This article is part of a multi-part series which will tell the story of the Clan Mothers Healing Village. To read part I, please click here.
The Clan Mothers Healing Village will begin to take shape this summer on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, near Belair. It will be a place for Indigenous women to heal and to return to their traditions and culture in an effort to combat the layers of trauma that many women are facing daily.
Elder Mae Louise Campbell, one of the founders of the Clan Mothers, believes that the key to a better life for Indigenous women and their communities is helping those women find their power and their inner strength. “According to our teachings, we are the power. Historically, our women walked the earth in skirts and the power of the earth mother came up from the ground, into our wombs and our spirits,” she explains.
“We will bring these powerful teachings back to women. There’s a movement happening now where their spirits are calling out and saying, ‘No more. No more abuse.’ And we must figure out how to help them heal,” continues the soft-spoken elder.
She recognizes that healing must happen spiritually and emotionally, but practically, too. “We’ll be a teaching place,” Elder Campbell explains. “We’re going to bring our women here and they’ll be expected to be involved. This is their home; they have to help.” The plan is to help train women in whatever areas they are interested in; they could learn to cook, about traditional medicines, to build structures for the village, or create clothing.
The benefits of this plan are two-fold. “They will be the ones who create the village, together. It’ll be very busy with many things happening at once,” says Elder Campbell. “That’s what will make us self-reliant, so we don’t have to go to government for money. We need the money and support to get the place built and get us started but we know we can keep it going.”
This is where Réseau Compassion Network was invited in. CEO Daniel Lussier, was at the same conference as Elder Campbell when she first had a vision of what the Healing Village could be. Some time later, after she had done many sweats and consulted with other elder women to clarify what the village could be, she called Lussier.
“She told me, ‘Dan, we have an idea that could be part of a solution, would you like to join us?’ and I asked her what we could do to help,” explains Lussier. “They had found a piece of land and secured it, but they were denied the zoning changes required. The community wouldn’t welcome them.”
Meanwhile, Réseau Compassion Network had a piece of land in Belair, formerly owned by the Sisters of the Good Sheppard, that hadn’t been earmarked for any particular purpose.
“As I listened to their plan, I heard parallels between our founding sisters and what these women were trying to accomplish,” continues Lussier. “And with one of the tenets of reconciliation being ‘land back,’ it was impossible to think we shouldn’t do this.”
The land, including 130 acres of forest and lakefront access, was offered to the Clan Mothers, and accepted. “To me, this is the best possible use for the land,” confirms Lussier. “When it comes to reconciliation, we are doing our best to listen and learn, and to help when asked. There is something deeply meaningful in this transfer; land that was owned by women religious, transferred back to Indigenous women to care for their women. It is time for women to lead, and we are humbled to be able to walk alongside them.”
Stay tuned for the last instalment in February which will explore the vision Elder Campbell has for the healing of Indigenous people, and the importance of working together.