New Zealand healers join Sudbury elders

Photo by Gabriel Rodrigues

By Gabriel Rodrigues

On Sept. 15, elders and healers from New Zealand and Laurentian University gathered within the Brenda Wallace reading room to discuss different teachings, and according to the Director of the School of Indigenous Relations, the idea was to exchange “cross-cultural knowledge.”

“This was an opportunity to learn information that is relevant to indigenous people,” said Taima Moeke-Pickering. “We get another traditional peoples that have a similar colonial history, but who have been resilient and self-determined to keep going for their future generations.”

The Aboriginal Student Affairs and Indigenous Programs partnered to accompany ten Maori New Zealand healers, elders from Laurentian, and Aboriginal faculty and students, to share conversations about one another’s cultures, which included traditional drumming, pipe ceremonies and storytelling.

Moeke-Pickering said this sort of event gives aboriginal people from anywhere a different understanding of each other.

“It gets us to think outside of our normal context,” she said. “This gives insight into other countries and their experiences through culture, and pushes some of our knowledge and experiences on to them.”

One of the teachings included an elders and healers circle, where the elders and healers from New Zealand and Laurentian University gathered in the middle of the room to share different experiences, while the other on lookers circled around them to “listen and learn.”

“That circle allows the elders to share their knowledge and gives us an opportunity to get inside their wisdom,” said Moeke-Pickering. “In the classroom, we watch videos and hear others, but having someone physically talk to you makes it more of an intimate conversation. It gives us, the viewer, an authentic firsthand experience of their knowledge.”

Susan Manitowabi, assistant professor for the School of Indigenous Relations, believes the idea of bringing all these elders and healers together to discuss teachings gives her a “feeling of comfort.”

“We and indigenous people across the world share similar teachings,” she said. “A gathering like this creates opportunity to learn about our culture because for many years it was been hidden from us. In the residential school system, we were taught not to embrace our culture, speaking and practicing the language was forbidden, but when you are able to bring it out openly in a setting like this, there’s an acceptance and we don’t need to hide any longer.”

Elder at Laurentian University, Jerry Otowadjiwan, who played traditional drum throughout the day, said learning and passing on knowledge is something he embraces.

“This was an open thought for everybody to communicate,” said Otowadjiwan. “Out of hearing all of the elders speak, we all got the same teachings. This was a chance for students to understand where they come from and where they are going, and we want to keep these beliefs strong for years to come.”

For more information regarding the School of Indigenous Relations, contact or visit room A301A.

For interest in upcoming Aboriginal Student Affairs’ events, call 705-675-1151 ext. 4052 or email

Photo by Gabriel Rodrigues
Photo by Gabriel Rodrigues