The coming together was held all day Friday and Saturday and offered many opportunities for people to voice their experiences of losing loved ones, as well as discuss how to help each other to heal.
Angie Bear is president of the Healing Families of Murdered and Missing Peoples Committee, which worked for around a year to make this ceremony happen.
“What is there we can do to help families?” asks Bear.
They have tried reiki, they have tried community gardening, they have tried many other modernly accepted forms of therapy or healing.
“But when we went to the elders, they said, ‘those are not our ceremonies.’”
So, Bear says, addressing the circle, they are choosing to follow the historical memories and knowledge of their elders more closely.
So, the Healing Moon Ceremony has been born.
“When somebody goes on a healing journey it has to come from the elders, ‘cause I don’t know those ceremonies. That’s why we are here, to develop protocol,” Bear says, protocol for this ceremony. To learn, “how to heal, to move on with our lives.”
The belief that returning to traditional methods of healing is important was a repeated theme in people’s sharings.
“There are not as many people here as we had hoped,” Bear says.
Around 20 people, six of whom were elders, five men and one woman, were part of Saturday morning’s pipe ceremony. There was also a handful of children under 10. The open discussion circle afterwards brought in a handful more.
Bear accepts this.
“Whoever is here is who is supposed to be here.”
“But when we went to the elders, they said, ‘those are not our ceremonies.’” - Angie Bear
Bear says that this is the first time this has been done this is how they will learn to do it better, this is where they will see what works and what doesn’t
Individuals were given the opportunity to speak to the gathering, about whatever it was they needed to say, whether that was their hopes for the healing ceremony in coming years or a very personal sharing of their own experience of grief at the loss of a beloved one.
The informal structure seemed to invite personal accounts as well as good humour.
Elder Ira Wayne Burns regularly came forth with wily jokes, infusing the often heavy sharing with laughter.
The vice president of the Murdered and Missing Peoples Committee, Sandra Lachance, has a very personal connection to the need for this ceremony. Three members of her family have gone missing or been murdered.
The body of Jean Marie Lachance was found on Sept. 15, 1991. Leo Lachance was shot dead on Jan. 28, 1991 and Samuel Lachance has been missing since July 29, 1987.
Lechance addressed the gathered circle.
“This is a new born baby,” she says of the Healing Ceremony. A baby who cannot walk before it crawls, or run before it walks.
“That’s why there’s not very many people here.”
We are here, says Lechance, “To help each other get up and walk.”
“We’re all here, we’re gonna help it walk, gonna help it grow.”