Friday, September 10, 2010

Shamanic or Western?

Two weekends ago ET and I went to Quebec city for our 22nd wedding anniversary. ET had offered me tickets to go see Cavalia which is an equestrian production Cirque du Soleil style that was in Montreal. I love horses but I’m not a fan of seeing them exploited by humans for entertainment. ET ended up going to the event with KM, they are two passionate horse lovers, and they both said that the show was good but not worth the ticket prices. They are not planning to return next year. For our anniversary we ended up going to Totem, the latest production of the Cirque du Soleil. Since we missed their show in Montreal in late Spring we had to go to Quebec city where they are now touring until September. I figured if the desire was this strong then there must be some kind of dream hiding behind it all.

I love Quebec city but I always feel a bit apprehensive to travel and explore this town because it is filled with history that has yet spun its full Wheel of resolution. For someone with extra-sensory skills this city can be overwhelming. It may not be like London, Rome, Paris and Versailles in my book but nevertheless it has offered interesting phenomenal occurrences each time I’ve been there… When ET approached me with hotel suggestions I unexpectedly blurted out that I wanted to stay at the First Nation Hotel. To be honest the proposal surprised even me. Up to that point I had no idea that I was even interested in going to Wendake. ET gave me a questioning look and without discussing it further made some reservations.

I suppose you’ve guessed by now that if I’m sharing this particular experience it is because it proved itself to be phenomenal from a shamanic point of view. I have to say that this three day trip felt like it added 400 years to my life. It was so full of phenomenon, teachings and healing that one blog entry won’t cover it all. So be prepared for a few threads on this particular story.

Recently DAL asked me to give more precision to what I mean when I use the word “shamanic”. For example, what makes a particular event or experience shamanic in comparison to western? As I explained to DAL anything that is connected to the word shamanism, shaman or shamanic must speak of natural and cosmological realities or laws. Where our Western perspective focuses on humanity and man-made-realities Shamanism concentrates on nature and the stars. One looks at what is definite and the other gazes towards the indefinite. Just these statements alone should invite some of you to ponder and to investigate.

It took us longer than it should have to get to the First Nation Hotel in Wendake. There was nothing wrong with the map that we printed off of google but satellites don’t consider road blocks, road work, and roads that haven’t yet been recorded on the public registry. One thing that I have learnt through working with traditionalists through the years is that they often say that your gut will lead you to where you need to be more accurately than any map. The elders that I’ve worked with have never given me an address or even detailed directions on how to get to them. It’s always expected that I figure it out on my own and that I develop strong instinctual and intuitive skills. As it turned out we were practically in the Hotel’s back yard when we finally gave up and called the front desk for some help. When looking for natural reality you don’t have to dig far.

Both ET and I loved the First Nation Hotel. We found it beautiful. I thought it was great that they considered building the Hotel in the format of a traditional Long House. There’s an inbuilt museum and all of the decoration gives an accurate picture of ancient or traditional aboriginal culture. At first I found that the furs all over the lobby and our room was a bit much. Just in our room alone you came across the hide of a black bear, a raccoon, a fox and two beavers. In the welcoming hall you could count at least 8 grey wolves: Furs that were securely attached to sofas and chairs. Yet, after speaking to a few local residents of Wendake my perspective changed. One of the men that we talked to shared with us that his great-grand-fathers were trappers and runners for the state. In their home alone they counted enough furs to care for a whole village. We were told that many of those historical treasures were found in the Hotel. It help to know that the furs that furnished the First Nation Hotel were actually museum pieces in so much that they were at least a century old and spoke of a whole village and their central occupation.

It took running into French tourists who were leaving the Hotel the next morning to understand that our stay in Wendake deserved some introspection. These people were a mix of three generations of two related families who traveled Quebec for 2 weeks. The older couple, the grand-parents I presumed, complained against the First Nation village and their hotel. They felt that they had not received what they had been promised when it came to an aboriginal experience. As far as they were concerned the First Nation Hotel was an Hotel like any other and the 5 min. museum visit was not enough for them to return for another trip. “It’s too far from the center of town and there’s nothing to keep us busy here for 2 weeks” said one of the parents. They had expected something more.

