I guess it’s been about a year and a half now since I first conceived a vision. It was during Nechi Institute’s first Residential School Healing Gathering. It was an early morning pipe ceremony, with the Elders during the pipe ceremony, as the Elders were singing their final song for the year. I was sitting there and suddenly it seemed like the reality of the setting (we were all inside the teepee), just faded into the background, and into the foreground I saw the vision and what it was, was a swing. I was sitting there on a buffalo rug inside the teepee swinging someone. You know the small little baby swings that we used to have in the corner of our rooms in our houses for our babies? It was a swing like that, and I knelt over to look at who might be swinging in the swing, and it was an adult. I was puzzled at first by that, wondering why I was swinging an adult, but then very clearly a grandmother’s voice said to me in my language, in my Cree language, “the people need to be swung,” and with that the vision disappeared and I was back in the reality of the pipe ceremony. It was just finishing and people were shaking hands to leave.
That was the last day of that first ceremony. That was the first year of the ceremony and there was to be four. Later that evening because of the power of the vision I was unable to forget about it. It just, it really held me and my body was shaking and I just felt very compelled to share my vision with someone. That evening, we were helping some Elders take down their camp and the two women that had organized the ceremony, the gathering, were there. It seemed like an opportune time, so I told them, Ruth and Leona, about the vision. Ruth had said to me at that time that I should follow that vision, that it was given to me and that I should make sure that it happens. That I take care of that, I follow through with that vision the way I saw it. So during that whole year, I learned a lot about what that vision meant. I learned that the people that had come there to the gathering to do healing, people who have been to residential school had lost their culture, had lost their traditional ways of nurturing and healing. They had come there to renew their sense of self, to heal from their pain. The grandmother in my vision knew that and she said, “the people need to be swung.” I believe it is these people who have been through much trauma, and much pain, and much loss of culture, that may not have had the opportunity to be swung. If they have, they may have forgotten and they may have not swung their babies. So there is a generation of people that were never swung, never had received that traditional nurturing.
The other thing that I learned is that children, when they are first born to us, they come not knowing whether they’re going stay. During that first year of their life before they can walk on their own two feet, they walk with one foot on earth and one foot in the spirit world. It is our responsibility as parents to nurture them until they can walk on their own. Part of that nurturing is respect for their place in life as part human and part spirit. So we swing them because they are still in that middle ground. So we swing, we put them in that swing and we give them nurturing and love. And that way, and in that way, because they are not earth bound, the spirits are able to come and give them nurturing as well. So that was one of the other teachings.
Then I started to do some research on the internet to see if I could find out if anyone else was dealing with swinging people out there and maybe I could find out, you know, what were the medical benefits to the human body. So I found an organization in the States that had done some research on a kind of swing, although it’s not the type of swing that I am talking about. They had built a particular kind of swing, which moves the body in the same motion. They found out that this kind of side to side motion of the brain releases tension, induces learning and creates an emotional balance, because what’s happening is that the fluids in the right and left hemispheres of the brain are completely in balance when the body is swung in that motion. I also believe, that it enhances the immune system, that it releases a hormone into the body that strengthens the immune system. I believe this because when I think back to the struggles our people have come through and survived, the diseases that our people have survived, our immune systems are so strong. Our entire diet has changed and we survived.
In the second year, in the second Residential School Healing Gathering, I set up a teepee and I set up the swing inside the teepee just the way I had seen it inside the vision. I had my medicines there, and the blankets, and the dreamcatchers, and the buffalo robe just like I had seen it in my vision. I set it up like that and from sun up, to sun down, to midnight, people were lined up for two days to have their turn to be swung. It was so beautiful. Everyone had a different experience and people were willing and eager to share with me their experiences.
I remember one woman in particular. She shared with me a recurring dream that she has had for many years, where she was standing on one side of the field and she could see her parents and her grandparents on the other side. In her dream she was always trying to get over there to be with her grandparents and parents, but she could never get over there. Something would always happen in her dream to stop her. She told me that she has been through so much in her life and she’s a young woman. She told me that she has been through numerous types of therapy, psychotherapy, all kinds of counseling. She said that nothing ever helped her, and she said when she swung in a swing that dream occurred to her. She just walked right across that field, no problem. She went and held her mother and father and her grandparents and they just held her, nurtured her. When she awoke from the swing, she shared with me that experience and she was just like a different person.
I swung an old woman that came, she told me that her mother was swinging her. She said her mother came and swung her and her mother has been gone for many years. I swung a man, a very, very macho man. When he walked in there and when he got in the swing he was just like a little baby. He cried with me after and he shared with me what happened for him. One story after another story, I knew after those two days. I knew that every person’s spirit guide, the grandmother’s and the grandfather’s were there with that person swinging, nurturing them back to health. In whatever way they needed nurturing, that’s what they got. When people came out of that swing they felt nothing but pure love, just pure love.
Since then people have invited me to their own communities to swing their people. It’s just such a simple yet profound form of traditional therapy. It’s just going right back to basics in being nurtured and being loved by the grandmothers. The grandmothers want our people to heal and that’s why they said the people need to be swung. Now I understand why the people need to be swung, and I continue to do it today. It’s been a year and a half since I had the vision and I am thankful for the vision. I don’t charge money to swing people, I am happy to do it. I think it’s a blessing.