Agnes Keitlah recieves a henna design at the 2018 Nuu-chah-nulth Women's Gathering in Nanoose Bay on Thursday. (Denise Titian photos)
Approximately 100 Nuu-chah-nulth women of all ages are wrapping up three days of camaraderie and pampering at the Nanoose Bay Pentecostal Camp just north of Nanaimo.
According to Vina Robinson, manager of the NTC’s Teechuktl mental health department, the popular annual event - which occurs close to Mother's Day - accepts about 96 registrants before filling a wait list. This year the event filled quickly and there were about 40 women placed on the waiting list.
There were several last minute cancellations due to tragic losses in the communities and most of the women on the waiting list were able to take part in the gathering.
The women began arriving at the campground on Wednesday afternoon and spent the day settling in and getting reacquainted with one another through crafts and social activities.
The theme for 2018 is Ya%asta+ – Love one another. And that is what the women did, beginning with sharing a fully catered meal and taking part in crafting activities which allowed them to mingle. In a separate building stations were set up allowing the women to sign up for pampering services like manicures, pedicures, haircuts, henna application, acupuncture, massage and much more.
Another private area was set aside for cultural brushing, a spiritual cleansing practiced by the Nuu-chah-nulth. In addition, a psychic medium offered readings in a private area.
“We listen to the feedback of our people and we try to cater to their needs and what they're asking for,” said Robinson. Every single self-care sign-up sheet was filled for the entire event.
Resource people were brought in to deliver helpful information in an informal class setting where the women were free to continue working on crafts at their tables or leave for other activities. Sheila White, Central Island Employment Advisor at First Nations Health Authority, talked about employment opportunities in the health care field as well as the training programs that are available. There are the nursing and care aide positions, but there's also other necessary positions not typically considered for career choices.
“We need people do things like sterilize equipment and those people make about $20 an hour,” said White. She advised people to check out the VIHire website for employment and training opportunities. Thursday, May 10 was the only full day of the gathering and women took part in healing work through a workshop called Understanding Grief, delivered by Margaret and Lisa Robinson. Other presentations included Managing Anxiety, Empowerment and Self-care.
“The day started with heaviness but it is lifting and the women are doing lighter, fun things,” Robinson noted. She went on to say that the whole idea behind the gatherings is to offer Nuu-chah-nulth women a retreat.
“This is an opportunity for them to leave the children and family at home and take three days to care for themselves,” said Robinson. “It is a mini holiday where they can spend time laughing and pampering and having a good time,” she added.
“There's more women here than last year,” said Ahousaht elder Winnie John. She said she's meeting people from all over Vancouver Island. She had a haircut and a brushing and enjoyed chatting with the other women.