On Monday September 30, 2019, the Weaving our Wisdoms (WoW) team grew from 12 people to nearly 30 when we gathered in Saskatoon for the first WoW land-based research retreat. For those of you who have been following the WoW study, you may know that the flicker that is the flame of WoW was lit several years ago when a group of WoW team members began talking about exploring land-based methodologies in HIV research. This was followed by a research retreat on the beautiful shores of the Northwest Pacific Coast, near Bella Bella, BC during the summer of 2018, and it was here the WoW Gathering began to take shape.
In the wee hours of Tuesday morning we loaded our bus to Moosomin Reserve where the Gathering began in ceremony. Some participated in a pipe ceremony and sweat, others took time to wander in the hills, receive some horse and dog therapy, help in the kitchen, and start to reflect on how connecting to the land could influence personal and community HIV wellness and leadership in the IPHA community. We were gifted with a traditional feast, and much like the way the project began in ceremony, we worked to do the same for the Gathering to ensure its success.
“After the WOW gathering, I feel comfortable talking about things I never have.”
“WOW was exactly what my soul has been searching for….Hiy Hiy for allowing me to be Reborn Again In Ceremony”
Wednesday, we traveled to Wanuskewin Heritage Centre. With the smell of sage and damp grass in our noses, we first started by looking over across the river valley to get our bearings, before descending into the coulee at the bottom of the bluff. Here our tour guide jingle dress dancer helped us to (re)live the stories of the people who have been visiting this place for eight thousand years. We filled ourselves with local foods and after gathering around the fire for teachings, we separated to tipis for our sharing circles. We further indulged our conversational research methods with one-on-one interviews the following day, talking about such things as: how is land meaningful to you in terms of your health? How can an HIV Older support this? How about support between nations? Where does sex and gender fit in?
The journey has only begun and after having some time for reflection and respite, we are now bringing together the words, stories, and images that were shared at the Gathering to weave a collective voice that continues to advocate for IPHA wellness and honour and carry forward the seven sacred teachings of respect, wisdom, courage, honesty, truth, humility, and love.