MANITOU API – ANISHINABE TRADITIONAL TERRITORY — On June 27, young men from a number of Manitoba First Nations began fasting with no food or water. With the blessing and sanction of their elders, and after being prepared through an ancient sweat lodge ceremony of purification and cleansing, they entered into the sacred site at Manitou Api on Wednesday. Located within the Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba, and from whence the province gets its name, Manitou Api means “Where the Great Spirit Sat” in the Anishinabe language.
The young men have been at the sacred site now for two days and two nights, in the sweltering heat, in fasting lodges they constructed themselves out of willow poles. Their mission – to seek vision and direction for the people. Last night the lightning and thunder came, along with high winds, and the rain has been falling steadily this morning.
The vision quest has for thousands of years been the rite of passage to manhood for young Indigenous boys following their traditional way of life. Boys become men by being initiated by woman in a process that was started by their own mothers – and now, by going to the land, to Mother Earth, the first woman, the first mother, and the source of life for us all. There they reach out in humbleness to the Great Spirit – the highest power of all – to bring them a vision or dream that will help guide them; that will bring meaning and purpose to their life as men.
Without a vision a boy never enters manhood. He remains immature, uninitiated, without a vision. The elders say that many men today are still boys. They argue, lack value and reverence, and they play with life. They are missing the deep-seated passion that drives a man to follow the responsibilities of fulfilling his purpose on Earth.
This vision quest is different. It is bigger than a vision quest for one man to know himself. It is for the nation – for all of us.
Inspired by a call made by the elders of their First Nations, these young men responded to the great challenge of seeking a way forward not just for themselves as individuals, but for all people. The old ones who have gone through this tell us that it is much harder to fast when you are doing it for your people; the struggle is greater, as you carry the burden of your people in the journey. It is not a mission for the faint of heart, and only the strong make it through.
These young men are the strong ones. They have come forward as our men leaders of tomorrow.
We are supporting them now through our thoughts and prayers, and preparing for their arrival on Sunday July 1, when they emerge from the sacred site at first light. They will journey first thing in the morning to the Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation, where they will enter back into the sweat lodge, and be given a special soup made from the heart of the moose.
All are welcome to join us in welcoming them back on Sunday morning at the Turtle Lodge, with a breakfast feast and ceremony of honour, to acknowledge them for their great sacrifice on all our behalf. All are invited to bring a dish to share for the morning feast, and any gifts for the young men.