On March 7th and 14th, residents of the Minneapolis Navigation Center gathered in a communal trailer to create dream catchers and share their thoughts and aspirations. The activity was led by Ojibwe Enterprizes, a Native-owned, small business that creates culturally-focused events and teachings for the Indigenous community.
The people of Ojibwe Enterprizes have become welcome faces at the Navigation Center. Every Thursday their warm food and supportive smiles welcome residents as they gather in the trailer to feast together, discuss Native culture and traditions, and share often difficult stories of life’s challenges. The quiet focus of creating together opens the door to communication and a deeper trust based on shared experience.
Living without shelter is chaotic; a continuous and ever-changing set of obstacles. Although the temporary shelter provided by the Navigation Center is crucial and desperately needed, the large, shared spaces can be stress-filled. A home cooked meal and easy conversation brings calm to those who gather.
To center each visit within Native tradition, gatherings always begin with a smudge to call residents into the circle to share the past week’s experiences. Many of the faces are familiar, some are new, and all are welcomed.
From, Carrie Day Aspinwall, who coordinates these gatherings for the WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each Other project:
“Traditionally, you never go to someone’s house empty handed: tobacco, food, whatever you have can be offered, even if it is simply a listening ear. You sit, visit, share a meal and you almost immediately feel a calming, a grounding, which helps you share, discuss, and talk about the things on your mind, your troubles and joys. Sometimes it’s the art of listening that is the most healing, knowing that someone cares enough to hear what you’re going through, maybe hoping they can share a potential solution. Burning our traditional medicine is always healing. The smell of burning sage and sweet grass and the calmness they create can bring a clean thought, if only for a moment; a thought which could deepen and lead to clarity and a desire to grow and change. Extending a hug, a pat on the back, a lingering glance to let folks know that they are not forgotten, this is why we gather. To say: “We are here, we are all here, together.”
The urban Indigenous community is rich with assets, starting with its people. The WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each Other project recognizes the value of each individual, including those facing the extraordinary challenge of unsheltered homelessness. We are called to lift up and amplify these voices as the Native community commits to addressing the challenges of unsheltered homelessness and addiction.
Post by Camille and Carrie
Photos by Carrie - enjoy them below!