Wabanaki means people of the dawn, and there were ceremonies at sunrise each day led by Bobby Billie, a spiritual leader from the Seminole in Florida. I am also a person called to the dawn, so I was present each day for that time.
The first day, several of us had gathered near the arbor in the mist around 5 a.m., but no one had yet arrived to lead the lighting of the fire. So I prayed my own dawn prayers, and felt this message from the sun–“You are all bathed in love.” Later that morning, Anishinaabe women from the Midewiwin Lodge sang a song about the love the Sun has for all of us. I was so moved by the melody, the voices, the drumming on the Little Boy drum. It went straight to my soul. They said it was about the first woman to walk the earth, expressing her joy at seeing everything in creation.
The first day was devoted to healing the wounds carried within the hearts and minds of the people from our long history of violence. The wound that became clear to me was a Great Forgetting: first there was a great disconnection of my ancestors from their connection with all of creation, and then there was a great forgetting so that the people would be unaware that they were wounded, disconnected, and thus never realize that they had once been connected. At the end of the ritual, we each were invited to offer tobacco to the fire and make a solemn promise. My promise was to remember, to remember the wound and to remember the connection.
Also coming into my thoughts was the herb that has appeared on our land–St. John’s Wort–which has traditionally been understood as useful for depression, and also as a wound healer. I seemed to hear in my mind, this plant can help when you remember the wound of disconnection, when you open to the pain underneath the great forgetting. I had harvested some of the plants earlier in July, and they were infusing in oil at home–the oil turns red from the plants. When I got home, I also harvested more of the plants and hung them to dry in our garage, for making tea.
I know that there will be many more rememberings, lessons I carry from this time, but perhaps that is enough for now. I do want to offer my thanks to Sherri Mitchell who has carried the dream of these ceremonies for many years, and who called us together and enabled it to come alive.