Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is full steam ahead with events for Mental Health Week.
With high percentages of Indigenous persons reporting worsening mental health since the start of Covid-19, specifically Indigenous women with 46 per cent experiencing more stressful days and 48 per cent experiencing symptoms consistent with moderate or severe generalized anxiety disorder, these events couldn’t come at a better time.
Healing with Creator
On Tuesday Elder Al Hunter, traditional healer and knowledge keeper, hosted a virtual meeting discussing Love and the Importance of the Eagle Feather. He spoke deeply of trusting yourself and the land, allowing for the connection to guide us through hardships we may experience.
This event allowed for participants to breathe a little deeper and forage a deeper connection to the earth and animals that we live among, bringing spiritual guidance during a time that is full of new and unpredicting hardships.
Healing with the land
Wednesday afternoon Audrey DeRoy hosted a virtual medicine walk that incorporated education pertaining to the abundance of medicine provided by nature.
From Anizaatikoong First Nation (Lac Des Mille Lacs), DeRoy resides in Thunder Bay and is an Eastern Woodland artist. She shared the importance of ceremony during a medicine walk and gave offerings to Creator and mother earth.
By showing and explaining the benefits of nature’s gifts such as spruce, birch fungus and bark, and how they help with physical and mental ailments, DeRoy tied in this practice with the words Hunter spoke the previous day saying, “when Al was talking to us about love and our responsibility to ourselves, we have a choice and that is the decisions we make in our life to have a good life.”
DeRoy discussed her relationship with Mother Earth saying, “I think about all the medicines that have helped me, even with my heart,” saying her upbringing in Anizaatikoong allowed her to gain knowledge about the trees and build on that throughout her life.
Healing with each other
While sharing her knowledge and traditions, DeRoy took questions and gave thoughtful and inspiring answers, allowing for a communal time in a virtual world. While this gave everyone time to understand the world around us, she made sure to remind everyone about the importance of community.
“It’s interesting how Creator puts human beings in our life to help us [and] to help us along,” she said, noting the relationship we have with each other being just as important as the relationship we have with the land.
While Mental Health Week is only one week, the impact these events have are lifelong and gives reminders of the small things we can do, whether it’s sitting in nature or sharing a cup of (virtual) tea.
ONWA, Al Hunter and Audrey DeRoy are reminding everyone to stay true to Mother Earth and appreciative of everything she gifts us, including each other.