Turtle Lodge – Feast to Show Thanks and Gratitude

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Shy-Anne Turtle Lodge
Turtle Lodge, Sagkeeng First Nation Manitoba
Turtle Lodge, Pine Falls Manitoba

TURTLE LODGE – Over 125 people converged at Turtle Lodge on the day of the Full Moon, January 26, 2013, to answer an international call made by Elders earlier last month to have a Feast to show gratitude to the spirit of Mother Earth and ask for blessing and direction.

Turtle Lodge Elders Gathering 

The Elders reminded us that Mother Earth provides everything we need in order to live – “the food, the water, the medicines, the loving connection and the teachings on how to have a good life that keep us in balance and harmony.”

They invited everyone in the world to join together on this day, showing gratitude to Mother Earth following their unique ways and traditions, in their own families, communities and nations.  The Elders shared that this continual honouring of the Spirit in Nature has been what has ensured the survival of the First Peoples. They shared their belief that this showing of gratitude for Mother Earth is the act that will ensure our survival as a human race, living together, sharing and caring for one another, bound together by a common relationship of sacred connection to the land.

Turtle Lodge Manito Debikikiisis “Spirit Moon”

Let us work together towards the New Life, following in the foosteps of our ancestors - Dave Courchene
Let us work together towards the New Life, following in the footsteps of our ancestors – Dave Courchene

The Elders asserted: The only foundation for a healthy humanity is to have peace with Mother Earth. 

Manito Debikikiisis “Spirit Moon”   For the First Peoples of Turtle Island, our ancestors were connected to the natural time, reflected by the 13 Full Moons. Each Moon represented a time; there were times for planting, harvesting, hunting, gathering and times when we connected with the Spirit, for purifying and healing. We cannot give love and respect, have true courage, be honest, have wisdom, or have humility unless we are connected to the Spirit.

This particular Gathering took place on a special Full Moon in wintertime, which the Elders refer to as Manito Debikikiisis, meaning “Spirit Moon”.  This Moon comes in its fullness to help purify us and to heal all of Creation.  It comes to convey instructions from the healing powers of the universe, that can help transform us to experience the feeling that we are on a spiritual journey.

Explanation of Idle No More Movement

One of the original four women founders of the Idle No More movement, Nina Wilson, attended the Gathering at Turtle Lodge.  Nina Wilson, herself a Sundancer, explained that it was her passion for Mother Earth and the waters of Mother Earth that was the driving force behind what fueled her to speak up and lend her voice to speak for Mother Earth and stand for her people.

Nina Wilson offered cloths and tobacco at the Turtle Lodge and made a request for a Grandmother to be selected by the Elders gathered, who would give guidance to the Idle No More movement.

Guidance from the Elders

A Pipe Ceremony took place and special prayers in the language were offered by Elder Robin Greene.  The Treaty 3 Drum, named Paa Ba Ma Sa Gaa, took a leadership role in the ceremony.  The Red Shadow Singers Drum was also sounded.

The Elders shared that we have reached the crossroads in our evolution and are at the point where we must make a decision that can affect our future as humanity. The choice is simple – living guided by the Spirit, by spiritual laws, principles and values based on peace, or continuing to live supporting systems that exploit the sacredness of life.

They encouraged everyone to make the journey to the beginning – a beginning that reflects our true identity as spiritual people. 

The Elders acknowledged that we are witnessing a movement expressing the need for change. They stated that there is indeed a leader of this movement; that it is the spirit of the ancestors with the support of the forces of Mother Earth that are influencing and leading this movement.

[sws_pullquote_left]The Elders professed their support for initiatives led by the First Peoples, to introduce all people to our ancient sacred traditions and teachings that can help humanity connect to Mother Earth and find balance again [/sws_pullquote_left]
 
They encouraged each of us to position ourselves to be guided and influenced by the Spirit, who will always guide us towards actions of peace, which inspire and encourage our fellow human beings, and lead to peaceful resolve.

