Our Responsibility to the Seventh Generation
The Healing Circle
Aboriginal world views reflect an interconnectedness between all living forms and consider each of these forms as sacred. Cycles within nature, such as the seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter, are a main teacher of Indigenous peoples and form the basis of belief systems. Circles, being inherently non-hierarchical and inclusive, represent respect, equality, continuity and interconnectedness. The image of a circle is recognized by many nations and territories, however, each nation and culture may have their own unique meanings associated with the circle.
The Healing Circle has proved to be a very useful tool within Canadian aboriginal communities to begin the process of healing and cultural reclamation. It is used by aboriginal teachers to illustrate aspects of the indigenous community over time, and particularly how the people have been affected by colonization. People and the community are at the centre of the wheel, symbolizing the importance of community identity, history, heritage, and culture to successful and sustainable development. The community is of primary importance. Within the community, each person had his or her roles and responsibilities, each of equal value to one another.
Traditionally, Healing Circles begin in the East and progress clockwise to South, West, and end in the North.
The three layers of the wheel correspond to phases of Aboriginal history: Pre-Contact, as the inner circle; Colonization as the middle circle, and Reclamation as the outer circle. Aboriginal teachers use the wheel to examine the different roles and functions of the community before European contact, how they have been impacted under the influence of colonization and where indigenous peoples stand now in the reclamation of their heritage and control of their own social, political and economic structures. Through Reclamation, the teachers explore how to move aboriginal people into the future healed and intact as a culture.
This Healing Circle was developed over time with elders and community members in Manitoba and is very much a living, evolving framework. It was originally developed by Larry Morrissette with essential contributions from Robert Daniels, Marilyn Fontaine, Vern Morrissette, David Blacksmith, Judy Williamson, and Linda Clarkson. The explanatory text for the Healing Circle was compiled by Scott Anderson, through conversations with Larry Morrissette and excerpts from Our Responsibility to the Seventh Generation, 1992 and the Report of the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, 1999. The Healing Circle does not “belong” to any individual, it belongs to the aboriginal community at large.