Healing by Beading

First published in March 2018, Apaji'wla-matulinej member Marilyn Francis reflects on a healing by beading workshop.

An abstract design of bright yellow, dark green, white, and orange shapes against a pale peach background.

Agnes Gould known as Ms. Aggie Baby is a radio host on a First Nations radio station and an artist from Membertou. She has dealt with grief and trauma in her life and yet shares hope and inspiration through her work. Aggie arrived in Yarmouth and held our first workshop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. We began with a smudge at my home and prayers for a good day. Aggie had prepared turtle beading kits for the participants for beginners and allowing us to get familiar of the materials and beads used.

Aggie shared her personal experiences, and how our Ceremonies and way of life helped her. Aggie also spoke of there is always help and we don’t have to suffer in silence. We enjoyed our lunch break with shared talk amongst all the women who attended. We had visitors elder Doris and counselor Rachel from Acadia First Nation who were unable to join us for the workshop, but they came to visit and support the ladies who did attend. We visited the local Craft Supply Shop and bought some supplies.
From Wednesday to Saturday we worked from my home, beginning with a smudge and prayers each day. Breakfast and lunch was provided with supper for the women who stayed. A Spirit Plate was offered with each meal. We had talking circles, each woman sharing their battles, sorrows and happiness. We worked on the rise type beadwork creating a raised flower with beads. Each piece we worked with took time and taught us patience, shared laughter and memories of days gone by. It was amazing.

Our women came to join us as far as from Fredericton, NB. Non-Aboriginal women joined us in our circles and enjoyed the teaching of beadwork. We did not discriminate against any woman, they were all invited to attend this most amazing gathering of Sisterhood.

One of the ladies received news her sister was taken to the hospital and put on life support system. We gathered and supported her with ceremony of sacred fire, tobacco tie making and prayers. Our talking circle was so powerful with love, hope and serenity for our sister who shared and overcame the pain and gave her courage to move forward and prepare for her trip home. We received word the next day, her sister was coming around and eventually taken off the life support and was able to breathe on her own. Prayers were answered in a good way.

On Friday we prepared for Give Away Ceremony and Feast for the completion of the Healing with Beading Workshop. It included celebrating with one of our elder participant’s birthday joined with family and friends.

The end result was making new friends and working together to bring awareness of sexual, domestic and family abuse to the forefront and letting women know they are never alone.

Sharing this time together and listening to Aggie’s personal story of her younger sister being one of the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women showed us strength, life and love, inspiration to move forward with hope and courage. Spending this time uplifted our women’s spirits and offered us knowledge we could get through anything. Healing with Beading was more than just beading, it built a support system, made sister/friends and know we are not alone.

Pamphlets were give out with information for Violence and Mental Illness Support Groups, Sexual Abuse Services/Support contact information, Emotional Abuse information, Elder Abuse/Youth contact information. Which included, phone numbers, email address to reach out to when needed. (Provided by Tri-County Women’s Ctr.)

I want to thank everyone again from my heart for collaborating and working together in providing a safe place for our women to come, even if for just a short while. It opened our eyes in ways that will give us courage, strength and self-esteem and inspire us to move with confidence in each step we take.
Each woman was given a beading mat, beads, needle and thread to continue to bead if they chose to.

If you need any more information or if you would like me to facilitate a Healing with Beading for our women/sisters, please feel free to contact me.

With Respect and Sisterhood,

Marilyn A. Francis