Gathering Our Medicine


Gathering Rituals


The dance of relationship is at the heart of an Indigenous life way, depicted by the web of creation in which everything and everyone is interconnected — past, present and future with no beginning and no end. 

We can draw on our ancient wisdom to guide us in relationship with our children and youth where that connection can be ruptured along the way requiring repair and healing. Our role as parents and teachers alone does not render youth receptive to us. As creatures of togetherness the instincts to depend must be activated for this dance to unfold as nature intended (Rifkin, 2009). Safety is necessary for them to fall into the kind of relationship with us in order for it truly nurture their spirits. 

Gathering rituals are intended to invite our youth into a dependent relationship with us in which we can provide for their needs (De Waal, 2009). For some youth relationships have been a great source of wounding and they are difficult to reach. Others are extremely shy and reserve their eyes and ears only for those they are already attached to. This dance must be respected regardless of how long it may take, or how many times we may try and fail. Patience and trust are essential on the part of the caregiver. 

When we lead with our intention to gather our youth into relationship with us first and foremost this guides us in all that we do. We know that before we can proceed with anything else we must engage our youth’s instincts to attach to us, to depend on us, to look to us, to take cues from us and to follow us. 

Gathering rituals should be created and practiced consistently at the beginning of a relationship and after each and every separation either physical or emotional. We know we have succeeded at gathering when our youth willing gives us their eyes, when we can draw a smile out of them and when they are looking at us and unconsciously nodding in agreement. 

Gathering Rituals

For highly sensitive youth we may need to collect their ears through the use of our voice as eye contact may be too vulnerable. For children who have been deeply wounded, relationship is very risky business and the vulnerability can be too much to bear. There is no right way of gathering a youth. The gathering dance is informed as much by culture as it is by individual disposition (MacNamara). We must start at the beginning with very basic gathering rituals, a desire to connect, patience and maturity on the part of the caregiver. Sometimes we must try one hundred things before we find the one thing that works. However, when we find our own way with what works with the youth in our care a sense of confidence and fulfillment is experienced. 

What we now know about the dance of relationship stays with us forever— there are no limits to how rituals can be practiced.