“Wendake offers historical information” one of the younger people said “but we can get history anywhere we go. We were hoping for Indians.”

With this last comment I couldn’t sit back and let it go. I politely approached these people and asked if I could make a comment. It was more of a statement than a question really… I introduced myself as a guest of the Hotel but also a Quebecor. I explained that I understood their perspective as tourists but that they had to open themselves up to our perspective as well as people of the region with ancestors who were invested in the history that was shared with them in the village and in Quebec city. I pointed out that they expected to find Indian culture and tradition alive in the village the way that Samuel de Champlain uncovered when he arrived in 1604.

“You have to agree,” I prompted “that these expectations are irrational. Even the First Nation people progressed with time and live no different than any other Westerner today. To ask for anything else is somewhat not realistic.”

On the other hand, I pointed out that there were many ways to have access to the old stories and to get experiences that relate to ancient spiritual traditions. First, they had to genuinely want the empirical teachings, and according to tradition this meant: Preparing for them as well. I told the families that in ancient times it was custom to make ready for spirit, for initiations, for teachers, for medicine etc….

“When I go to France,” I said, “I don’t expect to meet a King or to experience the life of an ancestral Frenchmen. I accept that Paris if about haute couture, great perfumes and delicious food.”

I noticed that they were starting to understand what I was telling them. They nodded in agreement until one of the men said: “We would have liked to meet a Shaman.” I found it incredible that underneath their complaints lay a humble desire to experience something more than the usual, Western living. They wanted to connect to nature and the stars. Seriously who doesn’t? When came time for the families to leave one of the women in the group turned around and said: “Thank you for speaking to us because you ironically made our week. You gave us what we had been looking for. Too bad it had to be when we were leaving.”

ET laughed and whispered to me afterwards that the Hotel should give me a PR job because I did some amazing damage control. After surfing google for a while and looking at travel sites, I noticed there were lots tourists who complained against Wendake and their new hotel. Most of the complaints showed that people didn’t understand First Nation culture and tradition. It also showed that they were looking for shamanic experiences but were packaging it in a Western box. I think that making the difference between shamanic and western may help people get clearer direction.

I certainly approached this trip from a shamanic perspective once I noticed that the synchronicities were leading me to explore a reality that was from out of this world.

I’ll be back with more later.

P.S. The picture was taken at the Khanawake pow-wow. One of the statements that was shared with these tourists was that if they wanted to see "indians dancing with their traditional gear they needed to synchronize their trip with the local pow-wow."
"We don't come dancing around fire every night after our 9 to 5 jobs," I said "like anyone else we have to learn to bring together modern living and traditional ways."



Michelle said...

This post spoke to me on so many levels Okwaho more than I realized when I started reading. Wolikon!

louise said...

I find it amazing that you where there to give those people exactly what they wanted (to meet a Chaman).

It always, even after so many years, amazes me how you you always see and follow the dream, no mather what.

I admire that so much.

Anonymous said...

Wow great storie all the talk of the furs on the walls reminded me of when I was a kid 10 years old and how my grandfather taught me how to trap and flesh animals. It was a source of income for our family and helped put food on the table. Some family membes still hold trap lines but are not used like they used to be. Most are for a hobby not as a mane source of income. Really injoyed your blog.
Chris (Hardrock)

Lulu said...

Love your story of how you followed the dreaming and gave the tourists what they wanted.
Love Leanne

Anonymous said...

I found that this photo of the women dancing was beautiful. She looked like a large bird, elegant and soaring. I came back to the blog just to look at the photo of the women.


Wapeyit Malsom said...

@Serena -- the picture was taken at the Pow Wow this summer. The dancing was incredible.