This issue is about “The Healing Gathering” that was held in Waswanipi on July 29, 30, 31. I’m not too good at writing about conferences, because I don’t write down notes, but only listen. But I will tell you about what I observed and learned.

The Gathering was done the traditional way, down by the river. The workshops were done in mitchuaps and canvas covered tents. Many issues were talked about.

Workshops, a play, and a comedy skit about alcohol and drugs were done by Don Burnstick (a.k.a. Mr Alcohol). He was really good, an eye-opener. If he hasn’t come to your community yet, he’s one I recommend you invite.

Other workshops included Gambling, Justice, Fitness and Health, Coping in a Relationship, Residential Schools to name a few.

It is hard work and very intense in these workshops, but afterwards there was time for laughter and fun also. In the evenings there was talent shows, lipsyncing and little plays. There were many talented people such as Robert Bobbish, the Cooper Brothers and others. Everyone had fun together.

I couldn’t attend all the workshops, because I was asked to speak on a panel about Domestic Violence along with three other people, who spoke about other issues. I was honoured to be invited and hoped I could contribute to Cree Society in some way by speaking about the seriousness of Domestic Violence.

I kind of felt nervous at the beginning, and what I wanted to say did not, at first, come out the way I had planned. But as I spoke a little more, I started feeling comfortable and I just went with the flow. I personally feel speaking about Domestic Violence in front of people makes a difference in helping others, because I can get some feedback from the listeners. When I write about it, people read the articles, but can’t voice what they think. One of several reasons is that they may not be able to communicate in English, and I write the articles in English. This is one thing I learned at the conference.

One woman who was in her 50s, spoke out at the Conference. She told her story of the physical abuse she faced with her husband, who is now deceased. She still felt the pain as if it were just yesterday. Her children’s tears fell along with her tears, while she told her story and the pain she expressed while she was telling her story was heart-rendering. She had kept this part of her life inside of her for a long time (years).

After when I hugged her, I could feel her warmth and her strength and I couldn’t help my tears from falling, feeling sympathetic towards her. But sympathy is not what I should have been feeling, but rather, I should have felt proud that she was finally releasing her pain and proud that she survived the abuse.

Some of the older generation of women and elders still carry the pain of the abuse they suffered. Carrying that kind of secret for so many years causes a lot of pain. I could see that with this woman.

I hope this woman I am writing about, we’ll call her Phyllis, is a good example for the younger generations. Abuse causes severe pain to your inner-self. Abuse is something to be taken seriously and when you speak about it, you will start you on the path to happiness. To our friend Phyllis, you are a strong woman and I am proud that you had the courage to speak out and I wish you everlasting peace and happiness as you walk you journey of life.

During the conference, another woman approached me about her son being in an abusive relationship, but I was speechless. I couldn’t relate to her son’s feelings, because I write about the feelings of a woman in an abusive relationship.

What I do know is that when men get physically and emotionally abused by their wives, they tend to just laugh about it. They are too ashamed and too proud to take it seriously. I don’t know enough to respond to this woman’s question about her son. Is there anyone out there who can help her? Her question was, “What do you say to a man who is physically abused and does not want to leave the relationship?

Last but not least, I would like to thank Bertha Dixon and the organizing committee for the conference in your community of Waswanipi. Conferences like this do make a difference in leading your people to their healing journeys, not necessarily through native Spirituality, but by helping your people to find peace within themselves. It allows people to voice themselves which is part of healing and it shows people that it is all right to speak. Our people need guidance and you are true leaders in the helping field. Meegwetch.