Elder Mae Louise Campbell and her daughter Jamie Goulet make a powerful duo. When they speak about the Clan Mothers Healing Village, they paint a picture of all that will be possible on the parcel of land gifted to them by Réseau Compassion Network. Located near the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Belair, the site will soon be home to buildings and activities that will call Indigenous women back to the land to heal from trauma and reconnect with their culture and their inner strength.
“Our women have experienced sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking,” says Jamie. “It’s important that we name that, that we use those words. This isn’t new. The missing link in so many of our communities is Indigenous matriarchal wisdom and knowledge.”
She then defers to her mother with a chuckle, “Sorry, mom,” Jamie says. “I don’t mean to interrupt because you have so many wonderful things to share. But it’s so important that we don’t shy away what’s happening in our communities.”
Together, mother and daughter walk the line between public relations savvy and Indigenous knowledge. Jamie knows what needs to be said and heard by media and the public; Elder Mae Louise knows what needs to be felt and healed by all.
Elder Mae Louise smiles at her daughter before continuing, “No, you’re right. We have to say what is happening and that things aren’t working well for our women right now. The patriarchal ways are strong; they have taken over our traditional ways. We don’t have enough grandmothers teaching our women about their bodies, their minds, and their spirits. About the power that we all have within us.”
The Healing Village aims to approach the trauma Indigenous women are facing with traditional practices. “Healing doesn’t happen in a few months or even two years,” continues Elder Mae Louise. “These women don’t have enough inside them to continue their journey in a good way. They are walking around with what they’ve experienced: trauma after trauma. And so women will be able to stay with us as long as they need. This isn’t a system or a program. This will be their home, and they can stay in their home as long as they wish.”
While the founders of the Healing Village (which includes a council of 7 female elders and many more who are contributing to administration and planning) have a vision, they know there are challenges ahead. “We want to create a new model of Indigenous healing and self-governance, because the systems in place are doing the best they can, but they only know what they know,” explains Elder Mae Louise. She speaks of having worked with many Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations through the years and despite good intentions, many are simply too disconnected from their culture to be able to make a larger impact.
“This isn’t a complicated thing, really, and the simplicity of it is what’s confusing people,” she continues. “This isn’t academic, this is about the spirit of who we are as a people. We have to work through the spirit, not the mind. We must let that guide us.”
While Elder Mae Louise has long known that a space like the Healing Village was needed, it was only during a trip the United States for a conference several years ago that she had a vision for what would eventually become the Clan Mothers. The CEO of Réseau Compassion Network, Daniel Lussier, was at the same conference and their connection would lay the foundation for an important sharing of resources and knowledge.
This article is part of a multi-part series which will tell the story of the Clan Mothers Healing Village. Stay tuned for another installment in January which will dive further into the involvement of Réseau Compassion Network, and more about the values that will guide the Healing Village.