As I have mentioned before, I was not raised with my native culture, language or traditions. I have always felt extremely close to native people and remember even as a child that the attraction to these people was very strong. If there was a native person in the room, you would probably find me right next to them. I did not really understand this attraction when I was younger. Now entering my senior years, I do understand what this attraction is. Besides having ancestral native blood within me (my paternal grandmother was Ojibwe and my paternal grandfather was Cree) the connection that I have to spirituality and Mother Earth is so deep, I am not able to verbalize it. As you will witness along the way with me, my connection to the animals, whom I refer to as ‘all my relations’ is overpowering and at times when the animals are sharing their pain with me, it is overwhelming.
So it was not a big stretch for me to have a romantic relationship with a native man from a remote community. It was he that introduced me to various ceremonies and practices, not all of them I follow today i.e. fear-based teachings. As a father, he was preparing his oldest child, a daughter for her first naming ceremony and somehow I was able to be involved. I have often wondered if that is where my clan identity came from as caribou of course would be more familiar in the far north than it is around this region.
I remember that there was some stress involved with our preparations as of course his daughter and I were not familiar with what is required and he had to lead the way. Looking back, I suppose that could be why he felt so much frustration and stress. In any event, I am very grateful to him for taking me to my first naming ceremony.
The location of this ceremony was on my very dear Mount McKay where the local Fort William First Nation conducts their annual pow wow. I already had such an unexplainable connection to this sacred mountain probably because I have been here many times before to practice the traditions. The Elder that had received tobacco from my partner at the time, was Jim Boshkaykin. His wife Lillian was also there and some of their family members including Jim’s daughter Jospehine who I am very close to still today. When I see her, she always calls me by my Spirit name as given by her father and it still moves me today. Of course she pronounces it the way that it was given to me and it is like music to my ears. It takes me right back to this day on Mount McKay.
I do not remember who received their name first, me or my partner’s daughter but I do remember the feeling of reverence and complete connection to the earth. Jim’s family drummed and sang songs in the language and Jim smoked his pipe. So on June 22, 2003, I received my first Spirit name and my clan. Ma-zi-naa-wa-ka-mi-gook ndizhinikaaz. This is saying what my Spiritual name is but it is not easy to translate into English. I have been told that it has something to do with handprints on the earth. I believe it is a very old dialect. Adik ndoodem which means my Clan is Caribou.
As the ceremony was wrapping up, the Elder and his family got very excited and were pointing up to the ridge. This ridge is kind of diagonal and runs between the plateau that we were on and the very top of the mountain. Josephine was asking me: “Can you see them Cindy?” I looked and looked but could not see what they were talking about. Reflecting on this today, I think if I had known what they were pointing at, perhaps I would have been able to see them. Jim’s family was amazed to see the memayguayshayuk or the little rock people standing there watching us!
When I think back fondly on this day, I like to think that the little rock people were there to bless my ceremony and acknowledge who I am. The topic of the little rock people comes up time and time again especially in ceremony and when people are sharing stories. It is sort of similar to the stories of Sabe or Sasquatch. If people feel comfortable with the listeners, they may share these experiences.
The Elder Jim Boshkaykin has since passed away and his family let me in on a little revelation concerning his legacy. Just outside of the community of Seine River First Nation where the Elder was from, there is a distinct design or rock formation ‘revealing’ itself where the bridge and the highway are at the Seine River. It looks like a native warrior or hunter with his bow and arrow. If you are able to stop there, it would be respectful to honor Jim’s legacy by leaving tobacco there next to the rock formation and if you go there today you would likely see many other tobacco offerings there that have been left by family and friends of Jim.