I spent the day in a meeting with the council of Elders to share on our programs and how we can incorporate Cree traditional approaches for the population. The day started with a prayer to the Creator, asking for guidance in taking care of the health of our people. Then our department made an offering of tobacco to the chief Elder. What he said then moved me. He said: ‘ You offer me tobacco as a sign that you seek our guidance and wisdom. I accept this offering as a commitment before God that I will offer you my assistance. I present this gift before God to ask that he in turn guide me.’

The whole day went on with a succession of teachings that resonated to my core. One Elder talked about how we have all the healing and wisdom within, that we should stop seeking elsewhere for that which we need. The only teacher worth having is the one that will point us to the best teacher we can have, which is our Self. That we are all connected with each other and with all that is and that we are sick because we get disconnected from that inner well of wisdom that lies within.

The friction between western medicine and traditional teachings is very real and can be felt. Many of these Elders were forced to go to residential schools and were taught, as we all are, that it is through logic and reason that you can test the world. Despite this divide, I saw so much kindness in the Elders’ way of giving their teachings, opting more than once to offer their words in English so that we could all benefit from them. I smiled when one of them told us what his father had told him when he came back from studying in the south. He said: “Now, you will go to a school where you won’t graduate.” It made me think of this path that I am on. How often have I asked myself: ‘Where am I going?’ But there is no end point to this road. You just keep walking, collecting pearls of experience that connect to that divine source that makes all things glow with Life.

As I watched the exchange of tobacco, I looked upon this gathering. A hundred years ago, it may have occurred in a tipi around a fire pit. Here we were in a corporate board room of a hotel, sitting around a conference table fully equipped with lap tops and projectors. And yet, none of the magic was lost. We had come for a meeting, a sharing of wisdom and experience. The wisdom hadn’t changed and the generosity with which it was offered was not diminished. I think we have reason to be hopeful.