Activating Ancestral Resilience In Trying Times: Calling On Our Bundle
Authored by: Andrea Deleeuw
March 22, 2020
These past few weeks have been very difficult. Honestly, that’s an understatement. Our community suddenly and tragically lost someone so dear to us, and we are grieving. People of all ages looked up to Delaine. Most especially the young people. Delaine was the proud coordinator for northern Alberta’s largest youth conference, Spirit Seekers, for the last 13 years. She loved the youth and they loved her.
As a mental health practicum student, former youth worker, and simply someone who cares, I feel a sense of urgency to reach out to the young people. I worry about the after shocks as they ripple through our community.
My initial thought was a gathering of some sort, but with the latest pandemic protocols, that’s off the table.
We are in unprecedented times, in more ways than one.
Careful not to settle into a place of hopelessness, my mind skips to the things we CAN do. And what we can do is share the teachings that help us with others.
I recently read a post on social media written by Andrea Landry that talked about the importance of teaching our children how to grieve and process their trauma (check out her online space, indigenousmotherhood.wordpress.com - highly recommend!). Her words made me reflect on the ways in which I was processing my grief and anxiety, but maybe not doing such a good job of including my children and other young people in the conversation.
Yes, my children see me work through my grief at home. They see me open my bundle, shed tears, light smudge, sing songs, and lay tobacco. But I was missing opportunities to explain the teachings. And I want to do a better job at that.
I really want my children and the young people to know that hard times will come, and when they do, we can use every teaching, every tool, and every ounce of strength from our bundle to help us get through.
What Exactly is a “Bundle”?
One way to describe a bundle would be to think of it as a spiritual tool kit containing sacred items to help us. Because our bundles take good care of us, we have a responsibility to also take good care of our them. The items in our bundle have their own spirit, their own life.
Out of respect for the teachings, there are some things I cannot write about, but you will need to know so you can care for your bundle in a good way. To learn these teachings offer some tobacco to an Elder or knowledge keeper, have a visit with them, and ask them for guidance. I feel okay to share that some of the ways we take care of our bundles is by feasting for them in the spring and fall, and smudging them regularly.
Some people have drums, rattles, and other spiritual tools in their bundle. Some have rocks (keepers of stories), feathers, skulls, and medicines. Some things don’t exist physically in your bundle, but rather they are bits of wisdom you’ve picked up on your journey.
A bundle can be small enough to fit into a handkerchief, or it can be large enough to require a moving van (as in the case of the Walking With Our Sisters bundle). No two bundles are alike and they are as unique as the person carrying them.
You probably already have a bundle, and you just didn’t realize it. Do you have a place in your home where you keep special things? Do you have photos you look at or stories you like to read when you’re having a hard day? Do you save notes from the people you love? If so, great job, you have already been caring for a bundle!
Calling On Our Bundle
When I’m having a hard time, one of the first things I do is turn to is my bundle. It contains teachings from people I love and who generously shared with me. For me, a bundle represents comfort, connection, and security. It is both tangible and metaphorical, and it provides a sort of practical self care rooted in Indigenous wisdom.
I’ve had nights lately where the only thing I can do is lay in bed and cry, but having that bundle open beside me is a source of strength and comfort. Even in the most painful moments, that connection we have with all our relations, is activated when we open our bundle.
What always blows my mind is thinking about how our ancestors practiced these spiritual teachings in hiding, because they were at one time (not too long ago, by the way) against the law. They knew we, their children yet to come, would need them. Sometimes that thought alone can be enough to help me tap into the ancestral resilience running through my veins.
How to Build Your Bundle
It is important not to stress when you put your bundle together. Light smudge, pray, and collect your items. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.
Think about things that make you happy, provide strength, or that are deeply meaningful to you. Add them to your bundle. Photos, notes, special trinkets, small items gifted to you, and written passages are examples of such items.
(Pictured: From T8GPdotcom Instagram photo series, termed "Medicine Quotes" . Words by Helen Knott from her book “In My Own Moccasins”)
If you like to write or draw, you might choose to add a journal to your bundle.
Think about the lessons people have taught you. Write them down and name those people. Consider adding that list to your bundle.
Indigenous items of spiritual significance such as rattles, drums, feathers, and rocks are usually included in a bundle. If you don’t have any of these items yet, you could put tobacco down in prayer, and ask for these items to come to you and help you when they are meant to.
Bundles are personal, so I won’t talk too much about what is in my bundle; however, I would like to share that the most recent additions are a kokum scarf from my friend, Connie Francis, and a flower pot from my friend who passed, Delaine. These items mean a lot to me, and I will treasure them always.
Lately, I’ve been singing songs at home, and I’m excited to join a local women’s singing group when things settle down.
Adding songs to our bundle helps us to be connected to our ancestors and to each other. I’ve been taught that all songs are prayer, so sing loud and proud, because your prayers are necessary and beautiful.
I hope I’ve been able to provide a little bit of guidance on how to get started building your bundle, and I hope that I don’t cause any harm by sharing these teachings is such a public way. It feels right to me to share this here, and one thing I’m learning is that we have to trust our own spirit for guidance. I feel in my heart that the world needs to be reminded of these teachings.
Remember, your bundle is uniquely yours, so in these next quiet weeks, I invite you to take some time reflecting on the things that are special to you and consider creating a bundle of your own. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the Elders and knowledge keepers you know and ask them for help.
Finally, I just want to express that I’ve been keeping you all in my prayers.
Especially Delaine’s family, her husband and children, and all the young people she adored.
And I can feel you keeping me in your prayers, too.
So thank you.
Hope For Wellness: If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, the Hope for a Wellness Helpline offers immediate help to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.
We Matter: We Matter is a place to help indigenous youth get through hard times, whether you need support yourself or want to support someone you know. Visit wemattercampaign.org to watch hundreds more VIDEOS from other young people, role models, aunties, and uncles! You can also add your voice to the #WeMatterCampaign and help spread HOPE!
ICAT: Alberta Health Services, Integrated Crisis Access Team (AHS ICAT) is a mental health & addictions group of professionals who help all ages with urgent and non-urgent mental health concerns. Stop in from 9am-4:00pm Monday-Friday on the third floor of the Aberdeen Centre located at 9728 101 Avenue in Grande Prairie. You can also call 587-259-5513 where you can leave a detailed message, and someone will get back to you.