My name is Charmaine Bailey, I was born in Toronto, Ontario. My parents are of African descent and were born in Guyana.
The first time I attended an Indigenous Ceremony I was 17 years old. I didn’t know what to expect, I followed directions, wore a skirt, crawled in, sat there, and waited. The door closed, it became dark, hot, and steamy as the rocks were placed into a hole in the center of the lodge. The men sang in their language and drummed on hand drums and I came out feeling refreshed. A boy commented “your braids are coming undone” is all I really remember about afterward and that it was very bright outside.
It wasn’t until seven years later that I took the opportunity to attend again. It was then that I learned of the Red Road: living in a kind and gentle way, connecting to the Creator, my ancestors, and mother Earth – it also meant living clean from drugs and not drinking alcohol. I went medicine picking with a bunch of women and an elder, who taught me to honor my womanhood by wearing long skirts, learn to listen to mother nature and keep my mouth shut. It definitely was a form of meditation and an eye-opening, fulfilling experience. She later commented that I looked beautiful out there in the grass. I felt connected to mother Earth and the sage I brought back, I always think about that time as one
where I could just be me…finally!
My lifestyle did not coincide with the teachings even though it felt right, I couldn’t commit to this way of life. In 2013 I lived in Calgary and found a new lodge with a new group to sweat in and regularly went. One day I was with a friend who asked me, “Why do you go there? You’re black.” I had no response even though I always felt welcomed. I felt joy in my heart after leaving the grounds. I knew that it was a space where I could shed tears, “warrior” cry, let go of any emotion that I was holding on to, sing, shake a rattle with all my pent-up energy and talk to my ancestors and the Creator but the negative seed was planted…I stopped going. I wandered around lost for about four years until I finally chose to commit.
I’ve been attending ceremonies for a while now: round dances, taking circles, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, ghost dance and yuwipi with many different lodge keepers and elders from the Sioux, Blackfoot, Lakota, Cree, and Dene’ people. I also took an honest look at myself; my life reflected the times when I felt most connected to the universe, to the Creator, mother Earth and to my ancestors. It was in these times of Ceremony and community with people whoI also participated in the same activities I could count on to be authentic and memorable and learn new ways of life.
I decided to stay committed, stop using drugs and drinking alcohol and live a new way of life without that fear of what the next person had to say. I go to ceremonies and represent one of the four races and I’m proud to be a black woman spiritually connected to my higher power. I will always be grateful to all the elders, the lodge keepers, my sisters and brothers of this land who helped me to believe in this way of life and that I have a purpose to fulfill. I will always be grateful for all the teachings, for sharing a meal and for their acceptance of me. I’m living my life well and I know my ancestors, my parents and most importantly, my daughter, are proud of me. I teach my daughter some of what has been passed down to me and I can see her relating it to her life experiences and incorporating them into the way she thinks and acts. One day I will go back to Guyana and attend a Ceremony with the Amerindians there because there’s one thing I know for sure – we humans are way more alike than we are different and we all have a need, a desire and a right to feel connected.