As women of Philippine ancestry studying Indigenous Science in the U.S., we were thrilled to know about the Sixth Gathering of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide (HOSW), since it was being hosted in Hawaii this year.
Over two thousand delegates--indigenous elders, cultural workers, community organizers, educators, students, activists, artists and healers--from Australia, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Canada, the U.S. and other countries joined together in the spirit of healing and cultural re-awakening at the Hawaii Convention Center and various sacred sites around Oahu.
From when we attended our first HOSW event at the Powwow in Waimea Valley which was followed the next day by the Drum Ceremony at Kualoa Park, already we could feel the deep love of the First Peoples for the land, community and ancestral ways through the passionately-shared stories, testimonies, chants and dances.
There are immensely profound experiences that words can not capture. Native American Indian elder who, though having gone through the trauma of the colonizers’ residential schools, was still able to learn the ancient chant of her peoples which she shared with us at the Powwow. Time stood still for us at that moment, and it seemed that the great ancient trees of Waimea Valley were bending down and listening to her as well.
At the Drum Ceremony, we best remember when an Aboriginal elder, who led a group of Australian youth in dance, first called upon the ancestors to be present. He then said, “When I talk about our ancestors, I just don’t talk about mine, or ours. I talk about all your ancestors, wherever you come from in the world, whatever brought you here. I ask them to be with you, to look after you, to look after us while we’re here, to help us understand...to help us understand one another, in our countries, in this part of the world.”
The significance of this monumental gathering was echoed by various indigenous people who expressed at different times, “We are much stronger today, and in a much better position than previous generations” -- referring to the healing process that has been initiated by courageous individuals and communities after centuries of psychological, emotional, and physical trauma from colonization and missionization.
Most powerful to us was to hear the transformative stories of older-generation First Peoples who spoke of their healing journeys from alcohol and drug addictions, forced relocation, native language deprivation, and residential school experiences. In the “Reclamative Arts Practice” workshop we attended, Davina Woods who co-facilitated it, shared, “By re-visioning and acknowledging our past fully, we can move forward.” Davina is a Kuku-Yalanji/Kuku-Djungan woman from Australia who has been tracing the story of her grandfather who was stolen from his family and community in the 1880s. Her determination to transform the grievous pain of the past into a pathway of healing is inspiring and resonant to us.
Such is the work of the HOSW community. A vision of one woman has now become a global movement of tribes coming together to celebrate their healing journeys, reinvigorate their traditional healing practices, reawaken their cultural expressions and learn from each other.
We especially felt the great hope and joy inspired by the presence and participation at the conference of hundreds of younger-generation First Peoples keeping the heartbeat of their cultures alive.
Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Covenant
Celebrating that our Creator has given Indigenous Peoples, who belong to the land and the sea, a unique and rich collection of gifts including mother earth, the sky and water, or families and nations, our culture and wisdom and our own lives;
Recognizing that these gifts rest at the heart of our past, our present and our future;
Believing that the Spirit is the energy that empowers us to share, replenish, protect and respect these gifts according to the Creator’s design;
Remembering the devastation and confusion that colonization brought, including alcohol and disease;
Grieving for the land taken and the loss of communal life;
We the Indigenous Peoples of the world having come together as part of the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide movement declare with one voice and heart our resolve to strengthen the Spirit of our Nations and Peoples, to clear from our hearts and minds the clouds of confusion and doubt.
We hold as true and as our guide the teaching of our grandmothers and grandfathers that;
We hold a sacred role to protect, maintain and respect the Creator’s gifts so that our children and generations of children after them may live a healthy and rich life;
Our responsibility to address, enhance and restore our sacred role; as custodians of these gifts we need to make wise decisions because we are accountable to the Creator and to generations to come;
The health and well-being of our people and nations is built on our ability to maintain compassionate, functioning relationships within ourselves, with the earth, each other, our families and communities;
Knowledge and wisdom are our partners and we must enrich them both and use them well if our children are to build a meaningful future.
We commit ourselves to work in unity and with resolve to strengthen and heal the spirit of our Peoples.