Traditional medicine helps heal at missing women inquiry

From elders, counsellors and therapists, the national event includes an array of health supports

Audrey Siegl, a traditional healer and activist, is one of the dozens of support staff helping at the final leg of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls this week.

She is one of many walking around the conference rooms at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport in Richmond wearing a purple shirt, telling the speakers at the hearing and those who are there to listen that she can help them heal.

“Everyone who wears a purple shirt is health support, and we’re making sure we’re doing our best to take care of everyone so that the mental, physical, spiritual are all taken care of,” Seigl said. “The work that people are coming here to do is very hard and heavy work.”

Alongside traditional healers, there are elders, counsellors and therapists on hand to help ease the impact that sharing past abuse and trauma can have.

Since the inquiry started in Whitehorse last May, one of its mandates has been to allow Indigenous ceremonies to take place in conjunction with the community hearings so that those testifying feel supported in a safe and healthy environment.

Some support workers, like Seigl, have travelled with the inquiry from community to community, while others are brought in to help in each city and share their knowledge of local traditional medicines and ceremonies.

READ MORE: Sharing truth with art at inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women

READ MORE: Missing and murdered inquiry emboldens those to move forward: chairwoman

“Every city we go to, people share medicines,” she said. “We have rat root from Saskatchewan… willow fungus from back east, we have sage that comes from a school where we were connected with when we were in Edmonton.”

Boxes of tissues with brown paper bags marked “Tears” are stationed throughout each hearing room. At the end of each day, the bags have been filled with used tissues and are collected, set to be honoured during the closing ceremony.

There’s also an elders room, where anyone is welcome to sit and relax or share with the elders from the four First Nations helping with the five-day Richmond community hearing.

Audrey Seigl wraps peppermint and lavender in cloth bags for speakers to hold while sharing testimonies. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)


Even the smallest forms of traditional medicine offers support, Seigl said, like cloth-wrapped lavender and peppermint for speakers to hold while they tell commissioners their story.

“We work to take care of as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so that nobody is left out.”

‘We don’t have a say in what heals us’

Seigl said she wasn’t always planning to take part in the inquiry.

“I have been been and am – along with every other First Nation’s woman – a target for over 500 years by Canadian systems,” she said, such as law enforcement and land use.

“When I realized how many of my women across Canada are coming into this looking for medicine … and healing, it only felts right to be there for the women,” she said. “Where my women go, I go.”

As the inquiry winds down with its 15th community hearing set to wrap up on Sunday, Seigl said she will finish her work feeling grateful to the more than 1,000 women who have spoken out.

“At first I felt guilty… ‘cause I thought, ‘Who am I to be healing in the midst of all this?’ But we don’t have a say in what heals us a lot of the time,” she said.

“I feel gratitude, I feel humbled, I feel empowered and I feel connected.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Several local schools took part in Student Vote for the B.C. election. Black Press file photo
Students in Student Vote support NDP in Comox-Courtenay

Unlike actual vote, students in Mid Island-Pacific Rim back Greens

Father Charles has devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats and has inspired generations of volunteers to work together to protect and preserve forests and rivers. Photo submitted
Valley environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks near Comox

A Comox Valley family had a meeting with a humpback whale family… Continue reading

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.
Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Most Read