An Indigenous ground blessing ceremony for the future home of Shuswap Healing Centre drew a respectful crowd as well as distracting demonstrators.
The ceremony, held on Wednesday, Sept. 28, was conducted by Splatsin members at 200 Main Street, Sicamous. Amongst attendees were representatives from the Splatsin and District of Sicamous councils, district staff and members of the public including kids with after-school programs from Sicamous and Splatsin.
Shortly after the ceremony’s 4 p.m. start time, vehicle traffic began to pick up on Main Street, where drivers were encouraged to honk their horns by a group of nearby demonstrators opposed to the centre being constructed at 200 Main Street.
The district describes the Shuswap Healing Centre as a collaborative project with Splatsin, which addresses Actions 21, 22 and 23 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.
The district says the centre will house the Sicamous Community Health Centre, allied health services, shared community space and a centre for traditional Indigenous healing.
The focus of opponents has been 200 Main Street, which they argue shouldn’t be developed but instead preserved as a public park.
Splatsin Knowledge Keeper Enda Felix was disturbed by the demonstration, and was determined to remove the negative energy.
“This is a very important thing for our people. A lot of people in our nations have mental health issues…” Felix told the crowd. “I understand the green space that people are talking about, that they want to save for their elders and other people. But the mental and health wellness of the people comes first and above, because those are your family members, those are your children or everybody in between that are suffering that have to be on some kind of medicine… we need to bring somebody in professionals to help them, to stabilize.
“Right now my insides are shaking so bad, that’s not a positive thing. I’m a spiritual person and I don’t throw anything out, I don’t throw bad medicine, but I can’t guarantee my spirit, the way it’s feeling right now.
“I want that negative energy kicked out…,” said Felix. “Creator take it away, don’t let it hurt anybody, don’t let any bad spirits come in… this is for good.”
While singing the Peace Song, Edna followed Charlene William and daughter Laureen Felix to trees near the demonstrators before turning back to where the ceremony was taking place.
“I don’t think the non-native understand our spirituality and the powers that our spirits carry. They’re here, they’ve never left,” said Edna. “Our ancestors are still here and I don’t want to see them get angry because of something that’s going to take away from our people.”
At the end of the ceremony, Laureen sang a song to bring the occasion to a close.
“If it wasn’t for our ancestors we would not be here so I want to recognize them…,” said Laureen. “Every time we bring and talk about our ancestors, they come into ceremony with us, they’re here right now with us. So now with this final song, we’re going to send them back.”
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