Guest Blog: Magic or Indigenous Reconciliation in Action?

By: Angela Bellegard, Debwewin Advisory Council Member
Special to the Oakville Community Foundation

A meaningful act of Indigenous Reconciliation occurred in Oakville recently.  It was the second day of school for many families in Oakville and for others, their minds were focused on the hustle and bustle of a new month. Personally, I was trying to vigorously shake myself awake to get ready to attend an Indigenous sunrise ceremony that I had been invited to by Oakville Community Foundation. Not an easy task given the booming presence of the thunderbirds through the night that kept me from sleep.

While eager to participate, I also wondered if we would be running for shelter from a downpour. The combination of the warmth of the air, the incredibly high level of humidity, and the complete darkness of the sky was strange. What did the Creator have in store for us this morning? Upon reflection of the sunrise ceremony, we experienced something powerful, almost magical, but more importantly we participated in an act of true Reconciliation.

A sunrise ceremony is a deeply spiritual event that occurs to mark significant events, or to open Indigenous gatherings such as pow wows. It is a ceremony to give thanks for all the gifts of the Creator, to pray for a good life, and honour Grandfather Sun as we are greeted with the start of  a new day. For most of the 30 plus people who attended that morning, it was their first opportunity to participate in an Indigenous ceremony and you could feel their anticipation. 

As the sun began to rise in the east, the fire was let by Stephen P and Elders Peter and Gary led us through the rounds of prayers. There are no set timeframes for our ceremonies. As the songs and prayers went on and the sun became more fully in the sky I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the participants were becoming anxious to get back to their first meeting of the day. Patience and being fully present in the moment are lessons that participating in ceremony teaches us. A lesson that is learned repeatedly for some of us.

Before the final song, the attendees were invited to share in circle. It was incredibly moving as an Indigenous person to hear how the ceremony impacted each person. Given the rain that had occurred through the night and into the morning, remembering to be grateful for the sacredness of water resonated with many.  Tears were shed as we acknowledged those who had gone before us and we were reminded that tears are water, water is medicine. Interestingly, it was noted by an Indigenous attendee that a sunrise ceremony hadn’t been held in Oakville for some time if ever. Upon hearing this, I was struck that what was happening wasn’t magic but Reconciliation in action. 

I believe that all Canadians are responsible to make Truth and Reconciliation happen. We are called to understand the Truth of how Indigenous people have been treated in their homeland.

Without Truth, meaningful acts of Reconciliation won’t happen. The sunrise ceremony was both and I am grateful to the Elders, the Oakville Community Foundation,  the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton for hosting, and all the participants. Together Reconciliation will happen.