“Seven Caribou Spirit Bowls: Seven Valleys toward Reconciliation” is the title of Louise Profeit-LeBlanc’s Web Talk on September 17 sponsored by the Wilmette Institute. You won’t want to miss this intriguing talk by a First Nations storyteller who for over thirty-five years has been committed to the “cultural and artistic heritage indigenous artists of Canada.”As usual, the Web Talk will begin at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT, 8 p.m. Western European Time). To sign up, use this GoToWebinar registration link. You can also listen on Facebook and YouTube without signing up. The talk and the questions and answers following the talk will be available on the Wilmette Institute YouTube channel some twenty-four hours after the live presentation. Louise explains that the “Seven Caribou-Spirit Bowls” represent Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys and a spiritual journey toward reconciliation. Her Caribou-Spirit Bowls are made out of raw caribou hide, copper coins, copper wire, tanned caribou hide, and small caribou antler pieces. Tea lights are to be placed in the caribou bowls, which are to be placed in a circle. Each bowl has been given the name of one of the valleys in Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys. Louise describes the valleys this way:
The Valley of Search represents the constant search for meaning and purpose in our lives. Our search for truth requires patience with ourselves and others. This valley is a place where we let go and sacrifice all things we have seen, heard, and understood so that we can be clear and focused on what is required for our journey. This is the valley where we search for many friends in the hope of finding a trace of the traceless Friend! From this place we venture into the next valley . . .
The Valley of Love. Fire is the symbol of this valley, which represents pain. In this valley we discover our love for all created things, the love for the Creator, ourselves, our families, our nations, and for everyone else on earth. In this state we fear nothing, as if insane, allowing us to be filled with spirit and powerful enough to escape the claws of the eagle of love. Once the heat of this valley dissipates, it opens up to . . .
The Valley of Knowledge. This valley represents ancestral and newly acquired knowledge. In it we begin to see war as peace, the end in the beginning, friendliness in anger, and we find in death the secrets of the spirit world. We look with our inward and outward eyes and begin to see things unimaginable, and we are blessed with things of the sacred, allowing us to begin our trek into the importance of the fourth valley . . .
The Valley of Unity. This is the valley that has allowed us to survive since the beginning of time, without prejudice, anger, hatred, or envy. True unity has always allowed us to honor our differences and to see them as strengths. In this valley we become reacquainted with oneness. Our world takes on a new meaning, and we envision the far-reaching implications of this ancient teaching of unity. This is a very powerful valley in which we realize our travels are being guided by the Creator who gifts us with the vision we need. Everything in existence takes on a new glow, a new light, and we take it all into our hearts. After acknowledging the necessity of unity and letting go of everything else we easily move into fifth valley . . .
The Valley of Contentment. This valley brings us to the arena of our own personal, spiritual, emotional, and even physical freedom. No longer is there a question of our oneness, and this confidence fills us with joy and happiness no matter what the situation. It gives us the confidence to understand even the tragedies of our lives and how they provide us with greater understanding and contentment, a condition necessary to continue into the sixth valley . . .
The Valley of Wonderment. This valley reminds us of the beauty in the world, and at every moment we envision a wondrous place, a new creation, and become filled with astonishment, realizing how this holds wisdom and spiritual truths. We experience the wonderment of how our ancestors stayed connected to this sacred circle of life, rich in spirit, and living constantly in a state of acceptance and gratefulness for what they were provided. Thankfulness is the nature of this valley. In it we are challenged to destroy our animal behavior and become the best human beings we can. After traversing the high summits of wonderment, we as travelers come the last and seventh valley . . .
The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness. In this valley nothing can deter us from the journey of knowing who we really are and our purpose in life. This is where nothing else, material or otherwise, matters because we have found our spiritual path, which ultimately leads us to true reconciliation. In this valley we have to continue to listen with heart and soul to the songs of the spirit and treasure them with our own eyes. This is the most powerful valley and brings us closer and closer to our truth and reality. Traveling through these seven valleys in not a linear journey, and sometimes we must return to any of the valleys to regain our perspective. Ultimately this journey influences our approach to the momentous task of seeking true reconciliation and is a constant throughout our lives.Louise is an internationally renowned traditional storyteller from the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation of Mayo, in northeastern Yukon. Before moving to Ottawa, where she served as the Aboriginal Arts Coordinator for the Canada Council for the Art for over eleven years, she was employed by the Heritage Branch of the Yukon Government. During that period in her life, she was introduced to the expansive, rich, art practices of traditional stories of Yukon First Nations people, which she fondly refers to as Yukon “orature.” This ultimately inspired her to found the Yukon International Storytelling Festival and to become involved with the Society of Yukon Artists of Native Ancestry, both of which were germane to the evolution of public presentations for many Yukon First Nation cultural practices. In addition to her full-time employment at the Canada Council, Louise continued to respond to requests from Aboriginal communities, gatherings, festivals, and inner-city school programs to share traditional stories, teach the art of storytelling, and provide many examples for teachers to use in their classes. After many years as a storyteller Louise realized that stories have the power to teach, to educate, and, most of all, to heal, to bring listeners to a higher level of spiritual awareness, resulting in an increase in listeners’ understanding and awareness as human beings and how we should aspire to treat one another on this precious planet that we all share. She believes that each person on earth has their own story and that, if each one of us has the opportunity to share and hear each other’s story, the world would become a much more peaceful place in which to live. In the words of one of her Elders and mentor, Angela Sidney, “We should ‘live our lives like a story!’” Louise believes that reconciliation will not be possible in Canada (or anywhere) without everyone’s stories being heard, for stories are the bridge to understanding and forgiveness. By building friendships through story, we can become more aware of how to eradicate many of the injustices that have caused separations in the first place. Searching for our own truth will get us there. Louise has been invited as a guest storyteller at many international venues , including ones in Alaska, Australia, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Greenland, Hawaii, New Zealand, Norway, Wales, and in many communities across Canada and in the United States. Now retired, Louise is working full time as a storyteller, textile artist, and Indigenous arts consultant.