Women of the Moon

Sounds wild and exotic, doesn’t it? Women of the Moon.  What does that mean – that women came from the moon?  Women worship the moon? Not really. But let me tell you about meeting women of the moondance.  I had been wanting to attend a women’s moon dance for over a decade and was given an opportunity last year. However, the timeframe was less than a week to prepare, so it was again left to another time.  Another opportunity come around this February 2017.  With a group of Sundance women and their families, we attended the moon dance ceremony led by Grandmother Ana Carmona in Costa Rica.

Like many women in North America, I came to a reclamation of ceremonial and spiritual ceremony through male medicine men and patriarchal influenced practise.  My most consistent learning and practise has been through Sundance ceremony.  Sundance is seen primarily as a man’s ceremony where space has had to be created for women.  And while over the years, there has been an acceptance of the role of women in ceremony, it has been a grudging acceptance by men and by some women as well.  As much as Sundance was and is a home base for me and many women, I still felt like there was a space that women can feel fully at home.

I came to the moon dance with the objective of observing and determining if this was a ceremony or a lived practise for me and for other Indigenous women to support a reclamation of self.  I needed to find a safe place where women and girls could shift from the mindset of victim and survivor. I needed to find a place of safety for women to again re-engage the possibility of moving the line to creator, co-creator, genius, recreator to live from a place of strength, but beyond that to live from a place of joy.  Finding a safe space and safe ceremony was critical in this exploration, because we often subject ourselves to lateral violence and hierarchal complexities even in a female environment.   My mind was challenged to release my gendered conditioning for ceremony while my heart had found a home.  It was a strange experience to walk into ceremonial grounds, and move freely about with the gendered based protocols that felt and seemed so normal in my life experience.  Being in a complete women’s space, where the men of the fire were in complete service to women was a complete upheaval of my conditioning -ceremonial and daily living.  I thought to myself and spoke to one other person, that I felt this may not be the answer I was looking for. I felt sad about that realization.  My gendered ceremonial conditioning so entrenched that I wasn’t sure I could create the space to learn.

I felt like my mission had failed and then I found myself spiraling into a complete physical breakdown. The journey became personal: no movement of my neck, extreme should pain, migraine like symtoms, but not a migraine.  Extreme vomiting on the first day in camp that was managed by pharmaceuticals and a neck brace.  On the second day, acupuncture, acupressure, etc. gave some time limited relief.

All these modalities just gave me limited relief.  I finally had to surrender as we prepared for dancing, the second night and meet with the grandmothers. I had to let them know that I felt I could not dance because of my physical issues.  They advised me that I would go into the dance at be the altar for the night and let the grandmother moon take care of me.  This I did. I laid down my blankets at the altar of the moon.

I climbed into my sleeping blanket and I guess left my body.  I did not return, hear, or see a thing until I awoke just as dawn approached.  Fully conscious, alert and pain free.  I knew something was very different for me and that something had shifted.  I could have full range of motion for my neck.  My mind was clear.  With this surrender, I also lost my judgemental mind.  I could just be in my body and in my heart.  I could attend the teachings of the grandmothers and be open to their wisdom and willingness to share their knowledge.

One of the grandmothers had shared that life is all about balance.  I believe the Moon dance rooted in Indigenous tradition is one of the cultural/spiritual traditions that can support our moveas women to reclaim our fullness, free from violence – personal and systemic that impacts our daily lives. I believe this particular ceremonial tradition is definitely one that can be of service to supporting our work of reclaiming our wholeness.  I highly encourage you to attend and find out for yourself.  Interested?


Women of the Moon

Digital Story-Telling

Inter-generational effects of Residential School on Indigenous People

The inter-generational effects of residential school is often difficult to understand, not only by the observers but by the impacted. I had the opportunity to attend a talk given today by the Women whose research into the effects and impact on their own lives. The women were professionals whose lived experiences were recorded in digital story format. You can view these digital stories at: http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/index/oral-history-centre

The first womans digital story was against the photo of her beautiful young smiling mother. It was the haunting picture of her hazel eyes that told parts of her story and parts of her daughters story. It was difficult to sit quietly detached as my own emotion was riding just behind the surface of my own questions. I also caught my shoulders riding up to my ears, like I was trying to hide from the pain of my own remembering. Catching my physical reactions, I sat back and willed myself to breathe deeply, center, and listen to the stories, that were not unlike my own. I gazed at the photo of this young mother, and heard her daughters voice as their stories and lives were woven together. Like many survivor children, her daughter only heard parts of her story through her statement to the Indian Residential School settlement process. Out of respect, no questions are asked. It was only when the digital story of the daughter was shared and published, did the words “I love you and support you” take on a new meaning. Through reflection, the daughter found that she had experienced similar coping mechanisms to deal with the loss of identity and fear of abandonment and violence.

One womans digital story was against the backdrop of “the apology” proclaimed by the government of Canada in chambers in 2008. Five years later, the question is: What is the merit of the apology in the understanding of the inter-generational experience? In the moment of the apology, there was a feeling of relief that in fact, our experiences were real and had been validated by the perpetrator. There was profound relief that finally the perpetrator had admitted guilt. This validation gave us the opportunity to grieve the generations that had been immediately affected by the horrors of abuse and the generations who then lived the abuse in the shadows of a fearful parenting model.

The lead researcher, in the project, Roberta Stout,stated that, “telling our personal stories gives us the power to disrupt the affects of the colonial power within us”. And that is true, as once we are able to uncover the pain, we begin to grow out of it and see the power of our collective stories. We begin to see in our stories, the complete and powerful resilience of our mothers and our fathers to live with these painful memories. We can begin to see how this powerful resilience exists within all of us and carry in our cell memory. This resilience will guide us for generations to come.

In honoring this resilience, then my gratitude will always be extended to Phil Fontaine for his bravery for being the first public figure to disclose the horror of residential school. He walked with us through the valley of darkness and we began to understand that we are not victims and we are not powerless. The extent of the systemic and organized attempt to destroy a people, our people, is still being uncovered. However deep the pain and depraved the system has been, it no longer holds the power of the unspoken. We continue to rise and stand in our own power as nations of people, as proud human beings whose ancestors, whose mothers and fathers paid the blood price for our freedom and gave us

Digital Story-Telling