By Dr. Renee Linklater Director, Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach for the Provincial System Support Program
It’s winter time, the time when we share our stories. This story began a long time ago, but last summer it re-emerged when I was home at Manitou Rapids-Rainy River First Nations in Northwestern Ontario. I texted my friend Al Hunter to see if he was around for a visit. He invited me to make Bear Grease, a traditional medicine used by our people. I was very excited as I had often used Bear Grease in ceremonies and healing procedures and I was very grateful to learn more teachings and participate in preparing the medicine. As I arrived I was happy to see another friend, Geraldine Cameron. The three of us spend the day in the bush making medicine as we visited and talked about the healing in our communities.
As each hour passed I felt myself becoming calmer and more aware of the connection to the land – listening to the birds, the trees and remembering the times of being immersed in my healing work. I felt myself breathing deeper, letting out sighs of stress and exhaustion. As I commented to my friends that this day was exactly what I needed, Al responded “if people would spend more time doing these types of things then they would feel a whole lot better.” I absolutely agreed. In these more recent years I’ve been focused on building family and programs and haven’t had much time for self-care. For many of us, the work-life balance is a struggle.
When I reflect on my own route to wellness and how challenging that journey is at times, I’m reminded of the land-based healing opportunities that I was able to take part in. Although we didn’t call them that 20 years ago, I now recognize that it is helpful to acknowledge “land-based healing” as a modality, as it has implications for the development of wellness programs and funding allocations. I have also come to realize that the colonization that Indigenous peoples experienced and that the efforts of the Canadian government and churches to forcibly prevent First Nations peoples from practicing culture and ceremony has had devastating impacts on our identities and well-being in general. We are now in a time of recovery from colonization, and this includes reclaiming Indigenous healing practices.