Prior to colonization, Indigenous men and women treated each other as equals. They had different roles to fulfill but they still regarded each other with equal respect. But at the time of colonization, governmental policies created social dysfunction, essentially crippling the role of the men within traditional communities, even criminalizing their role as warrior within their families. This has left men without a role to fill and has ultimately disconnected them from the land and their culture.
Throughout this episode we accompany Wayne Rabbitskin, Chisasibi, QC, as he travels his own journey of reconciliation. Wayne suffers from multi-generational trauma as a result of his parents’ experiences at Residential School. Included in footage are his heart felt words of apology for the pain he caused. He admits to alcohol and drug abuse. He also admits to abusing his former wife and destroying his marriage. This form of dysfunctional behaviour is commonly referred to as lateral violence. Lateral violence refers to acts of destructive aggression against one’s peers rather than bullying to establish a sense of superiority. It is a means to share pain in order to alleviate pain rather than exerting force to create a social hierarchy.
Wayne is now working to end lateral violence in communities. Following his stay in a treatment centre, where he re-learned his role as a man and came to understand that women are sacred, Wayne committed himself to a 1000 mile walk, visiting other communities like his own to share his testimony. His own admissions are acting to expose lateral violence and inter-generational trauma, and allowing others to heal, while hecontinues to make amends for his own actions.
Traditional Story-teller Isaac Murdoch explains that prior to colonization, ” Women were literally a walking ceremony. They were the water carriers. And because water is our first teacher, our first medicine, it’s the very thing that gives us life there was a high respect of women because of their strong connection of the land.” Because of this there was a balance in order to preserve life for the generations to come. However, with the arrival of the settlers came the arrival of both sickness and alcohol. Since the men were the ones who traded goods, it was the men who fell prey to the effects of alcohol, destroying the accord between men and women. Isaac believes that men must look back to the days before the settlers arrived and reconnect to the traditional ways in order to heal.
Shawn Iserhoff, Mistissini Youth Chief, also shares his experiences on the land and describes how this connection brings humility and harmony to his life, contrary to his experiences in the city.
Having participated in healing circles myself, witnessing the bravery of Mr. Rabbitskin admissions in order to make amends was particularly moving.