Moose Hide Tanning Gathering
Moose Hide Tanning Workshop
Reflection.. by Juisen Bartibogue
On October 13 to October 20, 2019 at the Wolastoq Gathering Grounds in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the Women of First Light organized a remarkable teaching for indigenous peoples in the East. A camp was set up with teepees and old-style camping tents with a wood stove for cooking and all week there were meals and hot beverages provided. The public was welcomed for observation and participation.
I, personally, knew this was an opportunity that could not be missed. I have heard of moose hide tanning a few times, but never knew what it was truly about. I knew that my generation (20’s & 30’s) had an interest in “moose hide tanning” but they too did not know much about it. It was the same week as thanksgiving, a funny and ironic time to host an event of indigenous culture in the same time period as a annual historical celebration of the genocide of indigenous people. However, something changed the energy in the air at this week long workshop.
At the Wolastoq Gathering Grounds, with its sad history of this sacred ancestral burial ground, came a powerful presence that no words can describe. It brought back the indigenous way into the indigenous people of today who attended the workshop. Even though, the people who came had their busy lives to attend to, such as students, workers, and children who attended public school, they still found a way and sacrificed the time to come to attend this workshop every day. It became a need to be there more than a want to be there. There were women, men, and children, and soon enough, the elders came as well.
This event was conducted by a really remarkable and powerful teacher, named Melaw Nakehk’o, from Yellowknife. She taught the very best she could. She awoke the heart of our ancestors within us all. It felt like a real indigenous community, again. Every person helped one another; the children played all around the grounds, and even the parents of those children did not need to watch their children every single moment, because everyone else kept an eye out on them. Everyone was there for each other as a family, as a true community. Everyone attended the elders, and everyone watched over each other’s children. Everyone worked together as a team. Everyone inspired and created a safe space to love and care about one another.
On the day of thanksgiving, social media -- of course -- blew up on the genocide aspect of this holiday. But, for me, I came to this beautiful realization of something that is more meaningful and present on this day. A day of rejuvenating our culture back into life again. I thought of the ignorance that exists in people when it comes to indigenous people and the history on this day. And then I highlighted something very important for everyone: If it wasn't for indigenous people, the colonized settlers wouldn’t have survived 500 years ago in all of North America/the whole Western Hemisphere. Imagine that?
… I was moved to see how some places in the United States has changed the “Happy Thanksgiving” into “Happy Indigenous People's day.” However, it truly became a thanksgiving after all, because it truly became a day to be thankful and give. As any other day. But this day was special. Giving thanks for this wonderful opportunity to be part of such rich, traditional knowledge that is being offered. Being thankful for a week long of laughter, hugs, reconnection, teachings, and humbleness... and yummy soul food!! If it wasn’t for our courageous and heroic indigenous ancestors, none of us would’ve seen this day! And if it wasn't for our elders who chose the way of our ancestors in their lifetime here and now, this amazing knowledge of traditional teachings would’ve been lost. I have become incredibly thankful to have been given this opportunity.
I may be 25 years old and new to these teachings, however, my daughter is four years old and is learning this teaching by my side. I feel happy for her generation. It’s so amazing to reflect how much opportunities are coming out nowadays to learn more of our culture; how it’s just flourishing and healing us as its being brought back into practice today. It warms and comforts my heart how much my daughter absolutely loved waking up every morning and the first thing she thought and said was how happy she was going back to “the grounds” to learn more. With all these opportunities coming out, I want to encourage my whole generation to go to these events, to these gatherings, to learn… Because with all the pain and trauma that has been recycled into us, this is a step toward healing and re-connection and rejuvenation. It just feels like this is the way, and has always been, and it always should be.
The sense of a real community and unconditional love is so unreal, it is too precious to turn away from and forget.
Thank you/ Welalin/ Woliwon
Note: Women of First Light is an Indigenous women-led non-profit that grew out of Apji-wla’Matulinej/Righting Relations Eastern Hub. We are thankful to the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and Climate Change/Indigenous Services for their support.