Iskwew means woman in Cree. The Iskwew program desires to bring into our group home the traditional and cultural aspects of parenting. Each Mother’s Day we celebrate our young mothers at the Iskwew parenting group home. Mother’s Day is a time for us to honor and appreciate these women. This Mother’s Day we focus on two important cultural pieces that remind our mothers of who they are, and where they come from.
We offer moss bags to our new mothers to help them comfort their child. The moss bag has many meanings, as it does layers. Traditionally the cradleboard covering was made by the mother and grandmother of the daughter bearing the new baby. The wooden frame sometimes attached would be produced by the grandfather or father. In the past when swaddling the baby, moss would be put in between the cloth to keep the baby warm on long travels. Moss bags were used to comfort baby and act as a replica of the mother’s womb, providing security and protection from the elements. The string used to tighten the moss bag was a representation of the umbilical cord. Most babies love to be in the moss bag, especially fussy babies who need the comfort to help them sleep peacefully.
The second piece is the dream catcher and not any ordinary dreamcatcher. Our mobile dream catchers are meant to be above the place that the baby sleeps. Our mobile dreamcatcher has one large and two smaller dreamcatchers woven together, like a mother to her child. Some people believe that that the spider woman left this traditional tool for us to use, and help ward off bad spirits and dreams. Traditionally, the Ojibway, that lived within Turtle Island used dreamcatchers. As they spread out far from Turtle Island, grandmother could not reach them all to protect them. The grandmothers and mothers built a tool for our little ones, made of willows and weaved with sinew into the web. The circle represents grandfather sun and how he travels through the sky. The dream catcher is made to filter bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to flow into the mind of our little ones. With the first ray of sunlight all the bad dreams will perish.
We share these teachings with our pregnant and/or parenting young mothers. We provide opportunities to our mothers to have a moss bag and mobile dream catcher when their baby is brought home from the hospital. On our team, we have a circle keeper who is always available to do teachings and cultural activities. Our goal is to give each of our young mothers a chance at connecting to cultural tools that will help them along their journey into motherhood. We collaborate with children services and serve indigenous female youth ages 14 to 24. We thank our group home circle keeper who provided the teachings on the moss bag and mobile dreamcatcher.
We wish all mothers a happy Mother’s Day. Hiy Hiy.