… At least one. Some have many. Some gifts are big and some small. When we learn to share them, cultivate them, we all move together toward healing.
This is the foundation of Buffalo Heart Medicine Healing Society – we are all relatives through our shared creativity.
Founder S^yowah has developed his unique set of educational curricula around the ideas and traditions of his ancestral people and those given to him by other indigenous communities.
S^yowah is pronounced Son-yo-wah and means hunchback (he carries a burden) in Onyota’aka (Oneida) language.
With roots in upstate New York, Oneida of the Thames and Oneida Wisconsin and growing up on Onyota’aka territory, S^yowah faced discrimination and racism from a very young age. Over time he came to understand that anger only produced more anger – so he learned to channel that anger into art and creativity.
Sharing this knowledge and cultural practice with non-indigenous groups and individuals opens a door to deeper understanding, both of the self and of how we are all interconnected, and responsible for the healing of the earth, the beings in it and the land and air.
With all of Buffalo Heart Medicine Healing Society’s teaching, participants can expect an immersive, hands-on experience, with a creation of their own making to take home. They should also come with an open mind and an understanding that the work of reconciliation is a lifetime pursuit, but that they will take steps closer to understanding what this means.
Buffalo Heart Medicine Healing Society is careful not to speak for others, and brings in the wisdom and support of other knowledge keepers and elders, providing opportunities for other community members to both share and benefit.
Programs and curriculum can be tailored to any group size, age or other demographic, as well as to a specific goal or objective. S^yowah will provide a consultation to you to discover the ideal program for your organization.
Here are some courses that Buffalo Heart Medicine Healing Society has created:
This course provides a foundation for understanding where we are and how we got here. It includes a brief and basic history of indigenous people before and after contact with settlers and some fundamental learning about the formation and impact of the residential school system. Participants will create their own Medicine Wheel to take home, and they will learn what it means and represents.
This workshop is for team skill building and communication. It introduces and develops ways to incorporate indigenous art and culture, with a focus on the ceremony of culture. Incorporating sports and games from S^yowah’s ancestral nations as well as other cultures that have shared their knowledge with him to create stronger, more effective teams. Expect to learn the historical foundations of lacrosse, as well as other games that introduce survival tactics to bring people together in the wilderness. Teams will learn how to effectively work together while learning about the culture and singing Gungi goa (big fish dance).
This curriculum is tactile and hands-on, using the principles of Reducing Reusing and Recycling materials with a consciousness of environmentalism - based on the indigenous principles of hunting and preservation. Nothing is wasted, every material is precious.
In Indigenous storytelling, it is said that your mouth is between mind and heart; when you are balanced and speaking your truth you are at your most powerful. Traditionally, cultural storytelling is a winter activity, performed most often by older widowed men who would travel to a village and relate these oral histories in exchange for community care, food and lodging. Witnesses to the storyteller pick stories from a leather bag - perhaps a deer antler, a rock, a rabbit’s foot - to bring to memory a story. This tradition is an art form of the voice and body and arc through a range of human experience, sometimes scary, happy, sometimes about love and adventure, and often featuring a hero. The lessons are in the details of the story - each telling even of the same story produces different learning opportunities. S^yowah performs these teachings for your greater understanding.
There is some medicine that is reserved by S^yowah for indigenous participants only, and that work is largely subsidized by his other curriculum. In that way, your participation supports the fundamental work of connecting indigenous people with their history and cultural practice.
Here are some workshops that Buffalo Heart Medicine Healing Society has created:
An effective tool for rehabilitation, each participant builds their own bundle. Each bundle is a lesson and a teaching that they will take with them on their healing journey. The bundle building is accompanied by a ceremony and may incorporate a Talking Stick, a smudge stick, sweetgrass, leather pouch, among other items. Bundle building is about carrying only the good things with you on your path, letting go and learning from unhealthy/negative things.
In partnership with indigenous knowledge keepers and incorporating women’s teachings, this program focuses on the sacred responsibility of protection. While centred around traditional men’s teachings, this program is open to all gender identities. It is designed to help build identity and to keep us focused on what it means to be an indigenous warrior.
Utilizing stories, teachings and lessons based on the seven grandparent (known formally as the 7 grandfather) teachings, the medicine wheel teaching, fire bundle making and bow and arrow making. Participants will create a Fire bundle, which they will hand make by picking and harvesting materials needed to make a fire from scratch. The fire bundle knowledge will be composed of two core concepts: Reclaiming our flame Introducing our traditional teachings for warriors and protectors. Rekindling our fire Building on that knowledge base and wanting to learn more.
This activity includes several processes and can be experienced in one part or as a whole over several months. A group activity for the fall months, the wood for this workshop is harvested in springtime to allow time for it to dry and cure. The preferred type of wood is hickory or ash. Hickory was traditionally used for lacrosse sticks, rattles, clubs, bows and arrows and is best for making cooking fires. Ash is a softer wood primarily used for basket making, with specific types of baskets traditional to weddings, fishing, funerals and ceremonies. The wood is called “staves” when the log is split and when it is trimmed to be made into a shooting bow it is called a rod). Materials are gathered as needed; oils and wax are applied to prevent the wood from splitting over time. Arrowheads are made by hand from stone and are named in the process. Participants can choose to make their bow and arrow with what archaeologists call prehistoric tools (stone, intestine and other animal fibres) or more modern tools such as knives, chisels and sandpaper. Modern tools are more precise, especially when working with the grain. This process takes several weeks from scratch to finish, during this time stories and explanations are offered. After completing the bow and arrow there is a Waking Up ceremony for the bow, including a fan and quiver dance. Participants can continue to learn how to shoot, survival skills, hunting, gathering, and scavenging following the medicine wheel teachings on how to respect animals. Buffalo Heart offers opportunities to continue practicing these skills at archery ranges, or guided river hunting trips.