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Charla Huber: Langford mayor delivers medicine bags from Indigenous youth to children in Ukraine

Medicine bags are a cultural item used for healing and protection
Mayor Stew Young presents a medicine bag made by Sc’ianew and T’Sou-ke First Nations youth to Dr. Natalia Krutsko of Ukraine Medicine in Action in Lutsk, Ukraine. BOB BECKETT

On Father’s Day, Langford Mayor Stew Young called me and said he was going to Ukraine to meet with mayors and community members to show support and deliver funds to help people living in the war-torn country.

He had some gifts from the City of Langford, and he wanted to know if I could help him get some Indigenous items he could take. He wanted to ensure the Traditional Territory and Indigenous communities were included in the presentations.

I was honoured that he had asked for my help and appreciated his acknowledgment that he would ensure Indigenous people and culture were represented.

For safety reasons, the trip could not be disclosed, and I wasn’t aware of particulars.

I reached out to Sc’ianew and T’Sou-ke First Nations. I was working with both communities on events that included medicine bag workshops. The youth from both Nations sewed medicine bags and filled them with sage and sweet grass.

Medicine bags are a cultural item used for healing and protection, and can be worn around the neck so the medicine is carried near the heart.

When T’Sou-ke Elder Shirley Alphonse heard about the project she wrote a blessing for Young to read on her behalf to the people in Ukraine whom he met.

I delivered the medicine bags and message from Alphonse two days before he left.

“The first day we got to Ukraine, we had to get used to the air raid sirens warning of missiles,” said Young. “The people were so used to the warnings. We asked if they were going to a bunker when they heard the siren and they didn’t do that anymore.”

Accompanying Young were Sooke School Board trustee and former Langford fire chief Bob Beckett and other community leaders. Prior to the trip, the team raised nearly $400,000 to help support people in Ukraine. The funds will pay for food and supplies, and will last until Dec.31.

“I read the greeting and prayers to all the mayors in each city and they were all thankful,” said Young.

“They are desperate and looking for support and Shirley’s words were well received. She wrote a beautiful message.”

The group met teachers and administrators at the school district and gave them the medicine bags. When students go back to school, they will distribute the medicine bags to the children.

To know Indigenous youth from Sc’ianew and T’Sou-ke sent medicine and love to struggling youth across the globe is a beautiful sentiment. I raise my hands to Young, who helped to make this happen and provided the opportunity for youth to support youth and share their culture and medicine.

Young and Beckett travelled to several cities, met with mayors, and visited refugee housing.

“There are amazing people in Ukraine, and they are living in the middle of a war zone,” Young said.

“It’s a beautiful country and the people are proud of their communities and their military, and they showed us great hospitality.”

Young said he learned a lot from the experience, and had anxiety travelling in a war zone and the experience changed him.

“Once the war is over, they want people to come back,” Young said.

“The biggest message was that they don’t want the world to forget about them.”

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