Honouring Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, and Two-Spirited People: A Sacred Fire Ceremony in Sackville

On October 4, Mt. A held a Sacred Fire ceremony. Hosted by Patty Musgrave and students at the tipi grounds on campus. Over 40 people were in attendance. This included students, and members of the Sackville community, along with President Boudreau and Anne Comfort, the Vice President of International and Student Affairs. Campbell Hall also made an impressive appearance with a group of students participating at the ceremony.

The event began with a student-led tutorial and then a silent smudging ceremony, where each individual was encouraged to smudge however they saw fit. Musgrave and another student went person-by-person to allow them the opportunity to smudge. Next, offerings of tobacco were made to the Sacred Fire. Musgrave explained these offerings could be made to a Missing or Murdered Person or to someone personal. People took turns offering a pinch of tobacco to the Sacred Fire, and Musgrave explained the importance of honouring the lost, praying for those mourning a loved one, and praying for those still searching for answers. Chris Metallic, an Indigenous student who went missing while attending the university, was acknowledged with hopes that his family will soon receive answers.

Musgrave and a student performed three songs with singing and drums that they made last year: The Woman Warrior song, the Spirit Bear song, and the Happy song. The Woman Warrior song prompted Musgrave to speak about the important role women need to play in order to enact change. In her words, “where you’re fighting the good fight, that’s where women are.” According to her, men need to stand behind women to support them as they endeavour to demand justice and make change.

Participants were invited to paint their hands red and put their prints on the tipi. Orange paint was also available for those who had yet to put handprints on the tipi in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Children.

The ceremony had a serious tone, although all students were made to feel welcome by Musgrave’s warmth and story-telling. Musgrave also used the Sacred Fire ceremony as an opportunity to express the dangers of travelling by yourself and the importance of making sure that friends are never left alone.

Musgrave said that “this is very serious” and is not something that is exaggerated to scare students. Stories of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women were shared, and all participants were cautioned of the dangers that can affect everyone, Indigenous or not.

The Sacred Fire ceremony was an opportunity for reflection and education on the matter of Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, and Two-Spirited people.

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