Gathering Our Medicine


Working on Relationship While in Relationship

The Gathering Our Medicine Program invites families and communities to engage in their own traditional Indigenous ways of knowing and being (Cajete, 1994) while exploring how to best support our youth. In essence “we are working on relationship while in relationship” (Neufeld G., Intensive 1 Making Sense of Kids, 2001). 

It is the intention of Gathering Our Medicine to provide structures grounded in cultural rituals and experiential learning as kinship circles are led to new insight and understandings about how to care for Indigenous youth (Nyman, 2014). Caregivers will experience the power of ritual and will be encouraged to explore and create their own rituals as a way of supporting their youth at home and in the community. 

The following schematic illustrates the principles of Gathering Our Medicine while providing a visual guide to facilitators, reminding us of what is most important in caregiving for our youth.


A RITUAL is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a place and according to a set sequence.


Rituals exist across all civilizations throughout time and characterize our different cultures (Campbell, 1990). Some of the earliest documented rituals were death rituals performed to support the grieving and adaption processes in the face of life’s most difficult losses (Ashenburg, 2002). 

We are creatures of Ritual. Rituals help us adapt to those things that we cannot change! They give us courage, carry us during times of grief, assist us in letting go, and help us on our journey to new place (Campbell, 1990). Our youth will be called to adapt again and again along their journey and rituals can provide a rich foundation in which needs are met and resilience preserved. As Indigenous peoples our life way focuses on preparing our youth for the trials and tribulations of life knowing that they were inevitable. Rituals provide a container in which the important is protected from the urgent (Neufeld G., Play and Emotion, 2017). Basic needs in terms of attachment, emotional expression, and rest are indirectly provided for in rituals where certain conditions are met. 

As Indigenous peoples we have a beautiful spectrum of cultural rituals that vary from community to community and from family to family (Nyman, 2014). Rituals take care of us as Indigenous peoples in ways that feel most natural and non-threatening. As opposed to tackling problems and talking about emotions and relationships directly, at the risk of re-traumatizing our youth, rituals provide a container in which a sacred magic occurs. The conditions for healing, growth, and transformation are provided in a very powerful way! 

Rituals are informed by cultural practices and vary from place to place. If we look to the idea affective neuroscience and the power that emotion has to transform and “heal” us, we can see a parallel between this scientific knowledge and the power of healing magic of RITUAL. 

The 7 Ways Rituals Can Heal

Rituals can heal and many wonderful things can occur, specifically healing and adaption, in 7 distinct ways:

During cultural rituals we experience being reconnected, re-joined, and a sense of togetherness. Our relational needs are fully met, freeing us to experience a deep sense of rest.

Ritual moves us from everyday reality to the sacred metaphysical world, from the material to the emotional/spiritual world where magic can happen.

Cultural rituals have beginning and endings and natural entry and exit points, while inside the ritual we are between two worlds where transformation is possible.

Cultural rituals can only heal to the degree that are become captivated through our felt senses by the ritual and by becoming fully present and receptive.

The healing power of the cultural rituals is at its greatest when we spontaneously melt into the experience and trust the process to carry us.

Cultural rituals invite movement physically, emotionally, and spiritually through all the felt senses which is necessary for recovery of our feelings and healing.

Cultural rituals are indirect and therefore safe. Ritual must keep us safe from emotional wounding.

Deepen and Repair Relationships

Gathering Our Medicine encourages the practice of rituals that deepen and repair relationships, build and expand the youth’s village of relationships, facilitate emotional expression as a way of preserving the youth’s capacity for vulnerable feelings and restoring and fostering resilience. The essential ingredients for self-actualization and the reaching of one’s potential to be uniquely human. 

Gathering Our Medicine supports kinship circles of Indigenous youth to draw on and develop rituals emanating from their youth’s community and family ways of being that include the following 4 fundamental practices for providing for the relational developmental needs for our youth. Rituals have the power to naturally facilitate these practices essential for caring for our youth.