Following that Fall Ceremony in 2006, I spent a lot of time talking on the phone with Albert about my dreams and aspirations and my hunger to learn about our precious Ojibwe culture. I learned to appreciate his humour and poking fun at me. That was his way. He never treated me any different than he would treat anyone else and I was grateful for that.

He guided me through a healing ceremony in our community of Lake Helen First Nation which is located on Highway 11 across the Nipigon Bridge neighbouring the town of Nipigon. This held huge significance for me as my father, the native parent in my family was born and raised in the mud flats as they were called right in the town which is now the marina. From what I understand of our family history, we never lived on reserve. It was amazing to me that we were actually going to be doing a traditional ceremony on reserve as during the two years that I worked in the Band Office of my reserve, I never saw such activity.

I was not raised with the culture or the language and therefore I was unfamiliar with the process that we were going through. I followed the guidance of Albert. I was amazed at everything that unfolded. The ceremony itself was held indoors at the old community hall. It was January 22, 2007 and very cold. So upstairs in the hall, people were gathering around those old style wooden tables and chairs enjoying coffee or tea. Outside was the sacred fire being tended by Bill Fawcett the son of Norma Fawcett, the Elder who had been at my right hand since I first started receiving spiritual guidance for this teaching lodge beginning on October 11 2005. I remember feeling so honoured as I humbly put tobacco into the sacred fire praying to the Creator.

Inside the hall, Albert was preparing to smoke his sacred pipe and began to share his vision with everyone in attendance. He explained that he was amazed that he had received this vision as I had not given him tobacco specifically for this purpose. He talked about the spirits that came in to help with this work and that a teaching lodge was to be built in the city of Thunder Bay for four years in a row[1]. It was later determined that this lodge would be built on top of Mount McKay, a very sacred mountain in our area. I have been told that when we see the clouds gathered around the top of Mount McKay that the Thunderbirds are nesting.

Albert then revealed the name of the lodge or the Spirit which guides the lodge, Waabi-Ma’iingan (or Grey Wolf in English). I am sure my chin was down on the floor. I could not believe it! I was so astonished. So that is why grey wolf had been appearing to me. And I would learn later that I was the lodge keeper[2] of this lodge. I was in shock!

That evening I was violently ill. It was coming out of both ends. The following morning I called Albert to ask him about this illness and again in his way, he chuckled and informed me that it was part of the process. I had taken in the sickness of my community, probably due to the neglect of the traditions, and needed to get rid of it. Sometimes this happens to individuals in sweat lodge too I later witnessed. Some people have the ability to do this for others. This was the first time that I had experienced such an episode.

The weeks following this amazing ceremony and the shocking revelations left me in confusion. How could I possibly be a lodge keeper? I didn’t know anything about this. I do not know the language, the customs and traditions. Then finally somewhere deep inside of me, I thought, well if the Creator asked me to do this, then She[3] must think that I can do it. And that was that. I didn’t doubt it anymore.

[1] Through further ceremonies and interpretation it was determined later that in fact the teaching lodge was to honour the four seasons each year.

[2] My understanding of a lodge keeper’s responsibilities is that the lodge keeper ensures the safety and comfort of each individual within the lodge. You would make them feel warm and welcome. You are the care taker of the lodge.

[3] For the purposes of this writing, I will use the female gender to identify the Creator however I do not see the Creator as being either male or female but rather all encompassing.

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