MUSKRAT Magazine partnered with the Well Living House to support their second annual fundraiser. The event took place during May’s full moon which, according to Kanienke’haka Elder Jan Kahehti:io Longboat, is known as the “Spirit Moon”.
Well Living House was founded by Métis Physician and Research Scientist Dr. Janet Smylie, and is an action research centre for Indigenous infant, child, and family health and wellbeing. The Well Living House is guided by a Counsel of Grandparents/Elders who have been instrumental in articulating and structuring innovative, Indigenous community based approaches to research. Well Living House provides vital statistical health information about the First Nations population, as well they document traditional health knowledge and evaluate its application within Indigenous-led community health programming.
The fundraiser happened in two parts, first with an interactive and creative music workshop entitled Indigenous Music of Non:wa (now) by Grammy nominated Kanienke’haka cellist *Dawn Avery, followed by an evening gala. Both the workshop and the gala took place at the new Keenan Research Centre/Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, which is where Well Living House is located.
Workshop participants were treated to teachings of language and sounds centered around the concept of re-enculturation (rather than decolonization), with a focus on Indigenous knowledge and blood memory. There was a collaborative songwriting session—with two of the Grandmothers from the Well Living House Counsel of Grandparents, Jan Kahehti:io Longboat and Madeleine Kētēskwew Dion Stout—in multi-lingual Onkwehonwe/Anishinaabe/Nehiyaw, which organically became themed around Spirit Moon, and was performed later at the evening gala.
The gala event was hosted by actor Dr. Evan Adams, best known for his role in Smoke Signals as Thomas Builds-the-Fire, and who is also an MD and Deputy Health Officer for Aboriginal Health in British Columbia. Elder Jan opened the evening with a full moon ceremony, where she spoke about the Indigenous Creation story and its relationship to the thirteen month Indigenous calendar and the thirteen sections found on the back of a turtle’s shell. The turtle’s shell also has twenty-eight smaller sections around the shell’s edge, and Jan spoke of the relationship each section has to a woman’s twenty-eight day menstrual cycle, as well as the moon itself.
The evening followed with a full house enjoying food, further teachings, music, a raffle, and silent auction. Toronto City Councillor and Mayoral Candidate Olivia Chow was a guest panelist with the Well Living House Counsel of Grandparents, alongside Carol Terry, Jan Kahehti:io Longboat and Madeleine Kētēskwew Dion Stout—each of whom shared stories about their roles as grandmothers, as well as their relationship to the moon.
As seen in a news story that broke last week about an Anishinaabe girl who would prefer to work with traditional medicine rather than chemotherapy, Indigenous traditions, culture and knowledge are all too often considered invalid by mainstream society. This is frequently emphasized within the health sciences industry, which can have ties to large pharmaceutical corporations. The action research centre for Indigenous Knowledge will perhaps assist in the validation of Indigenous health knowledge through a combined methodology of western and Indigenous research protocols. Hopefully the centre will also lead to more understanding from western medical professionals and perhaps even bridge gaps of prejudice and racism.