They made special mention of actions centered around bringing all our children back to the land, to connect in a deep, spiritual way to Mother Earth, to connect to her loving kindness and finding our humanity again. 

The Elders professed their support for initiatives led by the First Peoples, to introduce all people to our ancient sacred traditions and teachings that can help humanity connect to Mother Earth and find balance again.

Dave Courchene, Turtle Lodge founder, stated, “This is our opportunity now to show the world the truth of who we really are as a spiritual people. Our way is not to impose, but rather to appeal to the hearts of man.” 

Instructions from the Grandmothers and Ceremony about a Birch Bark Scroll

Two grandmothers from Treaty 3 territory came forward to share a vision and instructions they had received from the Spirit about a sacred birch bark scroll. 

Grandmothers Eleanor and Lynn Skead from Rat Portage shared that a ceremony in their area had recently been done in which Grandmother Eleanor Skead was asked by the Spirit to tell the story of their people on a sacred birch bark scroll, and share it with the world. 

They were told that the scroll would likely need to be shared with the British royal family, who also had their spiritual helpers which included the lion and the unicorn.

Grandmother Eleanor Skead was told to find the person she believed would best be able and willing to take on and carry the responsibility of both writing the story of the people, and sharing it with the world.  She was told by the Spirit to find a man of the heart, and that this man would unite the people.

The Grandmothers chose Elder Dave Courchene to write the scroll and carry the story of the people. They shared that the story needed to be written using red ochre, and they talked about a special ceremony that was done recently to pass the birch bark scrolls to Elder Dave Courchene. 

The Grandmothers also shared that the Spirit asked them to choose former Grand Chief of Treaty 3 Territory, Leon Jordain, to help support the message of the scroll, and filmmaker Jeremy Torrie to chronicle and document the story of the writing and sharing of the scroll.  All three men were present at the recent ceremony when the birch bark scrolls were passed by the Grandmothers to Elder Dave Courchene.

This story was shared with the people at the Turtle Lodge Gathering, and documented on film by Jeremy Torrie.  The Treaty 3 Drum did an Honour Song for the vision received. 

Feast to Show Thanks and Gratitude to Mother Earth
 
All who attended at the Turtle Lodge shared a potluck Feast.  Offerings were made to the sacred fire to the spirit of Mother Earth.

Elder Dave Courchene, Turtle Lodge founder, stated “The Feast we do today is to show our gratitude and appreciation to the spirit of Mother Earth for all that she gives us to sustain us.”

Round Dance

Idle No More- Round Dance Photo By:Nathan Ogden
Idle No More- Round Dance Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay
Photo By:Nathan Ogden

At the end of the evening a Round Dance was held with all present joining hands and dancing inside the Turtle Lodge!

“Our people had this great faith that there was great power in the Round Dance,” said Elder Dave Courchene. “The dancing itself was calling the Spirit to help in healing whatever the community was in need of healing.”

[sws_pullquote_right]“Certainly today we see a much more contemporary type of expression in the Round Dances, but the foundation has not changed in terms of what it represents. The Drum is still the key”Elder Dave Courchene [/sws_pullquote_right]

“A culture never really stays the same,” Elder Courchene said. “It evolves. People are adjusting right now to bringing back the foundation of those ancestral ceremonies. Certainly today we see a much more contemporary type of expression in the Round Dances, but the foundation has not changed in terms of what it represents. The Drum is still the key.”

“What’s important is [the ceremonies] are slowly coming back,” Elder Courchene added. “The journey of restoration is happening across the country. People are sharing that knowledge amongst each other, where it has been forgotten. They are bringing back that spirit of being one people, with one voice.”

The Idle No More flash mobs are a part of that: bringing the Drum, the sacred songs and the Round Dance to the heart of the territories where they were born, and where they still thrive. “These Round Dances are very, very significant,” Elder Courchene said.

“There is a lot of excitement, I think, with young Aboriginal people. Round Dances are sweeping across the country. I just hope that it is kept in the spirit of the way that it was meant to be, which is to have peace and respect. People are looking for inspiration and guidance to a better world.”

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