So what the heck is a bear ceremony I wondered? And what does it have to do with me? Once again, I had no clue as to how this one ceremony was going to influence my journey. ‘The Cleansing Winds’ illustrates when I realized that Ron Indian-Mandamin was the correct individual to conduct the ‘Ceremony to Honour Makwa’ for me. A request was made and tobacco was offered to the man who would become one of the most influential Spiritual Guides in my life. All were welcome to this ceremony and an email invitation was sent out to the interested parties of Waabi-Ma’iingan Traditional Teaching Lodge.
Then on May 26 and 27, 2007 people gathered at a personal residence of a fellow lodge keeper Dick Wasacase in Kakabeka Falls (about 20 minutes west of Thunder Bay) to share a Spiritual Ceremony to honour Makwa. This lodge keeper is from Saskatchewan and carries a buffalo lodge. We used a tipi for shelter, feasting and teachings; and, we also prayed in a traditional sweat lodge built with maple saplings. This ceremony was specific to me (as demonstrated in ‘The Cleansing Winds’) but I invited my brothers and sisters to join me to receive Makwa and life teachings. For your information, I am not from the bear clan (as most people would think being invited to a bear ceremony) but rather from the caribou clan.
The teachings ran for two days, the first day for the actual ceremony and sweat, followed by the second day of sand scroll teachings with prayer, song and dance. Those who wished to receive Makwa teachings were also invited to give an offering. Handmade items are considered of higher importance, although store bought items are welcome (working for that money is hard work, making it a good trade for whichever items are bought in a store). We received special gifts and instructions to better our journeys in life (family, friends, and relatives). We all learned new things and relearned past teachings.
We used black, light brown, yellow, white, red, and grey broad cloth which represents the colors of the bears in the world. Traditional foods were placed in birch bark baskets for the offerings to Makwa. These foods consisted of: blueberries, wild rice, goose, fish, sweet potatoes, moose, bannock and corn and were the responsibility of the hostess (me).
The birch bark for the baskets as well as the cedar was picked on the day of the ceremony. Women wore skirts when gathering the cedar and the birch bark. This is to signify the roles women play as it is a part of who they are and a part of distinguishing genders in the ceremonies. Everyone wore a pair of moccasins or was barefoot while receiving the teachings.
These teachings would normally span over seven days but in this case, the Spiritual Guide provided an overview of the first, second and fourth prophecies of the Midewin Lodge. He indicated that we need to go back to the ‘copper water teachings’ and ‘protecting the earth’. These two days were very strong and very precise and nothing was left unturned. We took notes of these teachings as they may only be said once in respect to the Manitou-ug (Spirits). These teachings will allow self-governance amongst our people (all humans) and bring a sense of peace and honour of our policies and laws as protectors of the earth.
While sitting around with other like-minded people in the tipi discussing the amazing events of the weekend, I can recall a discussion around their experiences with what doctors call anxiety attacks or heart palpitations. Each person sharing their experiences and I realized very quickly that what these physical manifestations were signaling was the act of the person’s spirit waking up. Well for someone like me who had been plagued with depression and anxiety attacks this was huge. It was as if a switch went off inside of me. Today when I experience such physical experiences, instead of being fearful of them, I welcome them. I know that it means that my spirit is excited and it is usually an indication that something very promising will happen that day.
On the last day of the ‘Ceremony to Honour Makwa’, Ron had messages from the Spirits for me. Manitou-ug (the Spirits) were inviting me to the Midewin Lodge which works towards restoring life and sharing the truth and is considered to be a secret society. I had met Midewin people in my life and was always impressed with their humility i.e. an artist in Sudbury and some women that were Midewin through the Three Fires Society. Ron was quite surprised too as he had not yet conducted a Midewin initiation but it was clear that the spirits were directing this to happen. I would be his first initiate that he conducted. This would happen in Shoal Lake #39 the following June.
I was so surprised of this revelation. I was in a state of shock for some time. This was beyond any dream that I had for myself. This was an ultimate dream. I wondered, how could I be of any assistance to the Creator? Why was I being asked? Could I possibly live up to the responsibilities? And yes, I was a little bit frightened.
As I was rejoicing at the end of the second day and people were rejoicing with me, I heard Ron beckoning me to come out to the road right away! As I was running from the tipi (where I was packing up my sacred items) out to the road, I am thinking to myself “whatever could be happening now?” Could my being comprehend any further magic? I didn’t think it was possible. Then there it was! There to the east of us was a black background, dark rain clouds were threatening to burst. Across the middle of this dark background behind my Spiritual Guide and my fellow ceremony participants were two magnificent rainbows. A double rainbow. I was speechless once again. How could the Creator be so generous? But I was witness to the confirmation of the messages that I was receiving. Truly a blessing of what had just occurred.
Then we proceeded to take some group photographs to share with one another and to remember this important day. Needless to say, I was on ‘cloud 9’ and the apprehension was starting to stir within me as I realized that the time was near to say good bye to everyone. I was very reluctant to leave this warm wonderful place (the ceremony) and travel back to reality which I know now is inaccurate because the word reality actually signifies the Spirit World which is more real than this ‘illusion’ I create daily. As long as I stayed here, I would be safe and feel loved. Going back to reality meant subjecting myself to hurt and hardship.
Finally, my turn came to bid farewell to our Spiritual Guide. I had avoided the moment as long as humanly possible. How could I say ‘see you later’ to the man who had helped me realize my worth on this earth and connected me to the Spiritual World that I had always believed existed. Perhaps it was my apprehension; perhaps it was the Creator’s final gift to me that day and I am not sure that I will ever really know what happened but when I embraced my Spiritual Guide to say goodbye the most fantastic thing happened. A moment of love, peace, serenity, I am not sure how to describe it in words. I had never experienced anything like it in all my life. I had read about it but never experienced it. I could feel this wonderful ‘warmth’ take over my entire being and I could see these wonderful colorful lights, bright lights, like pinks, yellows, bright, bright. It was as if for that split second that our two Spirits united and I was able to feel that ‘pure unconditional love’ that I have read about. I believe the Creator let me experience that sensation to have a glimpse of what Spiritual love, universal love, true love, and unconditional love is really like. Certainly, it was an indication to me of things to come.
That drive home that night after dropping the Elder off in Nipigon (about an hour east of Thunder Bay), I cried tears of revelation, under the full moon, as I realized that all my life I had been searching for that true love, that unconditional love, that universal love, always thinking that I would find what I searched for in a warrior, a man.
I also cried tears of pity for myself, that I had been so ‘lost’ all my life and what I had put my children through while I searched for my potential life partner (thinking that was the answer). It was as if someone slapped me in the face and it stung very badly.
That day after having had that glimpse of heaven, the divine, I realized that what I was searching for, was within me, in the Creator, in the Spiritual world. It blew me away. I could not express the sense of relief that I felt and how I found unconditional love within myself and nature and the Creator. I had never felt so loved, so wanted, so in tune with myself and the universe. Now, I felt complete.
 Three Fires Society are the Potawatomi (Fire People – Keepers of the Sacred Fire) The Ottawa (The Trader People) and the Ojibwe (The Faith Keepers: Keepers of the Sacred Scrolls and the Waterdrum of the Midewiwin.) This Confederacy dates back hundreds of years. The Midewin Society is practiced in all of these Nations.