Elder Mae Louise Campbell, one of the founders of the Clan Mothers Healing Village, was involved in Grandmother Moon Lodge, an Indigenous-led healing space in St. Laurent that closed 13 years ago. It ran programming for 18 years before a multitude of factors shuttered its doors.
“It taught us a lot,” she says. “Thousands of women who came to visit us throughout the years told us that there was nowhere else that could give them the sacred messages they needed for their personal healing. Once we’d shut down, we continued to get phone calls from people telling us that they had nowhere to learn the teachings.”
Elder Campbell, her daughter Jamie Goulet, and a council of seven elders believed that they could create a new model of Indigenous healing through self-governance, and by staying true to the ways that have been passed down, woman-to-woman, through generations.
The impacts of colonialism cannot be overstated, but Elder Campbell takes it a step further. “The patriarchy has deeply influenced our traditional ways,” she explains, referencing the fact that Indigenous women held very different roles in their communities before colonialization. “There is a prophecy that there will come a time when the people of the world will come to Indigenous teachings to heal. Only when women come back to their strength will that happen.”
While the Clan Mothers Healing Village will focus on women and healing their trauma, they also believe that these women, once stronger, healed, and healthy, will help Indigenous men to find their way, as well. “We need to bring our true teachings back to women and men, to rise above what we know is wrong and to teach our young men and women the truth,” continues Elder Campbell. “A man is a warrior or protector and should never touch a woman in anger. Our men need to find their place in the world, as well. They’ve got to be healed, too. There’s so much learning to be done.”
As an Elder, Campbell believes that everything in our world is interconnected. She has been observing the news across Canada and the world; the pandemic that has sown fear and division among people, the acknowledgement of unmarked graves at residential school sites, the effects of climate change on all people. “Whatever happens to the mother, our earth, will happen to the children of the earth,” she says. “And I always wonder why all of this is happening. I believe that the most powerful events will bring humans to a place where we can change the way we think and the way we do things.”
Despite the pain and hurt that she witnesses daily, Elder Campbell remains optimistic. “I’m very hopeful, as old as I am. I’m going to 88 soon,” she admits. “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. The people are waking up, and settlers are starting to see that we have more to offer to the world.”
The Clan Mothers Healing Village is just a beginning, according to Elder Campbell. “This is a replicable model,” she concludes. “The potential of Indigenous people, when they’re given the opportunity to lead themselves, is endless. The women must be healed. The men have to look at themselves and figure out what they’re doing wrong and embrace the truth of who they are. That’s how we, as a people, can do something different. We have so much to offer. All humans do.”