“We are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.” – Bernard of Chartres

At Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services (FFTAHS), a tribal organization that works for 10 area First Nations in Treaty 3 territory, our best practice can only be attributed to the ‘giants’ whose shoulders we stand on; to those who have contributed directly and indirectly to our ‘knowledge bundles’; to our teachers both in the physical and spiritual worlds. Without their teachings, we could not have brought our group to where we are, nor could we envision the future of where we want to go.

Culture belongs to the people and people have a right to health initiatives that respond to their social, cultural, linguistic, gender and spiritual and/or religious diversity and that promote their health and wellbeing. Community participation and engagement strategies as well as meaningful consultation with clients are embedded within the core of the leading practices. In bringing to life the bundles we had to know who we were/are at our core.  We are comprised of Anishinaabe people who require and request a bi-cultural service provision in health, mental health, and addictions.

This submission describes the leading practice of building our Agency sacred Bundle that includes individual working bundles and the Agency drum “Aazhawii Giizhic” and Eagle Staff. It describes how traditional protocols were followed to empower the traditional tools found in the bundles we carry and how an Agency with relative cultural inexperience came to a place of empowering traditional methodologies that lead to accreditation from our own worldviews and paradigm.

Our tobacco was brought to a healer to help provide spiritual guidance on how to do things right and how to bring this vision to life. Our offerings were brought to a shaking tent ceremony (one of highest ceremonies utilized by the Anishinaabe in our territory) to get direction on what the bundle would look like.  We were given direction on the drum, its colours, its name, an eagle staff, hand drum, 4 shakers, and 3 pipes (a female pipe, a male pipe, and a pipe that partners with the drum).  Through following our traditional protocols and sacred laws we were able breathe life into the bundle that would take FFTAHS to its next level of normalizing our traditional methodologies.

At the same time the Agency Bundle was being brought to life I had offered my tobacco to have individual professional bundles for the staff of FFTAHS put together.  Each staff was presented with a medicine bag that contained an eagle feather, smudge bowl, 4 medicines, matches, and a talking stick.  These bundles were feasted and teachings were given that supported our traditional laws on how to take care of the bundles we carry and specifically the bundles we carry for the people.  Staff were encouraged and given permission to use the bundles with those who embrace traditional holistic health practices.

Staff training and capacity building is integral to building and sustaining the leading practice bundles of traditional methodologies and bi-cultural practice.  Staff are required to participate in active learning through ceremony and teachings to continue to build their sacred knowledge bundle.  A sample of the teachings that staff at Behavioural Health Services FFTAHS have participated in are: traditional tobacco making; birch bark harvesting, basking making, feasting dishes; traditional talking/healing circles; hand drum making; hand drum song bundles; spring and fall feasting ceremony; cedar bush ceremony; grieving ceremony; language table; naming ceremony; clan teachings; shaking tent ceremony; water ceremony; full moon teachings/ceremony; rites of passage teachings; and we continue to access our Elders and Healers to help us understand our Creation Stories, Legends, and Protocols.

My Elders tell me that our ‘research’ is found in our teachings that have been since time immemorial which is in contrast to contemporary research that loses validity as it ages.  What I can give is client testimonial to the impacts of having a program that is rooted in Indigegogy (our Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing).

“I never knew anything about my culture until I came into the program at BHS, FFTAHS.  I never felt ok enough with myself to even think I deserved to have a spirit name.  At the program I felt equal to, good enough, and was given lots of opportunity to learn about my culture and I got my name as a starting point to my bundle”  -Barb M, 2014 “The Elders told me to go get my bundle to help the people, they told me to run and get it and bring it out-they knew that as a staff of FFTAHS I carried a bundle and could help the friends and family of that young man who hurt
himself”- Sandra I FFTAHS BHS staff

A bundle is all that we are, all that we can be, and all that helps us to be holistic helpers.  Bundles can include sacred items such as feathers, drums, pipes, medicines, talking sticks, and many other sacred items.  Bundles include our knowledge, innate ways of knowing, being, and doing as Indigenous peoples, we can carry dancing bundles, sacred songs bundles, medicine bundles, healing bundles, and the list goes on based upon the norms of the diverse Indigenous groups and Nations we work with or belong to.

At FFTAHS our mission, vision, and operating principles attest to our responsibility to service Anishinaabe people from a core that is rooted in our Seven Sacred Teachings.  For more information on Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services leading practice or to have us come to present our leading practices please visit www.fftahs.com or call Lori Flinders, MSW/RSW/CFNHM at (807) 274-9839.

Contact Person:

Title: Lori Flinders, Director of Behavioural Health Services

Contact information:  lflinders@fftahs.com

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