A cultural gathering at a Manitoba First Nation this weekend will give men an opportunity to open up about their traumas and will aim to instill a sense of confidence in the participants.
“As men we can’t talk about when we lose somebody. We try to be strong, you know. We try to be solid,” said Arthur Mckay, a Pine Creek First Nation band member and one of the organizers of the men’s gathering.
The gathering at Pine Creek, which is about 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg, will include ceremonies, sharing circles and land-based training opportunities.
As a retired band constable and former corrections worker, Mckay said he has witnessed the trauma that disenfranchised Indigenous men and women are facing.
He has been participating in and helping organize similar men’s gatherings in the surrounding First Nations communities for 20 years. He said that at these gatherings “men learned how to cry and express emotions and feelings.”
He said sharing circles give men the confidence to share their challenges in life and find support.
“They come to the circle, talk about their alcohol, their marriage, job loss, job relocation, loss of a loved one,” said Mckay.
“The circle gives them all that support and friendships are made.”
Mckay said he has invited guest speakers to talk about things like grief and loss, mood disorders and traditional teachings.
Need for more rural supports
When former Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs grand chief Derek Nepinak was re-elected chief of Pine Creek at the end of June, he called on Mckay to help him organize the men’s gathering.
While attending a grandmother’s gathering earlier this year, Nepinak had a chance to listen to young men from his community talk openly about their trauma, incarceration experiences and not having enough spaces in the community to talk about their issues.
He said there are systemic barriers for Indigenous men when it comes to healing, and that men living in First Nations need more accessible support.
“Community members living in and around Pine Creek, for example . . . aren’t going to gain access to the types of support services and networks that are rising up in the urban centres, and it’s important that we recognize that within our communities and we try to provide the same venues within our communities for people to come forward,” said Nepinak.
Ryan Beardy, who has been running a men’s program in Winnipeg called Healing Together since 2019, said even in cities, men’s programming is scarce.
“Imagine how it is for rural settings and Indigenous communities, it’s non-existent,” said Beardy.
“I think what [Nepinak] is doing is great. It’s huge. I hope it sets a precedent, I hope that there’s more gatherings like that, and I’m going to try to make it out there myself.”
The event starts Friday and ends Sunday.
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