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  • Rachel Red-Horse

Behind the Design: Ancestors Prayers


TRIGGER WARNING: RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS



When the idea for this design came to us the world had just been hit by back to back discoveries at Residential schools in what is called Canada. Our hearts broke and all we could think of were the parents who never saw their children again, the children who came back home but were never the same, and all the questions left unanswered.


All those children who never came back became our ancestors, who knows how many times they prayed to their ancestors during their time at these schools...all of the souls lost at those schools have become our ancestors, they're prayed for us and are watching over us.


Making this design was a way for us to acknowledge all our ancestors went through in order for us to be here today, to acknowledge the grief and responsibility we carry with us. The traumas our ancestors went through runs in our blood, affects how we live our lives everyday.Generational trauma is within us but so is healing. Healing is what our ancestors would want for us and the medicines on this shirt are powerful.


The abalone shell represents water and the cedar, sage, and sweetgrass are gifts from mother earth.

This ancestors design is one of the original designs we debuted this spring. When we thought up this design we had recently lost our grandfather, shortly after that all of the discoveries of the residential schools started becoming public knowledge. We knew our grandfather was and is watching over us, we knew that all the ancestors and relatives lost at those schools were watching over their loved ones as well. We knew that all of our ancestors prayed for us and it’s our job to be the best we can for them and the future generation.


We included the smudging medicines, cedar, sweetgrass, and sage, as well as an abalone shell because these medicines would have been used to carry those prayers to Creator. All of these items signify our connection to Creator and the gifts we’ve been given. The shell is representative of water, the medicines of Earth, the smoke of air, and the fire that lit the medicine is just that. Each of these medicine plants has their own meaning or purpose. Sage is a healing plant that rids one of the outside world, it's used before ceremony and to cleanse a space from unwanted energy. Cedar is a plant that protects, it’s used to protect spaces and get unwanted spirits to leave. Sweetgrass or Seneca grass is the breath of Earth and brings her love. It’s a reminder of all that Earth provides for us and our connection to her.


Smudging is a sacred practice to Indigenous peoples, all of the items used in the ceremony hold immense significance and power. As beautiful and healing as smudging may be it is not a practice for everyone to participate in. Please only smudge if you have been taught how to do so properly and are a part of the Indigenous community. Buying smudge kits from stores and using them without the connection or training can do more harm than good and it contributes to the devastation and limited availability of medicines to the population that truly needs them. If smudging interests you but is not a part of your culture we recommend looking into your own culture to see if there are any similar customs. There are smoke ceremonies in Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Celtic cultures with herbs and plants specific to those regions. As always, be respectful and find your own connection.


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