How to become an Indigenous healer for $1,111
Company pulls workshops after backlash from Indigenous community
Indigenous people from across the country were upset to learn last week that Anishinaabe ceremonies and teachings were being advertised online — for a price.
The workshops included a "certified" course on "becoming an Indigenous healer."
Word of the course spread across social media with many people asking why and how Anishnaabe teachings were being sold for individual profit.
The course -- being offered by Carrie Chilcott of Luminous Energetic Pathways Sacred Centre in Burlington, Ont., -- has since been pulled after the backlash from the Indigenous community.
"It was a huge mistake. I had no idea about the sacredness of this culture and that money should never be charged," said Lisbeth Fregonese, the owner of the wellness centre.
In a biography on the wellness centre's website, Chilcott is described as a "Reiki Master [and] teacher 3rd Generation Ojibway Medicine Woman and Seer."
The first course was slated to begin in Toronto in January.
Chilcott was offering a six-month introductory level, for $1,111, which would provide a "great connection with the Native teachings for your own benefit."
Also being offered was an intermediate course for $1,500 starting in September, which would allow you to "become a practitioner of the native teachings so that you can share it with others." An advanced course was to follow.
Course from 'own thought and heart'
The centre's website states that Chilcott has been offering these services for the last eight years, and that she offers reiki shares, drumming circles and ceremonies.
Earlier this week, the centre had Facebook events pages advertising previous ceremonies by Chilcott. They have since been taken down.
The ceremonies included medicine wheel teachings, dream catcher workshops, smudging events and "finding your totem/clan" — all for a price.
When asked about her Indigenous ancestry, Chilcott replied to CBC via Facebook that her father was full blooded Ojibway and that her mother was French.
"I also have according to my DNA test, South Pacific Polynesia Maori and Mongol," wrote Chilcott.
Chilcott said her father was adopted out in 1934 and she described herself as second generation off-reserve.
In a statement emailed to CBC News, she said the centre has cancelled all workshops dealing with Indigenous teachings.
She said she apologized to the "Native communities" and to her employers.
"Many of you will not accept my apology and this I understand and respect," she wrote.
"For the ones that accept my apologies please understand it was not my intent to do harm to anyone."
She said she had spoken to elders previously, but no elder had endorsed the course or even read its materials. The course came from her "own thought and heart."
'She's really exploiting our culture'
An Anishinaabe elder who learned about Chilcott monetizing workshops on becoming a healer was in shock and disbelief.
"She's really exploiting our culture," said Chickadee Richard from Sandy Bay First Nation.
"I'm not sure where she's getting these teachings from and why she's passing them on. Those are earned. You've actually got to sit with an elder and offer tobacco to get those teachings."
Richard said that you can't become a healer by taking classes. People that would be considered elders have earned their status by learning from other elders, medicines, many years of sacrifice and going to ceremonies.
"There's certain lines that you don't cross," said Richard.
"If you're being requested to teach, there's reciprocity [involved]."
Although elders are often invited to schools to teach and share, it is often just "surface level teachings" and tobacco is exchanged as a gift to the elder.
Richard recognizes that there are a lot of non-Indigenous people who are interested in First Nations culture, and invites people to join them and learn from Indigenous people in ceremony.
However, she thinks that non-Indigenous people should be cautious about from whom they are learning.
"Come to our ceremonies. Come and sit with us, come and pray with us. I've seen non-Indigenous people come to our ceremonies… but it's not theirs to take and pass it onto someone else," said Richard.
"I'm not saying don't use our [spirituality], I'm saying don't use our ways to advance yourself."
Fregonese has apologized on behalf of the wellness centre, and said the courses would never be offered again.