I will Dance and pray for the healing of our children and our youth.
I will Dance for medicine for them.
I will Dance to ask all of the spirits to protect them,
and to stop the epidemic of suicide that plagues our communities.
I will also Dance for the healing of all people of the Mi'kmaw Nation, and ask that they may be given a way to help our children and youth.
Several months ago I felt I needed to make a commitment to do something for our children and youth. However, at the time I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. Then one day it came to me: I was to Dance for our children. It felt to be the right thing to do as the opportunity was there for me. I was actually planning on going to the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As I made preparations, I felt that I needed to make a special shawl to do this Dance. I had a few weeks to make a shawl, so I began to look for the right material. Good friends made many suggestions, but in the end I found that the shawl would be made out of leather. Once I got the leather, I began to sew, lace, fringe and hand-paint the shawl. While I worked, I would think about our children and youth who are going through difficult times: those who are sick, those who do not have a stable family life at home, and those who live in poverty. As I thought of them, I prayed for them. I thought about the youth that are having so many difficulties and challenges, and about the alcohol and drug abuse that they get caught up in. I thought about those who contemplate suicide, for some not only once but many times in their young lives, and about those that have even attempted suicide. I also needed to acknowledge those who have completed suicide. I often felt really sad as I made the shawl, as my thoughts took me to a dark place that is reality for our youth.
Then I went on to thinking about our people, the caretakers of our children and youth. I knew I had to also pray for them, asking that they would be given the strength, guidance and tools they need to help their children.
I completed the shawl a few days before I was to leave for New Mexico. In the process of making the shawl I received various names from people, names of their children or children they knew who were having difficult times, and I was asked to Dance and pray for them.
It’s funny that at about this time I began to question myself. I wondered, “Am I doing the right thing, and more importantly, will this help my people?” I sought counsel from my spiritual guide, and the answer I was given was:
You may not heal all, you may not even heal a few. However, if you can help even one youth to heal, then you have helped generations yet to come, for that one child or youth will eventually have children, and those children will have children, and so on.
This made me feel a lot better, for I knew that I could not heal all, but I was satisfied to know the possibilities that could come from helping one youth.
Standing in the line-up for the Grand Entry at the Gathering of Nations I was very nervous. I tried so hard to keep focus on why I was there. As I looked around me there were hundreds upon hundreds of Dancers of all ages. I remembered admiring the other women’s regalia. The beadwork was massive on many, which indicated the many hours that must have went into creating these magnificent dresses and shawls. Then I looked at my leather dress and shawl, thinking how plain it looked. No beadwork, although hand-painted as it would have been done by the ancestors long ago. Yet I was extremely proud of my regalia, for I knew the time I had spent making it, and how the shawl had a significant meaning to me and more so reminded me of why I was there at that moment.
Hanging from the fringes in the back of the shawl were eight tobacco ties, each representing a purpose:
The four colours, red, yellow, black, and white, were for the children, youth and people of our Mi’kmaw Nation, and as well for those of all other Nations.
The other four colours were: brown for mother earth and all other life; blue for our water and air; green for our food and medicines; and yellow for the sun.
Inside a pouch which I carried protected beneath the shawl were more tobacco ties, which carried the names and prayers of the children, youth and adults whom I was asked to Dance and pray for.
I actually did three Dances during the Gathering, surpassing my own expectations. Dancing the first Dance was quite emotional. I also asked the announcers to request that the other Dancers, and indeed all the Gathering participants, would keep the children, youth and the people of the Mi’kmaw Nation and of all Nations in mind as they Danced. When the announcement came over the speakers, I again became quite emotional, and I knew that on my final Dance I was not alone – it was announced that there were over 3200 Dancers registered and probably over 15,000 people from 500 Nations that were in attendance at this Gathering, and for one brief moment they were Dancing for my people.
The energy was high, the spirits were strong and my spirit felt great comfort and joy to know that I Danced my final Dance for our children, youth and our people - the Mi’kmaw Nation.
This is my gift to you… All My Relations!