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

Surrey-based group maps places to find affordable food

Surrey and White Rock Food Coalition targets food security

Realtor blanket drive collects 360 bags of clothing

Annual event helps South Surrey and White Rock residents in need

VIDEO: Hundreds of volunteers collect, wrap toys in Surrey at Sikh elementary school

Guru Nanak Free Kitchen, Sikh Academy partner together on annual toy drive

Road safety plan in the works for Surrey

Council to consider hosting ‘Vision Zero’ summit in new year

City of Surrey looks to reduce building permit wait times

Staff targeting a 10-week average processing time

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey, Langley and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

VIDEO: Giants fall to Royals 4-2 in Victoria Saturday night

Second loss in as many days for G-Men, who are back home in Langley today to take on the Cougars.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Rescued B.C. cat with misshapen legs in need of forever home – with carpet

Mirielle was born with misshapen back legs and after a tough life on the streets, is looking for a forever home.

VIDEO: Craft growers will add to recreational market, cannabis producer says

Two B.C. men say their expertise in running small legal medical grow-ops a benefit to recreational market

World Sikh Organization demands Canada prove Sikh extremism is a threat

Sikh community says this is first time such extremism has been mentioned in federal terror-threat assessment

Most Read