I was expecting to write about “congregation” and talk about my first ritual with my shiiny new ritual group (which went quite well). Instead, though, I find myself wanting to write about a workshop that I attended while at the Rainbow Health Ontario conference last week.
It was more ritual than workshop, I think. At least that’s how it felt on my end.
But I’m Woo like that. Someone else might compare it to Psychodramatic therapy techniques. Either way, it was a Big Deal.
See, I’m white. I live on colonized land that never changed hands through a treaty. We took it from the people who still live here.
This workshop, called “Walk a Mile in My Moccasins”, is participatory tableau theatre crossed with history lesson. It gets done every year at the Project Acorn camp for rainbow youth and youth from rainbow families in my area, in part as a way of addressing whose land we’re all sitting on.
So, having been given the heads up from a fellow deligate that this was the kind of workshop that can get really intense, and having read the workshop description about how the process would include taking the participants through the process of colonization, I basically walked into the workshop ready to volunteer to play the colonizer role, since I didn’t figure anyone would want the job of acting out someone telling some kid that “No, no, being forceably removed from everything you know is totally for your own good”.
And that’s not how it went at all.
I wound up in the role of one of those stollen kids.
A heap of people cried. At least just about everybody who was playing a child-role cried, and I suspect there were others (after the kids were taken out of the circle, I had my back to most of what was going on, so I don’t know for sure).
Some stuff that happened, that is very me-centric:
1) When it was time for the kids to be taken, I dug my feet in and fought it, and I screamed when I let the facilitator/ritualist win. Which was not entirely voluntary, but was also not entirely spontaneous. It was basically like… “I have the option of Going There, and it would be appropriate to do so in this context”. So I did.
2) When asked (as a group) how it feels to be able to choose your own role in your culture, my answer was “Heavy”. Which got an “Interesting…” from the facilitator/ritualist. It felt heavy because, when you… find where you belong, find the place that fits, and actively claim it, then you can’t be all “Well, I didn’t ask for this” and do a half-assed, resentful job of it. You have to actually bother and try your better-than-best to not screw it up. The position I chose meant that I could see my whole community, hold it, all of them, in my eyes, but it also meant that my whole community was my responsibility to keep safe. It’s heavy, even in tableau form. Heavy.
3) During the end part of the ritual/workshop, I tried to put my roots down and pull up enough energy to kind of enfold everybody there. I don’t think it worked, but what did happen was, after the whole thing was over and people were heading downstairs for lunch, of the other facils – the one who’d been basically doing after-care (or during-care) during the painful parts – said to me: “I saw that tree”, and clarified the when and the what. I didn’t ask if he’d seen it, he just told me. 😀 Success! 😀 😀 😀 Best kind of reality check to receive! 😀
So that, on top of a history lesson and a vision of a hopeful potential decolonized future, is what I got out of that workshop.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 The facilitator/ritualist talked to me afterwards, and said they were glad I reacted the way I did, because it pushed people out of their heads, out of treating the workshop as a “workshop” – as a cerebral exercise rather than an emotional experience. So I feel like I did my job on that front, if you will.
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