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Sacred gathering

Sacred gathering

In recent years, the Cree of northern Ontario have worked to bring back traditional ceremonies once conducted by their ancestors. The Sundance gathering is one of those ceremonies. Thanks to the efforts of Emily Faries-Constant and her husband, Bill Constant, the Sundance lodge is now held every summer in Matheson (Ni-ta-ski-nan) in northeastern Ontario. The lodge is a place of healing and sacrifice and is considered the most sacred ceremony of the Cree people. This year’s gathering takes place June 26 – 29.
Photo by Brent Wesley

Finding strength through the Sundance
Story by Brent Wesley

Rain. A steady stream of rain. For most of the day, rain drenched the dancers. It wasn’t expected, this precipitation.

For the dancers of the Sundance lodge, clad in red cloth, the rain is one more challenge.

“When times are hardest, that’s when I pray even more,” says Serene Spence, 24, a fourth-year dancer of the lodge in Matheson, Ont.

The Sundance is physically demanding even without the rain, as dancers go without food or water during the four-day ceremony. The mental demands are just as challenging, often pushing dancers to their limits. Now the rain, not usually associated with the Sundance, has added another element of adversity.

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ᓇᓇᑕᐧᐃᐱᒪᑎᓯᐧᐃᐣ ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂ ᑲᑭᐃᔑᓂᑲᑕᐠ ᐃᔑᒋᑫᐧᐃᐣ
ᐅᑎᐸᒋᒧ ᑊᕑᐁᐣᐟ ᐧᐁᐢᓫᐃ
ᑲᑭᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐧᐃᐱᐦᐃᑫᐨ ᐱᑐᓂᔭ ᐊᐣᒋᐢ

ᑭᑭᒥᐧᐊᐣ. ᑲᐯᐦᐃ ᐱᑯ ᑭᐱᒥᐱᓴᐦᐊᐣ. ᑲᐯᑭᔑᐠ ᑭᔕᑲᐸᐧᐁᐧᐊᐠ ᑲᑭᐱᒥᓂᒥᐧᐊᐨ. ᑲᐧᐃᐣ ᐅᑐᒋᐱᑐᓇᐧᐊᐸᐣ ᒋᑭᒥᐧᐊᓂᐠ.

ᐅᑯᐧᐁᓂᐧᐊᐠ ᑲᑭᐱᔕᐧᐊᐨ ᒥᑌᐧᐃᓂᐠ ᐁᐧᐃᐱᓂᒥᐧᐊᐨ, ᒥᐢᐧᑫᑭᓄᓂ ᐅᑭ ᑭᑭᐡᑲᓇᐧᐊ, ᐁᐧᑲ ᑲᑭ ᑭᒥᐧᐊᓂ ᓇᐧᐊᐨ ᐅᑭᐅᒋᐊᓂᒥᐦᐃᑯᓇᐧᐊ.

ᐊᑎᑲ ᒣᐧᑲᐨ ᒪᐧᐊᐨ ᑲᑭᒋᐊᓂᒣᑕᒪᐣ, ᐊᒥᐊᐱ ᐊᐧᐊᔑᒣ ᐁᔑᐊᔭᒥᒋᑫᔭᐣ, ᑭᐃᑭᑐ ᓯᕑᐃᐣ ᐢᐯᐣᐢ, 24 ᑕᓱᐊᐦᑭᐧᐃᓀ ᐊᔕ ᓂᐅᐊᐦᑭᐧᐃᐣ ᐅᐣᒋᓂᒥ ᐅᒪ ᐃᔑᒋᑫᐧᐃᓂᐠ ᐧᐁᑎ ᒪᑎᓴᐣ ᐅᐣᑌᕑᐃᔪ.

ᐅᐧᐁ ᑕᐡ ᑐᑲᐣ ᓂᒥᐧᐃᐣ ᒥᑐᓂ ᐱᑯ ᐊᓂᒪᐣ ᐁᑲ ᑲᑭᒥᐧᐊᐠ, ᐊᓂᐡ ᐃᑭᐧᐁᓂᐧᐊᐠ ᑲᐱᒥᓂᒥᐧᐊᐨ ᑲᐧᐃᐣ ᐸᑭᑎᓂᑲᑌ ᒋᐧᐃᓯᓂᐧᐊᐨ ᒥᓇ ᒋᒥᓂᐧᑫᐧᐊᐨ ᓂᐅᑯᐣ ᒣᐧᑲᐨ ᐅᐧᐁ ᑲᐱᒥᐃᔑᒋᑫᐧᐊᐨ. ᐃᒪ ᒥᓇ ᐃᔑᐊᓂᒪᐣ ᒪᒥᑐᓀᒋᑲᓂᐠ ᐊᓂᐡ ᐁᑲᐧᑫᔕᑯᑌᑕᒥᐦᐃᑎᓱᐧᐊᐨ. ᐁᐧᑲ ᐊᐱᐣ ᐅᐧᐁ ᑲᐊᔑᒋ ᑭᒥᐧᐊᓂᐠ ᒣᐧᑲᐨ ᑲᑭᓂᒥᐧᐊᐨ ᐊᐧᐊᔑᒣ ᐅᑭᐅᒋ ᐊᓂᒥᐦᐃᑯᓇᐧᐊ.

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  WRN Interview: Bill Constant talks about the Sundance.

Video: youth share their experiences.

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Sundance aids youth
Brent WesleyAfter the Sundance

It suddenly hit me.

It was one of those moments of clarity that makes you wonder why it couldn’t be seen before.

But it’s ceremonies such as the sundance that have a way of making clear certain things about life.

The clarity I suddenly received, and maybe many others are already aware of, has to do with the issue of suicide amongst First Nation youth in northern Ontario.

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