ISSUE 12.4

Connect Us All:

Water and Ceremony On Epekwitk


Travelling artists head to the beach at Rock Barra, PEI/Epekwitk for the water ceremony that closed Train of Thought. Photo by Aaron Leon

Written by Eliza Star Child Knockwood

the train of thought tour of 2015 was an exceptional experience that allowed space for me to fulfill my inherent obligation, as an Ilnu woman, to protect, carry, and acknowledge the water and mother earth. my life journey with the water and mother earth has been very healing, life-enhancing, and awakening—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. sometimes the greatest of teachings comes from the quietest of places.

one of the most impactful moments for me during the tour was when i was sitting on a panel in winnipeg and one of the participants asked what is the best way to make a documentary about first nations people. it’s a very important question, as we don’t often pay attention to what the experience of a first nations person is. my response was that first nations and non-first nations see through two different lenses; the first nations’ perception of our environment is different. As much as we want to create good relationships with each other— which happens, and it is happening today—we have to also understand that we do see through different lenses.

Acknowledging this is actually the greatest way for us to have good relations with each other. often when you do projects like this you see the first nations youth hanging together—it’s natural for first nations youth and non-first nations youth to stay within their cultural comfort zones. They find a safety and comfort in being with each other. On train of thought, we started mixing together as artists: as performers, as people who have vision. that’s where we saw the lenses start to match up. when we come together through art, the exchange and education begins.

Arts and culture go hand in hand for me: i am not one without the other; just as water and mother earth go hand in hand: i am not one without the other. i facilitated a water project throughout the train of thought journey, where we collected vials of water from every body of water we encountered across the land. i cherish the many memorable moments that were shared during the tour; our prayers, songs, ceremonies, and offering of healing medicines were filled with love, gratitude, and respect for the water and Mother Earth. Some of those words rang true through the songs i sang at every body of water that i connected with between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

during this time it was also important for me to safely drink from all those bodies of water; my desire was to make a more personal connection so i could speak more clearly for the water. it was a strengthening and awakening experience; the taste of the water was very telling. How i responded physically to the water was at times very emotional, especially when i could detect the impurities and threats it faced. we collected a total of twenty-six vials of water across the country. it was humbling to receive the many beautiful stories and teachings about each of these waters.

i hosted the Prince edward island stop on train of thought, which was the end stop. this was a time to reflect, to go over what this journey and experience had been for us. We had all had different experiences, according to our own interests, art forms, and abilities to grow, finding different ways to inspire our communities back home.

I first took everyone to my community of Epekwitk First Nation, where they were welcomed by our community and elders. we then headed to rock Barra Artist retreat, located on the eastern end of the island. There, we had the final Water Ceremony. In this ceremony, we acknowledged all the beautiful connections that we formed throughout our journey together. each vial of water was representative of the love and care we shared—for one another, for ourselves, and for the water and mother earth that connect us all. in the ceremony, we gathered the twenty-six vials of water together in a single bowl, and returned it to the Atlantic ocean.

to ignite positive change is to create healthy outcomes. i believe that the many artists i toured with are igniters of that positive change. may we always remember the courageous efforts that were made before us; each generation has an inherent responsibility to the water and mother earth. to honour that responsibility is to honour self and all life here and still to come.

i am forever grateful to have met each and every one of my traveling artist companions; i will cherish all the moments we shared amidst the earth and water that connect us all.

we’lal’in m’sit nogama (thank you, all my relations)

is a Mi’kmaq woman from Abegweit First Nation. At the time of print, she was an active member of the Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI, chair of the Rock Barra Artist Retreat Co-op, and former vice president of the Island Media Arts Cooperative of PEI. She is produced a film called all My relations about personal and collective healing not only for First Nations people, but all people.

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