October 17, 2018 – On October 10th, 2018, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS) honoured World Homeless Day by having a 24-hour Sacred Fire. This is the first teepee and traditional spirit fire to go up at Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS) in Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie). Surrounded by staff, the Sacred Fire was lit at 10:00 am and among us was a great presence of respect and pride in learning our culture.
The opening of the Sacred Fire was immediately followed by creating awareness within the community. OAHS also had a team of staff who assembled hygiene kits that were distributed in the community. The hygiene kits were given out at James L. McIntyre Centennial Library, the Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre, the Neighborhood Resource Centre, St. Vincent’s Men’s Shelter and at the Sacred Fire.
Kristy Jones, Supportive Housing Supervisor at OAHS, brought the idea forward, arranged Fire Keeper Mike Hodgson to tend to the fire, and recruited staff and community members to organize and bring awareness about homelessness in a culturally-appropriate manner. “Chi’ Miigwetch to Kristy! Her leadership and outreach to the community is fantastic! This was a huge success and Kristy is already thinking about next year,” said Justin Marchand, Executive Director.
Local organizations were invited to come out to the Sacred Fire to offer prayers for individuals experiencing homelessness and/or for individuals who are having a difficult journey trying to obtain safe affordable homes. Missanabie Cree First Nation and Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services staff attended the fire and offered tobacco and prayers.
The Sacred Fire burned all night and staff fed our ancestors through the spirit fire. During the ceremony, individuals were invited to bring their drums and come and sing. Trudy Boyer-Jones and Joslin Boyer drummed and sang to acknowledge the rain and the Sacred Fire and sang Rain, Sacred Fire, Strong Women, Honoured the Men, Soldier Boy and the Miigwetch song. At dawn, the Fire Keeper performed the Sunrise Ceremony to welcome the beginning of a new day and express appreciation and thanks for life and nature. A spirit plate was offered to the water as well. The Creator brought us together for a reason – to honour and pray for individuals experiencing homeless and to allow us a better understanding of homelessness.
Miigwetch to all who helped organize this event.
- Peggy Rice, Karen Benford, Kyleigh Maille, Amanda McAuley, Rozlynne Anderson, Alyssa Scali, Cathy Connor and Rob Hargin for helping to collect items, assemble, and distribute the Hygiene Kits in the community;
- Mike Hodgson for overseeing the traditional ceremony, tending to the Sacred fire and providing us with teachings;
- Trudy Boyer-Jones and Joslin Boyer for coming out to hand drum and sing;
- Nogdawindamin for donating food;
- Peggy Rice, Kristy Jones, and Justin Marchand for staying in the teepee all night and participating in the Sunrise Ceremony;
- Tanner Cuthbertson for helping to deliver and return the teepee poles; and
- To all of our friends, community members, and staff who visited.