Traditional medicine helps heal at missing women inquiry

From elders, counsellors and therapists, the national event includes an array of health supports

Audrey Siegl, a traditional healer and activist, is one of the dozens of support staff helping at the final leg of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls this week.

She is one of many walking around the conference rooms at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport in Richmond wearing a purple shirt, telling the speakers at the hearing and those who are there to listen that she can help them heal.

“Everyone who wears a purple shirt is health support, and we’re making sure we’re doing our best to take care of everyone so that the mental, physical, spiritual are all taken care of,” Seigl said. “The work that people are coming here to do is very hard and heavy work.”

Alongside traditional healers, there are elders, counsellors and therapists on hand to help ease the impact that sharing past abuse and trauma can have.

Since the inquiry started in Whitehorse last May, one of its mandates has been to allow Indigenous ceremonies to take place in conjunction with the community hearings so that those testifying feel supported in a safe and healthy environment.

Some support workers, like Seigl, have travelled with the inquiry from community to community, while others are brought in to help in each city and share their knowledge of local traditional medicines and ceremonies.

READ MORE: Sharing truth with art at inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women

READ MORE: Missing and murdered inquiry emboldens those to move forward: chairwoman

“Every city we go to, people share medicines,” she said. “We have rat root from Saskatchewan… willow fungus from back east, we have sage that comes from a school where we were connected with when we were in Edmonton.”

Boxes of tissues with brown paper bags marked “Tears” are stationed throughout each hearing room. At the end of each day, the bags have been filled with used tissues and are collected, set to be honoured during the closing ceremony.

There’s also an elders room, where anyone is welcome to sit and relax or share with the elders from the four First Nations helping with the five-day Richmond community hearing.

Audrey Seigl wraps peppermint and lavender in cloth bags for speakers to hold while sharing testimonies. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)


Even the smallest forms of traditional medicine offers support, Seigl said, like cloth-wrapped lavender and peppermint for speakers to hold while they tell commissioners their story.

“We work to take care of as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so that nobody is left out.”

‘We don’t have a say in what heals us’

Seigl said she wasn’t always planning to take part in the inquiry.

“I have been been and am – along with every other First Nation’s woman – a target for over 500 years by Canadian systems,” she said, such as law enforcement and land use.

“When I realized how many of my women across Canada are coming into this looking for medicine … and healing, it only felts right to be there for the women,” she said. “Where my women go, I go.”

As the inquiry winds down with its 15th community hearing set to wrap up on Sunday, Seigl said she will finish her work feeling grateful to the more than 1,000 women who have spoken out.

“At first I felt guilty… ‘cause I thought, ‘Who am I to be healing in the midst of all this?’ But we don’t have a say in what heals us a lot of the time,” she said.

“I feel gratitude, I feel humbled, I feel empowered and I feel connected.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon’s Mehain is Finland bound

Vernon cross-country skier Hannah Mehain will compete in World Championships in Finland this January

Vernon gas leak stopped, repairs continue

Gas leak at 43rd St and 16th Ave Dec. 17

Retailers feel impact of generous return policies

Technology data tracking can clamp down on fraudulent abuse

RCMP, civilian vehicles rammed in North Okanagan incident

Police attempt to stop truck near Enderby, thought to be tied to alleged Salmon Arm armed robbery

North Okanagan Light A Bulb campaign nears goal

Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation said goal of $275,000 for new equipment is getting closer

Your morning news in 90: Dec. 18, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Vernon’s Slattery wins provincials berth

The women’s open no. 1 playdown took place Dec. 14 to 16 at Tunnel Town Curling Club.

Caretaker jailed, must pay back money after stealing $260K from elderly B.C. couple

Antonette Dizon, now 50, had been hired to provide extra care for Henry and Helen Abfalter

Canadians to get low-cost data-only mobile phone plans within 90 days: CRTC

Bell, Rogers and Telus will provide plans as cheap as 250MB for $15

Police have ‘viable suspects’ in B.C. gangster’s 2017 murder

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg was successful in asking a judge to extend the length of time police can hold onto exhibits seized in connection with the homicide.

Man rescued from sinking boat off the coast of Vancouver Island

Mayday call came into Coast Guard saying vessel had taken on water, BC Ferries dispatched to scene

Four per cent of Canadian women report being sexually harassed in the workplace

One per cent of men report being sexually harassed in the workplace

Stricter drunk driving laws to take effect across Canada today

It gives police officers the right to ask for a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop

Winter storm warning issued for Coquihalla highway

Total snow accumulations of 40-50 cm expected by Wednesday

Most Read