Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day! Taking place each year on June 21 – the summer solstice – National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day for all members of our community to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples.
Today and every day, we appreciate the amazing Elders at the heart of First Nations communities for their vital role in supporting and imparting knowledge, education, tradition, culture, values, and role modelling.
One of the Elders at the very heart of the JHS Community is Elder Mary Fayant, and today we’re celebrating her outstanding contributions to the creation of a safe, healthy, and inclusive community for all: particularly for Indigenous people, their home communities, and the First Nations on whose land they reside on if not their own.
Let us introduce you to Elder Mary
Elder Mary Fayant provides Indigenous spiritual guidance, traditional teachings, counseling, life skills support, and leads ceremonies for JHS service users (among many others in the community) walking a traditional Indigenous life path.
Elder Mary works with all Nations – for over 30 years she has extended her teachings and healing work to include all peoples who follow traditional practices, regardless of their race, ethnicity, beliefs or backgrounds. Elder Mary honours the ways of life of all Indigenous cultures, respecting both their regional uniqueness and the sacred binding which connects all indigenous peoples together.
This way was taught to her by own teacher, Elder Sam Moosecamp, a Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man) of the Lakota people – of whom she is formally adopted by. She has a long history of ritual fasting at Sun Dance for many years, has earned the right to pour water, and is also a sacred pipe carrier.
Elder Mary is originally from Saskatchewan and is of the Néhinaw (Cree) people – one of Canada’s largest First Nations. She came as an honoured guest to the Ancestral territories of Stó:lō, Sema:th and Matheqwi people many years ago.
During her time here on the West Coast she has worked extensively with local Indigenous Elders, members of the community, clients in recovery and residential treatment, clients with complex trauma, clients with complex mental health needs, the young, the elderly, and families. This is in addition to her core work with various levels of Correctional Service Canada helping and advocating for incarcerated men and women.
JHS Pacific is fortunate to work with Elder Mary in the continual development and program delivery of one of our community based residential facilities (also known as a halfway house) as well as other Indigenous-focused support services.
She is the heart of the Miyàq’elhà:wetawt program, which is designed specifically to provide authentic Indigenous cultural services to men on conditional release from federal institutions under the jurisdiction of Correctional Service Canada.
Over the last two years the Miyàq’elhà:wetawt program has grown to include a renovated cultural space for group ceremonies, drumming, drum making, carving, painting, bead work, and feasting in addition to the services Elder Mary provides.
This year the program has partnered with Kinghaven Treatment Centre to create a healing garden to begin growing sacred medicines on site. We’ve also formed supportive partnerships with the Native Courtworker and Counseling Association of BC, the BC First Nation’s Justice Council, and the Community Justice Initiatives Association. This in turn expands the range of services and supports available to our Indigenous service users.
This growth is largely due to Elder Mary herself who continues to guide our programming. She also provides guidance to many other organizations and community groups, and brings us all together to improve our ability to strengthen community.
We are incredibly honoured to work alongside Elder Mary, and are always so humbled and appreciative of the ways in which her guidance supports not only our service users, but our staff and so many others in the community as well.
We are honoured to share some of this appreciation through the lived experience and perspectives of members of the JHS Community. We spoke with staff who work directly with Elder Mary, as well as our service users that receive guidance and support from her. Below you’ll find quotes that provide just a small glimpse into the the importance of Elder Mary’s work, and the immense value and impact that she has in our community.
Members of Our Community Share Their Appreciation for Elder Mary
Elder Mary is a foundational figure in the lives of so many people. On behalf of our entire organization, we want to send immense gratitude and appreciation to Elders across Canada, including Elder Mary, for being the backbone of community, and for being living examples of how we create safe, healthy, and inclusive communities.