him to prepare the way. Sitting at her graveside with a red blanket around his shoulders, Art was calm and gracious, thanking his daughter Eva who led the pipe ceremony, thanking the priest who led a prayer as Eva’s body was committed to the Earth, thanking the man who traveled thousands of miles to sing a song for her, and thanking each of us as we came to her graveside, one by one. On that clear cool day in May, a rumble of thunder in the heavens let us know that Thundergirl was there.

That was the last time I saw Art. It reminded me of the first time, when he sat quietly wrapped in a red blanket, making me think of a sacred offering.

A little over a month after Eva’s burial, Art’s great heart began to fail. On June 29, 1997, surrounded by family, he made his passage. Before leaving, though, Art gave us an exceptional gift, one that he had planned well over a year before he died. He asked friends from the Midewiwin (mid-day-win) Society to lead the traditional Ojibwa part of his funeral service.

The Midewiwin ceremonies began in Sudbury not long after Art’s death. After several days and nights, the ceremonies continued in Killarney, where Art was to be buried alongside Eva. Friends and relatives took turns standing vigil 24 hours a day so that Art’s body was never left unattended. A sacred fire was continually kept burning in a teepee by various men in turn, as men are the traditional keepers of the fire. Women brought food for everyone, taking care to include smoked fish and beaver and other traditional game, and some of Art’s favourites, like grapefruit and chocolate. All the food had to be eaten each night and none could be thrown out. This was a sacred feast.

Night after night, Art’s friends from the Midewiwin Society led the ceremonies. They prepared us to let Art go, and they prepared Art to make his passage through the spiritual realms. They purified us with sage, cedar, tobacco and sweetgrass, the four sacred medicines. Through singing and drumming and talking, they shared the teachings with all of us, Native and non-Native, so we could understand what each stage was about as we came to it.

This was a completely different approach to death and grieving than any I had experienced with a group of people – and one that was infinitely more satisfying than the services I had been part of. I felt as if the depths of my grief and loss were being recognized and touched, and in the process, transformed.

Art’s friends from the Midewiwin Society addressed his family, preparing them for the time when they would have to let him go in peace. It was deeply moving for me to witness loved ones being so carefully tended to. I know the loneliness of not receiving that kind of care and attention.

Not just Art’s family and friends were attended to, though. One of the men from the Midewiwin Society began to address Art himself about what he might encounter on his spiritual journey. I really cried then. It brought me back to the last night I spent with my partner, Michael, as he made his own passage into spirit, six years before. Michael had wanted me to read to him from the Tibetan Book of the Dead immediately upon his death. When it came time, I did read to him, but with great shyness. I read prayers of safe passage, which prepared him for what he might see and how he might be fooled from keeping his course. Feeling very strange and alone, I accompanied him like that for the first five days after his death, reading from the Book of the Dead.

The parallel between the ancient Tibetan and the ancient Mide teachings was striking, but it was the way the people from the Midewiwin Society accompanied Art and his family and friends that made me weep with a sense of belonging. They walked with us and prepared us. They cried with us and laughed with us. We talked about our experiences with Art and Eva. Our fried was recognized and shared, in all its depth. There was no shame there.

The last night of the Midewiwin ceremony, the small children fought to stay awake as we continued until 5 a.m. We broke for a few hours and came back at 8 a.m. for the final preparations before Art’s body was escorted to the church. When it was time, we each gave our blessings to Art and filed outside. There we formed a human corridor, waiting to receive the others in their grief. The sacred fire burned on in the teepee out back.

Art’s body was then brought to the church in Killarney, and the Catholic service began with a traditional smudge. Two of Art and Eva’s sons, Tony and Art, purified the church with burning sage, cedar, tobacco and sweetgrass that they carried to the choir and congregation. Two of their daughters, sisters Priscilla and Eva, did the same with the priest and his assistant. These same daughters led the sacred pipe ceremonies, giving thanks and offering prayers to the four directions. I will never forget Priscilla as she faced the south and thanked its gatekeepers for honouring women, noting how her father had held women in such high regard.

This was what I had wanted to say at the Midewiwin ceremony, but didn’t say out of shyness. To hear an Elder like Art speak about women with such respect was in itself a deeply healing experience for me as a woman. I have no words to convey this, but those who have known Art and Eva will know what I’m trying to say.

At the end of the church service, we all filed past the message that was posted inlarge letters – “Oh Lord how great Thou Art” – as we came forward to take communion orsmoke the sacred pipe. Disregarding the stray thought that I’d start smoking again, Istood before Sister Eva and smoked the pipe. As we filed out of the church, Art and Eva’sdaughter Anne sang a journeying song for both her parents, and for each of her brothersand sisters – a song recalling the choices we have of where we want to go in our lives onEarth and in spirit. Holding her father’s eagle feather, Anne closed the service withthis song of hope to accompany us.

This was not like any church service I’d ever experienced, and I was struck at the respect for Native spiritual practices that Art’s daughters had succeeded in generating within a traditional Catholic framework. I left the church feeling that all things were possible.

At the cemetery, as Art’s body was placed in the ground beside Eva’s, the crest of a rainbow appeared in the sky, though no rain was discernible. The way I see it now, maybe Kesheyanakwan (Fast Moving Cloud) and Nimkiikwense (Thundergirl) took our tears and made a rainbow. I keep wondering how else their spirit and energy will be manifesting from now on.

All of us who have been touched by Eva and Art Solomon – in person, through their words or actions, or through others whose lives have been transformed by them -know how powerfully they live on in our

hearts and minds and souls.

“Now we must put The sanctity of Life As the most sacred principle Of power, And renounce The awesome might Of Materialism, We know that in all Creation Only the family of man Has strayed, From the Sacred way.

We know that we are the onesWho are divided And we are the onesWho must come back,Together, To worship and walk In a sacred way, That by

Our affirmation, We must heal the earth

And heal each other.”

My deep and heartfelt thanks to Art and Eva and their family for enriching this Earth andbringing us such an offering of love and healing.

PS. The Eva and Arthur Solomon Memorial Bursary Fund assists Native students atLaurentian University. Donations can be sent to: Eva and Arthur Solomon MemorialBursary Fund, Laurentian University, Ramsay Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario. Tax receiptsare available upon request. Other ways of commemorating Art and Eva are up to us.