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Nekaneet First Nation was host to Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations 1st Annual International Traditional Healing and Medicines Gathering 2000. The gathering was a four-day event held August 21 - 24, 2000. It was estimated that 8000 people attended, many of whom travelled from abroad.
Each morning the healing gathering would begin with a traditional sunrise pipe and sweat ceremony. Then at noon, participants would assemble at the Interpretive Tent. The Interpretive Tent was designated for presenters and group discussions. The Interpretive Tent encouraged participants to listen and ask questions. Cultural protocol was explained in the tent and it was here that an international assembly had the opportunity to speak of wellness and social issues that face the Indigenous community around the world.
"There are many traditional ceremonies, medicines and healing practices. There are ceremonies for almost every occasion before, during and after a person has lived on the earth. These ceremonies and practices have their specific, general, individual purposes, time, and circumstances when they are to be conducted." said FSIN Vice-Chief Lindsay Cyr who's portfolio responsibility was the FSIN Health and Social Development Commission.
The commission initiated the gathering because they felt that in order to proceed with any forward vision of wellness, Aboriginal communities need to get back to the foundation. "We started this process after dealing and talking with the First Nation communities on Treaty Rights and health issues. It was learned that we as First Nations people need to get back to our traditional healing practices. We were losing this scared knowledge and it should be the foundation of First Nations people." said Cyr.
"The ceremonies, their keepers, as well as those who conduct and participate in them are meant to assist and enhance life on earth and to create a stronger and more fulfilled individual in their personal search for a meaningful way of life." Cyr adds.
There were other North and South American sites considered for the gathering. A council of elders picked Cypress Hills for the gathering. The Cypress Hills area was a frequent meeting place for First Nations' people. The Cypress Hills site is located on the Nekaneet Cree Nation. It is rich in wildlife and offered a wide range of medicinal herbs not available anywhere else on the prairies.
There were a wide range of traditional healers at the gathering, fifteen whom were from South America. Sacred healing ceremonies were held for individuals who seek help.
"It is not magic that I have to heal you with. The Creator gives me this gift and I used this gift to help heal you with (the Creator's) medicines. I am not doing the healing, the Creator is. I am thankful that the Creator has allowed me to do his healing," tells one women healer.
In a women's circle, two women healers from Ecuador, talked about healing from inside. In delivery of this message they asked the group to form a circle and crouch down so that the individuals was in a fetal like position. In this position of "humility" the group was then asked to forgive. Forgive the ones who have harmed and more importantly, to forgive themselves. From this exercise, there was a great release.
The International Traditional Healing and Medicines Gathering, because of the traditional and spiritual significance, will be held for four years. Next year's gathering the Elders' Council decided to return to the Nekaneet Cree Nations sometime in August 2001.