Don’t pray for strength

20 Jun
Today there was a ceremony in the foyer of the Yukon Government building, officially launching the Aboriginal Employees Forum, which was created to support aboriginal employees  of the Yukon Government with peer support, leadership and networking.  There were the usual speeches that one expects at these events, and a table of lovely-looking food that many people were eyeing.  But the highlight of the ceremony, and the reason I am blogging about it, was the singing by local group Rising Sun.
 
The four members of the group come from four different First Nations, and the songs they sang also came from across the country.  Now, I’ve been to quite a few powwows in Ontario, and a good number of drum dances in the Deh Cho; I’ve enjoyed them.  But never have I been able to learn what the individual songs mean or what they’re about.
 
Lacey Scarf, who appears to be the youngest member of the band, charmingly introduced each of the four songs that were performed.  The first was an Honour Song that is sung across the country and that was created by Ojibway women to uplift people’s spirits.  Lacey said that it was, in a way, a national anthem for Aboriginal people in Canada, and the fact that there are no words to it allows it to speak to the Creator from the heart. 
 
The group also performed a sweat song, a prayer to "take pity on me".  Apparently, we should never pray for strength, because then the Creator will put lots of obstacles in our paths (which, of course will make us very strong).  So, Lacey said, the song was a prayer asking the Creator to "take care of me in a kind and gentle way.  Pleeeease!  I don’t need no harsh lessons!"
 
Having the context of each song spelled out was somehow incredibly moving for me and made them much more meaningful.  I was able to watch the performance with much more thoughtfulness.  It really underlined for me how powerful cultural sharing can be — not just the performance aspect, but the teaching and learning, as well.
 
Well done!

4 Responses to “Don’t pray for strength”

  1. Selena June 23, 2007 at 12:58 am #

    I\’m 1/4 Native. My grandfather was Iroquois (Cayuga tribe, Turtle clan). Unfortunately, his parents were taken from their familes and pulled off the reservation as children and sent to go to school in the city. Then, when my mom was a teen, my grandparents made the move out to BC, even further from his reservation (in Ontario).
     
    I\’ve always kind of regretted not having had the chance to grow up knowing that branch of my background better. I do know some, but not the way I know Vati\’s family (Mennonite) history.
     
    We used to go back east and visit when I was younger sometimes. What\’s really sad is the records hall burned down several years ago and a lot of that info is gone forever now.
     
    When my Grandma Ravin turned 105 (she had the greatest stories, but a lot of sad ones, too), she was featured in one of the Toronto papers and then a news broadcast did a piece on her. They caught wind of it back on the reservation and sent out a group to perform a traditional drum ceremony for her at her nursing home. Towards the end of her life, she was near deaf, but she could still hear those booming drums and, man, did she love it!!!

  2. Fawn June 26, 2007 at 10:02 am #

    Hey, thanks for sharing that, Beanie.

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