How does your spirituality connect with the natural world? Does it impact every aspect of your life? Do you consider the teachings of your relatives to guide your faith? These are just a few of the questions that prodded the minds of the Outtatown Guatemala site this week. Our team had the absolute privilege of visiting the Roseau River Reserve for four days. The experience gave us all a look into how Indigenous people are living, including the conditions and their spirituality. We were warmly welcomed into the home of Colleen, our host, and her family. Colleen has been bringing in Outtatown students for exactly 10 years, her joy in seeing students come and learn about her culture was inspiring.
Going onto the reserve many of us had nerves and expectations circling in our heads. Some were unsure of how serious it would be, while others, myself included, worried about doing something wrong and being offensive. It’s hard to come into a place knowing that your ancestors caused their ancestors a lot of hurt, the repercussions of which are still felt today. To our surprise, we were not met with harshness or contempt from the history that had taken place. Instead we were given an abundance of unconditional love and grace throughout the week.
Some members of the Anishinabe community invited us to take part in multiple types of ceremonies and activities to be able to more fully understand their culture. One that definitely stuck out was the sweat lodge; specifically our team partook in a cleanse sweat. There were some nerves as we prepared for this ceremony, but we were generally excited to be involved in such a precious part of their culture. The sweat took a while to be prepared. The men of the group were told to prepare the fire for heating up rocks, the women were given the task of preparing the herbs for inside the sweat. Almost all of us entered the small lodge and slowly the rocks were added, creating lots of hot steam.
While the rest of the team went into the sweat lodge, a few of the girls were given the chance to prepare the feast. It’s tradition to eat a feast after experiencing the sweat. Through songs and dancing and a lot of laughter, we made a meal of soup, bread, and dumplings! It felt so natural to be preparing the food alongside two Anishinabe women who had grown up on the reserve. One of the most impactful things of our time there was how kind the people were.
Most of our time was spent learning about Anishinabe culture and also how unfairly they have been treated since Europeans settled in Canada. That is what really impacted me personally throughout the week. The Anishinabe have beautiful ways of thinking about the world, respecting the environment, prayer for every situation, and equality in governance. There’s no way to change the past, but it definitely inspired me to be part of the current day reconciliation. Most of the team feels inclined to discover which tribes and reserves are near where they live, and to create relationships with some of those people.
This was only one of the many cultural experiences we will have together this year, it definitely opened our eyes to see what it’s like coming into a different culture. It’s not about bringing solutions, but listening to their needs, stories, and knowledge. Also seeing how others live out their lives and their beliefs. We let ourselves be inspired, and along the way create relationships.
Written by Kyla