Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wounded Healers

image from

Its name means 'place of berries',
its bay shaped like a basket,
where First Nations
since the long ago
have come in their canoes
to gather blackberries
in season.

the  Christie Residential School image from

in the curving bay,
small brown children
were brought
to be schooled
and  abused
at the Christie Residential School.
Their terror and confusion
at being taken
from their homes
and dropped into
this alien landscape
among black robes,
a legacy of trauma
still haunting
their own children
through all
the generations.

When I worked
at Kakawis,
some of those children,
now grown and grieving,
to do some healing.
Now it was
a treatment centre
for First Nations
in recovery,
from substance
and societal abuse.

A controversial
Calvary-sized cross,
left over from old times,
greeted their arrival
in the bay,
memories of terror.

Nuu chah nulth leaders,
with respect,
asked that it be
The mumakli
(white people)
didnt listen.

One night
in cover of darkness
canoes arrived
on the shore.
In the light of day
the cross was gone,
dragged and sunk
with finality
in the middle
of the bay.

The people
were growing stronger.
My heart rejoiced
in the simple
of that moment.

I loved that place
so much,
my privilege
to work among
the people,
to win their trust,
to witness their arrival,
bent and broken,
and to watch,
over the weeks,
as their shoulders
their heads came up,
the light
to their eyes.
Their laughter
boomed out
even as the tears
were flowing.
They had suffered
yet were always
ready to laugh.
(This is the passport
of a true survivor.
It is how we
each other.)

I believed
in the power
of the forest
and the sea,
the wind and rain,
the magic of
that ancient land,
and the Circle,
and the sage,
to heal them.
For the Circle
did its work,
no matter how
damaged and flawed
its wounded healers.

Once, in workshop,
we were to give
a "mission statement".
In groups, the mumakli
with too many words
and lofty sentiments-
all our good intentions.

Four Nuu chah nulth
sons of chiefs, 
stood strong,
arms crossed,
eyes blazing
and delivered,
in unison,
in Nuu chah nulth
a statement
so powerful,
a claiming of
their heritage 
so strong,
it needed
no translation.
It silenced us,
this power
from centuries
of chieftains,
us white people
dithering around
with our text books
and equations
could learn so much
wise Knowing
if we could
put down our books,
open our hearts
and Listen.

beloved place
of my heart
and memory.
Its name meant
place of berries.
A lot of growing
and gathering
in that place.
The scent of sage
wafted in
the morning air.
The drums beat
and true, broken
and cracked
and dented
survivor hearts
helped each other heal
from the unspeakable
of living.

Every fifth week
there was a
Healing of Memories.

People would throw
into the fire
what they had written
of their pain
and let it go.
The tears would flow,
the sacred smoke would
carry pain away,
and always, without fail,
an eagle would come
and circle the air
above us.

My heart grew
seven sizes
in the years
that I was there,
so full of pain
and laughter,
the memories
now echoing
all the empty rooms.
The place stands vacant now.
The mumaklis are gone
with their bumbling
and their book-learning.
Kakawis is returned
to the people
to whom
its always has
people of
the forest and the sea,
the ancient ways,
sons and daughters
of the living land,
and my heart,
that cried for justice
through those evolutionary years,
remembering the  tears
on every face
as they threw their memories,
so many of them caused
by mumaklis,
into the fire
while Brother Eagle
circled overhead-
my heart is now at peace
about that place.


  1. Oh Sherry, you write so beautifully your words are filled with heart, with soul. This was wonderful, and a privilege to share this story through your sensitive and poetic telling.

  2. Thanks, Susannah. I woke with this place in my heart this morning. I hated to leave it as much as I hated leaving Tofino. But it was time to go.

  3. Thank you for this. I cheered for the Nuu chah nulth who put that lying symbol where it belonged. And my heart "grew seven sizes", just reading your poem. I can't imagine how powerful it must have been to actually be there. Thank you!

  4. So much harm has been brought to native people's of so many places around the world. Sad really, and I too rejoice when people reclaim their own beliefs...and, in some clases, language.

  5. I love the sinking of the cross in the bay.

  6. Hi Sherry,
    this is my first visit to stardreaming, feels fabulous reading the profile..
    Vibrant living !
    much love

  7. nature is the holiest of healers - the water and the woods - very nice Sherry and this had to a healing and spiritual experience for you also....blessings..bkm

  8. This continent has such a history of horrible treatment of its native peoples. That bad treatment continues. Who is the "uncivilized" here?


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Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!