My interest is more in the Seven Sparks transitions program because there is a similar program in the small town where I reside. One of the counselors drives a taxi to supplement his income and he is very proud of the work done at his facility.
Seven Sparks invigorates the spirit
Prison transition program teaches people about their native roots
by Julia Pagel
The Seven Sparks program at the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre was founded by Scott Lekas, an educator and program manager at the Friendship Centre,
three years ago.
It is a support network for people transitioning from prison to regular society. Lekas says at the program’s core is, “a reconnection with the (aboriginal) culture.”
People who “got straight” in prison by connecting to their aboriginal roots came to the Friendship Centre looking a prison transition program that incorporated native spirituality.
Lekas received funding from the Aboriginal Corrections Policy Unit, a division of federal public safety, for just under $500,000 a year over five years.
Emmett Peters, a Mi’kmaq elder, is integral to the success of the program, serveing as a mentor and spiritual guide for the Seven Sparks participants.
Peters used to run sweat lodges in prisons. Now, sweat lodges are the cornerstone of Seven Sparks. It is a place for spiritual cleansing.
Though Peters was never in prison, he has overcome alcoholism. He gained control of his life through connecting to his aboriginal tradition.
Peters went to North Dakota to study with native elders and learn how to, as he puts it, “pray the Indian way.”
“Praying,” he said, “should give you energy, make you happy.” In connecting to the power of his culture, he said he realized he had value for the first time in his life.
Through Seven Sparks, Peters tries to show all who walk through the door they have the power to heal themselves.
The “Red Path” – stay sober, learn humility and treat himself, others and the world around him with respect.
Sun Dance is a sacred aboriginal ceremony, performed by many different aboriginal groups across North America. At the dance people give thanks to the Creator and pray for the well-being of others.
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