In honor of National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada on June 21, 2021, Compassionate Ottawa is honored to host this month’s Conversations with Leaders with two Indigenous Elders. For many Indigenous peoples, dying and death are a transition rather than a finite “end-of-life”. With one foot in the living world and one in the spiritual world, the ideology of morbidity is not present, yet the approaches to it vary significantly from one community to another. There is a constant negotiation for life through ceremony which involves an ongoing relationship with ancestors.
In this live virtual event, Erica Claus, Secretary of the Compassionate Ottawa Board of Directors, will have a conversation with two Indigenous leaders, Elder Stephen Augustine and Elder Annie Smith St-Georges, who will share their ways to inspire and inform us. Together, we will discover how traditional, thriving and compassionate Indigenous communities support one another. We will also learn how some Indigenous communities handle the last days’ transition to the spirit world, and then how to let the departed go, through emotions and memories. There will be time for questions and comments following the session.
Elder Stephen Augustine is a Hereditary Chief of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and the Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs and Unama’ki College at Cape Breton University. He was the Curator of Ethnology for Eastern Maritimes of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau/Ottawa. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Canadian Studies from Carleton University and a BA in Anthropology and Political Science from St. Thomas University. Elder Augustine has shared his expertise in research and traditional knowledge with many organizations, including government departments, the Assembly of First Nations, and various Aboriginal communities across Canada. He has been Elder Advisor to the Federal Court of Canada Judges, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Canada. In his role as Hereditary Chief of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and by Elders’ training since an early age, he has a profound knowledge of traditional practices, his language and the history of his people.
Elder Annie Smith St-Georges is an Algonquin Traditional Elder, born and raised in Kitigan-Zibi near Maniwaki. She has acquired many teachings from her grandfather and her uncle, the internationally renowned Grand Father William Commanda, and from many Aboriginal elders across North America. Elder Annie Smith St-Georges’ teachings are based on respecting Mother Earth and all its creatures, on spirituality and on promoting harmony between one other. Elder St-Georges performed the Welcoming and Smudging Ceremony for the June 11, 2008 Apology for the Residential School Victims. In 2010, she performed the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Re-opening of the Commission on the Residential School Victims at Rideau-Hall. Elder St-Georges is the Home Elder at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She is the founder of the WÀGÉ Health Center, which promotes the integration of Aboriginal, Alternative and Scientific medicines through a concept based on the medicine wheel, and continues to work as a traditional healer.
Compassionate Ottawa acknowledges that we are located on the unceded and unsurrendered Territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. We work here and pay our respects to Indigenous Elders, past, present and emerging.