From the time before time, indigenous people have lived their lives according to the seasons. Each season has its own purpose and we participate in ceremonies and spiritual activities that keep our lives in balance and promote wellness within ourselves, with our families, our community and with the wider environment. Seeking to live a life at peace with all things requires sacrifice. I hear the elders say it all the time, this way of life is not easy. But in my experience there is great joy in participating in making a better world.
This is the time of year that we move around the Medicine Wheel from the west direction of the fall to the winter season in the north. At this time, we celebrate the longest night of the year at the Winter Solstice. It is the time when the ceremonies we attend prepare us for the coming of the light and moving toward the vision of new life. It is a time of great hope and generosity. After the season of harvesting and preparing food for the winter there was time to come together to take care of one another, sharing the gifts that had been received during the fall season. My gramma used to tell us about loading the family on the horse and wagon and going to barn dances in another community. The winter was the time for being together, singing and dancing and storytelling,
In the Christian tradition the news of the birth of Jesus came to the people through a bright star that announced the coming of another type of light. They believe that he would bring “Peace on Earth, good will to men.”
Both of these traditional ways remind us of the need to look toward the positive light, to remind us to ‘give peace a chance.’ In the stillness of night we are able to see the light of hope. This is a magical spiritual time that can be felt. People seem to be a bit more generous. This time of year provides the opportunity to give thanks for the good things that are happening in our lives, however small. This gratitude opens our hearts and enables us to see with our hearts.
When we are able to see others, what do we see? For many this season is difficult. For some this may be the first Christmas on a budget but for many this will be another Christmas season spent alone, broken, unemployed and homeless. I want to bring this reality into the light. Working at the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, I see the efforts of the community coming together to help one another. I see the deep faith that healing is not only possible but that it’s happening, one family at a time. You are invited to join that work by making a charitable contribution to their efforts to empower the indigenous people.
Along with Urban Aboriginal Voices Society, the community will come together to celebrate the gift of hope and friendship at the annual community winter feast at Festival Hall on Friday. The pipe ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. followed by dinner at 5 p.m. Together every single person will have the opportunity to share the gift of their spirit and light by sitting together, sharing together, praying together, laughing together and singing together.
I love this event. It assures me that I’m part of something very real and very powerful. I receive the gift of kinship and I offer my gift of light and hope that everyone every where will stare out into the night sky and see the coming of the light and have a vision of a new year that will be filled with peace and happiness.
Tanya Ward-Schur is director of the Asooahum Crossing.