As Saultonline has been reporting, Suicide Crisis Solidarity Ceremony (SCSC), is a First Nation, youth empowered vision in Baawaating.
Compelled to action by the trauma of suicides in remote Attawapiskat First Nation, and First Nations communities across Canada, SCSC sought to bring the issue right onto the traditional territory of Baawaating. A Nation to Nation plea for common understanding.
First Nations young people, were especially remembered through ceremonies that continued for four days from April 24-27th,2016.
SCSC began the journey on Whitefish Island, where a conscientious group of First Nation youth and elders gathered to begin, what would become three days of occupation at the downtown Queen St. location of MP Terry Sheehan’s office and parking lot.
Over three days of occupation, where ceremonies, song, drum circles, dialogue, sacred fire and smudge, continued, good will found a voice.
Citizens from all over Baawaating & beyond stopped by to lend support, and engage in understanding about what was happening in MP Sheehan’s parking lot, and in front of his office. Inside his office, SCSC would also find a home for three days.
By its very presence, SCSC afforded the wider community an opportunity to connect with issues that are very real in remote communities, many north of latitude 50. SCSC further wanted to give voice to all youth who are feeling lost and hopeless; broken; on the edge of despair; contemplating suicide.
“We believe that we must stand united across the country in solidarity with the youth in Attawapiskat and other First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities facing unacceptable rates of suicide among their people. We are focused on healing; healing of the people, our communities, and our land through reconnecting to language and culture.” (SCSC)
“We are coming together over four days because we recognize that there are four parts of self: mind, body, emotion and spirit, and that all must be nourished and in harmony in order to live a good life.”(SCSC)
SCSC’s vision unfolded thusly, Day One: Spirit. Day 2: Body. Day 3: Mind. Day 4: Emotions
Chris Swan reflected on Day 4. “The morning started with a Pipe Ceremony. Prayers were offered, that they would be guided by ancestors, by Spirit, and that the youth would not be forgotten; that Spirit would guide our women; our children, our 2 Spirited, and the rest of Canada.”
“The youth sat down with Terry Sheehan, to draft a letter, which he has committed to bringing to Ottawa and presenting to Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous & Northern Affairs. They came together to put down on paper, what some of the plans and ideas are that they have for youth, moving forward; putting some plans in place.” he said.
“This is not just a First Nations issue. This is everyone’s issue. There is so much destruction going on. We have to take care of Mother Earth because she provides so much for us. We can’t take her for granted.”
A drum circle continued beside the sacred fire and Tepee, lifting hearts with every beat; songs & prayers offered by many voices to Creator.
At noon (or so) Sault Ste. Marie Police Services secured Bay St., and cross streets all the way along a parade route from Sheehan’s parking lot to East St. It really was something to see. The police officers did a super job keeping the walkers safe from harm. The walkers received lots of applause, cheers and honks, sharing visual & written messages, including through drum and song.
Constable Troy Miller (SSMPS) was involved with SCSC as a liaison from the very first day. He worked respectfully and in earnest to support a way forward for SCSC. The staff at Sheehan’s office as well as the folks in the SSM Chamber of Commerce offices lent support. SSM Mayor Christian Provenzano stopped by the sacred fire as well.
And what a great day to be one of the young people walking along the route to The Friendship Centre, like Emerald and Olivia did with Chris Swan and Karrie Oliver side by side. Jingle dress dancers, artists, elders, youth, men, women, children and a federal MP taking the footsteps together. An MP who dug deep and found a way for a group of peaceful occupiers, to do just that in his office. Whatever your political stripe, reconciliation won.
After reaching the final destination, MP Sheehan said “We (SCSC and he) sat down to dialogue and to find an understanding that would lead us down a path we walk together. The last three days have been a wonderful experience. We’ve learned from each other and we will continue to grow with each other. We’ve only just started this journey together. Today is a beautiful day.”
What SCSC accomplished along the way, was something very special. A Baawaating occupation. Through ceremony and mutual sharing of stories, through dialogue and bearing witness to trauma that continues to take the lives of young people, a new vision can find a spark of hope. We have all been given an opportunity to learn. Reconciliation is not a brick wall, waiting to be taken down with a sledgehammer. Reconciliation is a path, where sweet grass and cedars grow. Where tobacco and sage offered in smudge whispers to ancestors. Connecting. Directing.
And at the sacred fire, which burned for three days, tobacco was offered. Semma was put down from many who visited and stayed until the last ember, under the watchful eye of the Fire Keeper, was sent in a blessing for peace.
The last word goes to SCSC’s Candace Day Neveau. A truly inspiring messenger for peace and reconciliation; for truth-seeking, and mobilizing citizen voices. Her work has only just begun.
“We followed ceremony to honour our culture. We wanted to set an example to all of the young people to reach out to your culture. It will make you stronger. It will help you. Put down your semma first, and ask for the guidance of your elders.”
SCSC on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com