Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years separated by distance and culture (Part 9)

By Kim Twatt

The Journey continues….

I found most of the information too overwhelming to absorb and understand at the time and it really took months of thought and recollection to fully understand everything I had been told.

Next morning I thought we’d have a wee look round the reserve before attending the lunch. There was a tap at the door. Three generations of friendly relations greeted me. Help! I couldn’t find a kettle, and did I even have enough food? They now know how completely incompetent their Orkney cousin is. Robert had to do all the catering as I was too gobsmacked to think.

Everyone was most interested in our lives in Orkney, and the genealogy. As they rushed off to work, John and Norman Charles and Andy Naytowhow arrived. John Charles, like Harold Kingfisher, is a former Chief of Sturgeon Lake First Nation. He told me of the healing he performs, which at the time did not quite register with me. He was kind enough to show us his peace pipe and explained it had been given to him by an elder. He had felt unworthy and had given it back. This he had done three times before accepting it. He told me of the problems First Nation people face and how this is being addressed. Strong bonds were required among families to endure the experiences of the government enforced residential schooling. As this had involved three generations, it resulted in the survivors of the system having no parenting skills leading, in turn, to generations of dysfunctional families with all the related problems. Children had been told their old customs were wicked and language and culture forbidden. The people were left with no self esteem.

John handed me his Healing Circle leaflet.

For the past years I’ve been helping people to deal with the negative and continuing influence of their childhood upbringing. It has come to be called, “Healing One’s Inner Child”. No one is born with low self esteem and with not liking themselves. We each began to feel that way when we were continually mistreated, abused, hollered at and punished when we were a child. “. . . For most of us, our childhood was a constant struggle just to survive in fearful surroundings.”

The support group is based on the following:

  1. Taking responsibility to change ourselves and no-one else.
  2. We are all of equal value and worth.
  3. Non judgement of self and others.
  4. Forgiveness of self and others.
  5. To keep in confidence and never to share outside the group.
  6. To come to unconditional love of self and others.

Unconditional love of self is a most powerful healing force. Until we learn to have self esteem and to like ourselves, we are ill-equipped to help another to do the same.
“. . . People must forgive their past and let it go . .”

John placed his peace pipe carefully back in its box along with a stone brought by us from Magnus Twatt’s ruined farmhouse in Orkney and left. I still have so many questions to ask.

Time to leave for lunch at the Health Centre. Robert, Alistair and I tried to sit at the back of the hall, Orkney fashion. No, this lunch was for us! Lovely people and good food, and bannock! Some bannock deep fried. Excellent. Shirley and her staff at the Health Centre, our hosts, had provided this splendid meal.

Chief Earl Ermine introduced us and welcomed us to stay at the reserve. He invited us to wander round the reserve and enjoy its beauty. He told everyone why we were there and where we came from and presented me with a copy of The Treaties of Canada with The Indians, Alexander Morris’s fascinating account. At the signing of the treaties each Chief had been presented with a medal showing the Queen’s Commissioner shaking the hand of a chief. Robert, Ali and I each received beautiful, intricately beaded versions of this. Chief Ermine placed a traditional, quilted star blanket round my shoulders. Robert, Ali and myself, were made Honorary Members of Sturgeon Lake First Nation, a huge surprise and honour. As if this was not enough generosity, someone suggested we had to be given our Treaty Money. Chief Ermine and his Councillors, amid chuckles, produced their wallets to find $5 for each of us. The afternoon was truly unbelievable.

Kim Twatt (Foden)

By way of blowing my own trumpet here, I believe this honour has not been bestowed on anyone for many years. Jack Long recalled hearing that 30 or 40 years ago, former Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, was made an Honorary Chief of the Band, complete with headdress and everything. After the PM was made Honorary Chief, he gained the name nation-wide of “Dief the Chief”. (Diefenbaker was from Prince Albert and to this day there is a baseball team in the city called “Dief’s Chiefs”.)

Robert had brought along an Orkney flag which he presented and in return we were given Sturgeon Lake First Nation flag which flies proudly outside our house on special occasions.

Coming up next in Part 10 – the  connections continue on this journey to renew family bonds…

Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years separated by distance and culture (Part 8)

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