Indigenous community hosts full moon ceremony to heal Chedoke Creek
'Pray for this water. The spirit of this water is suffering'
Kristen Villebrun and Wendy Bush hoped they wouldn't have to pray for Chedoke Creek, but four years after they first raised alarm about the water's condition, they were part of an Indigenous full moon ceremony to do just that.
About 50 people showed up near Princess Point on the dark and frigid Monday evening for the monthly ceremony, which was particularly special as it focused on Chedoke Creek.
The body of water that runs into Cootes Paradise had about 24 billion litres of sewage and storm water runoff leak into it due to a gate being left open.
"I still haven't seen anyone [from the city] down here and haven't heard anything about preserving the area or how we're going to go about fixing what's left behind," says Kristen Villebrun, who is Anishinaabe and also known as Shining Water Woman.
The members stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a wide circle, smudging, singing and beating their drums as candles burned around them to represent the water's spirit.
Jackie Labonte, who is Haudenosaunee and works with the De dwa Da Dehs Nye's Aboriginal Health Centre, led the ceremony and prayer for Chedoke Creek.
"Pray for this water. The spirit of this water is suffering," she pleaded with the group.
After Labonte spoke with the group, members walked toward a bowl of water in the middle of the circle.
Each person dipped their fingers in the water as a blessing.
Then, as the group drummed and sang, Labonte and Villebrun carried the bowl to Chedoke Creek and poured it in, as a way to heal the water with medicines and prayers.
City didn't listen
The group sang, smudged and drummed in the dark while holding burning candles to represent the spirit of the water in Chedoke Creek. <br><br>They say they told city officials about the poor condition of the water, but feel their concerns “fell on deaf ears.”<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a> <a href="https://t.co/5w3FflQf6q">pic.twitter.com/5w3FflQf6q</a>—@bobbyhristova
Villebrun and Bush know about the creek all too well.
In 2015, after checking on Inuksuks being built nearby to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, they came across a "horrifying" discovery on the shoreline — one they could see and smell.
"We found needles, tampon applicators, raw sewage," Bush, a settler and Indigenous ally, says.
They sat on a raft and floated on the water in protest.
They both say they brought up concerns to city officials, but their pleas for change "fell on deaf ears."
"It's history repeating itself," Villebrun says.
The city now puts out alerts whenever wastewater treatment plants are bypassed or combined sewer storage tanks overflow, but Villebrun and Bush feel it isn't enough.
They plan to host a demonstration, called a water walk, in the spring around Cootes Paradise.