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The Second Annual First Nation International Healing and Medicines Gathering was held on August 24 - 27, 2001 at the Nekaneet First Nation Okimaw Ochi(Thunder Hills). It was an interesting four days of sharing and exchanging of sacred medicines. The interpretative tents, family circles and the annual powwow had a smaller attendance this year, but everyone had a great experience.
Chief Larry Oakes was very instrumental in hosting this year's event and his father the late Elder Gordon Oakes provided the people the sacred balance of listening, respecting and honouring the ceremonies, sweats and daily youth activities.
The days were filled with powerful messages with different speakers, delegates and Elders who traveled from all over North America. Each speaker had a specific message to offer to the gathering. Certain cultural protocols were followed to ensure the respect and sacredness of the ceremonies was recognized in their original customs.
Each day began with a pipe ceremony at sunrise then breakfast followed and shortly after, a sweat was held. The medicine and youth venues were interesting to all that participated. The special highlight of the schedule included a Ghost Dance, Rattle Dance, Chicken Dance and Horse Dance. After each dance was performed, a feast was provided for all the Elders, guests, and visitors. It was a special time to share stories and meet new and old friends from other First Nation communities.
The gathering was a joint effort between FSIN Vice-Chief Lindsay Cyr's office and the Nekaneet First Nation community. The Nekaneet First Nation people volunteered many long hours of hard work into the preparation and planning in hosting this year's event. It was unanimously decided that Nekaneet would host the 2002 gathering.
It is important to First Nations that the spirit and intent of regaining the ancestral teachings of Oral Tradition. By incorporating these value systems and ceremonial procedures in the interpretative tents and personal healing sessions. It provided the people the understanding and recognition to pass this spiritual knowledge onto the next generation.
"The natural laws of life, the meaning of the pipe ceremony and the purpose of the sweat lodges are the connection to the Creator and spirit world. It is here where we can communicate with our ancestors," said Elder Gordon Oakes.
The children and youth will be our future leaders and parenting is a very important issue at the First Nation community level. This cycle of life must be enriched with cultural protocols and the interpretative tents addressed these specific concerns in a meaningful way.
The Nekaneet First Nation also supports their traditional practices by agreeing as a community. That there will be no other prevalent religion practiced on their reserve other than First Nation's traditional ceremonies. This belief of protecting their spiritual and cultural ways from outside influences has kept their First Nations identity traditions and customs alive over the generations.
"As Nekaneet First Nation plans for next year, the emphasis will be targeting increased venue attendance... this year was smaller, but efficient enough. The community had spiritual promises to finish their ceremonies with the infrastructure that was in place. In the end, the gathering fulfilled its mandate and I thank everyone for attending and participating as volunteers and visitors at the same time," said Chief Larry Oakes of the Nekaneet First Nation.
Chief Perry Bellegarde spoke at the powwow and said, "Nekaneet will be provided with sufficient resources to host another gathering next year." This will allow Nekaneet First Nation to utilize specific funding to coordinate and outline their 2002 planning with increased programming and venue options.