As Six Nations community members gathered for a day of healing at the community hall last week, unity was the focus of the event.
Both Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill and Miss Six Nations Dawn Martin spoke of the importance of unity in healing the rifts among the community.
“This event it really does mean a lot to me,” said Martin, who is a Martin, who is a teacher, historian, academic and language student. “Community healing is what’s needed and kind of the platform I do talk about as Miss Six Nations, as well.”
Colonialism is what continues to drive the rifts between community members on Six Nations, she said.
“I know the impacts of colonialism and what it has done to our community. Our community’s culture and languages were violently attacked. Through colonialism it was 500 years of the breakdown of the family, of the community. With my work in language, that’s one thing I’ve started to understand, is the deep meaning that we have within our relationships. Everything in the language is about relationships – our relationship to one another, our relationship to the land, our relationship with everyone and everything around us.”
The day of healing was held as a means to help community members feel connected and find a way to help cope with recent losses that have overtaken Six Nations.
As part of her platform, knowing the division and hurt feelings among community members, said Martin, the main takeaway of the event is to really look at relationships.
“Are we in good relationships with one another and with ourselves? That’s what’s really important, is coming together as one.”
Chief Hill agreed.
“We need to come together as a community. There’s a lot of young people looking up (to us). We need to put their future first. We know we have a lot of healing to go. This is the first of many. We wanted to have an event where it’s respectful of everyone, where we have that good mind at the forefront, where we respect the outlook and diversity of our community.”
The event incorporated both traditional and Christian elements, language, songs and teachings.
“We really wanted to showcase that respect,” said Chief Hill. “It’s about coming together. There’s been so much sadness in our community over the past couple of months (in addition to going through a worldwide pandemic). There’s been so much sadness and so much challenge that we figure now is the time we can come together.”
The event was catered by renowned Chef Tawnya Brant and Hilda’s Kitchen.
There was also a silly photo booth, counselling services, music, traditional dancers, a fire pit, a free family skate at the arena next door, and lots of food for community members to enjoy.
“Our goal is to continue these types of events to continue to walk the path of healing as a community,”said Chief Hill. “We know we have a lot to do on the political side of things. When our arrows are bundled, we’re much stronger.”
Ron Thomas, a traditional knowledge keeper, provided some powerful advice and prayer for families who were grieving.
“We’re all Onkwehonwe, regardless of what may be different in our lives. We ask that they be able to find the strength for a new tomorrow and to be able to find all of the necessary tools that they’re going to need to be able to stand back up.”
He said just coming together was medicine, as was the laughter he heard echoing throughout the day.
“What we’re doing today, coming here together, that’s good medicine. There’s not a single family that’s not struggling with some form of illness, some form of addiction. Everybody has a story. That’s what connects us as human beings. There’s no such thing as a perfect human being. You’re going to make mistakes in this world. The problem is that it also brings shame. Shame takes the voice away.”
He said it takes vulnerability to come together and share that with each other.
“I was really grateful an event like this came together because there is a problem. We had to ask ourselves ‘when is enough enough?’ We’re losing our leaders. We’re losing our future. Every year, we send elders home. That’s knowledge, that’s language, that’s medicine, that’s teachings, that’s opportunities missed form people who have lived it. They’ve seen what works; they’ve seen what doesn’t. As Onkwehonwe people, that’s one of our strongest values – our elders are told to cherish and protect the young at all costs. They’re our future. Our young are encouraged all the time to protect our elders. They’re connected to one antoher. We can’t have one without the other.”
Thomas noted how hard it was, dealing with a pandemic in the past few years, and not having proper closure in saying good-bye to loved ones due to gathering restrictions.
“We acknowledged that today in the tobacco burning, said Thomas. We ask for strength for them.”
Chief Hill said it was the first of many similar healing events to come.