Heritage Group meeting of February 16, 2017.
by Leslie Walsh
In First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures, Elders and traditional teachers play a prominent, vital, and respected role, held in high regard as the knowledge keepers. Tobacco is one of the four sacred medicines, and one must normally offer it to an Elder when making a request. The Elder consents by accepting the offering.  Since we had asked Elder Mae Louise to share her stories and knowledge via email, our offering of tobacco was made and accepted at the beginning of her presentation. Mae Louise then proceeded to describe her family, where she grew up, and a bit of her history. Her easy story-telling style was enthralling and before we knew it, an hour had flown past.
Some highlights of her presentation
- The greatest gift given to women is their life-giving power.
- Her experience growing up was that to be an Aboriginal or half-breed was shameful (Elder Mae Louise Campbell is an Ojibway Metis).
- The slaughter of the Jewish people was horrible; unlike the Jews, however, Indigenous people were not allowed to follow their culture and way of life.
- The different coloured faces of the talking stick represent the 4 nations of the world: white, yellow, red, and brown. (A talking stick is passed from person to person and only the person holding the stick has the right to talk.)
- The creator has given indigenous peoples of the earth the gift of knowing the earth and how every living thing is connected.
- Many indigenous people/women have broken spirits and broken minds; they need allies to help them and it is predicted that there will be a time when the people of the Rainbow Tribe will come to them.
- Everything on the earth is our relative. Indigenous spirituality is not a religion but rather a way of life; we are all connected to the earth.
- Everything we have comes from mother earth; mother earth has much more power than we do.
- We live in a world of separation. How long it will remain like this depends on the human race; there needs to be a movement to stop this.
- Young people despair, have no identity, and feel a sense of hopelessness; thus alcohol abuse and suicide.
- RRC is ahead of other post-secondary institutions with regards to the indigenization of both the educational process and the institution itself. Though still in the planning stages, a Roundhouse is being proposed on campus, possibly in the former Prairie Lights.
- There are some 15,000 Indigenous children in foster care across Canada (84.6% of the children in care in Manitoba ). This situation is supposed to be getting better, but is actually getting worse. Child-welfare services and policies have tended to separate and divide. Families must be kept together, educated, and helped from within to deal with alcohol and abuse, and to heal.
- We are witnessing 3 generations of foster children. This will not stop until the women are healed. Our women are not well enough yet to think beyond getting money for clean water, adequate housing, etc.
- In addition to healing the mind, body, and spirit, people must also be given something meaningful to do, such as a trade. For example, someone who loves animals could go into business looking after pets while their owners are on vacation.
- Prophesy: Nothing will change until the women are healed and take their rightful place in the community.
Mae Louise also talked about Grandmother Moon Lodge, built in St. Laurent with the help of her daughters and other women. She indicated that reserves face too many struggles to build a healing lodge. There has to be a vision. And so Elder Mae Louise and her family plan to build a healing lodge and educational village on their 160 acres in Armstrong, near Gimli. 80 acres will be set aside for a self-sustainable village where there can first be healing, and then businesses created. The plan is to build without government funding that comes with too many attached regulations.
Some of us were brought to tears or became choked up during the presentation. Elder Mae Louise’s stories and knowledge were enlightening and left us hopeful. Many surrounded her during the break, asking questions and sharing stories. Mae Louise recommended a book called Firewater, by Harold R. Johnson. Discussion followed and many questions were asked and comments made. Mary Hayes also recommended a new book just out called The Break, by Katherena Vermette.
Mae Louise Campbell is an Ojibway Métis Elder. She has gained respect within the Indigenous and Non-Indigenous community as an elder with a warm generous heart, a vision of healing for the people and a sense of humour that makes all feel at home and welcome. Mae Louise has travelled across Canada sharing traditional Indigenous teachings. She has sat on many boards, been the guest speaker at numerous organizational and political meetings, and led thousands of sharing/healing circles. She has more recently been appointed to Winnipeg’s Indigenous Advisory Circle by Mayor Brian Bowman. Her commitment to help people is evident in the number of calls she receives each week for this work. Mae Louise lives in the heart of Winnipeg where she is the keeper of Grandmother Moon Lodge. The lodge was created for the healing of women, built totally by women for women, without any government funding. She, along with her family offer various programs such as drum making and talking stick workshops for organizations, agencies and groups of individuals who are in need of spiritual healing and growth. Elder Mae Louise embodies a healing spirit, knowing from experience that only when women take their rightful places as healers, leaders, and grandmothers – all walking proud – can families and communities heal. Mae Louise was the Indspire recipient for Culture, Heritage, & Spirituality in 2016, which is a national award.
 Guidelines for Working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Elders; https://carleton.ca/aboriginal/resources/guidelines-for-working-with-elders/.  Source: Statistics Canada, 2011; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/indigenous-kids-made-up-almost-half-of-canadian-foster-children-in-2011statscan/article29616843/