Manitou Appe 

At our last campsite at Hecla, I met Svea (she’s on the right; Lauren the park interpreter is on the left), who helped lead my guided tour through the woods of Hecla Island. While Lauren told me about the mammals native to Hecla, Svea mentioned a few spiritual beliefs of her indigenous people, the Anishinabe, and she recommended I visit a sacred place at Whiteshell Provincial Park where we were going next.

We did that today; we viewed the petroform site at Whiteshell: an ancient spiritual area, with manmade rock forms (teaching places? doorways? physical instructions?) dating back at least 1,500 years.

As Svea’s stories indicated, there’s evidence all around of ceremonies and personal spiritual quests happening there, currently. After my visit, I texted her for more information, and she graciously told me a bit about her experiences, which I’ll quote here.

“It’s a powerful, guarded place that has had a spiritual identity for hundreds of thousands of years, and to this day many people still use it with its original instructions. It’s a place where young people go to become who they’re supposed to be.”

Letting Her Spirit Come Alive

Manitou appe means ‘where creator sits.’ It essentially means where we can become closer.

“Other people and I have done fasting there for days, looking for something to [help us] become one with the Earth or to find purpose in life, and healing, and even songs. Or they go to find what they had believed to be missing. For me, it was to find closure about many of my immediate family’s deaths.”

Svea spent five days and four nights nearby as part of her transition to becoming a woman. As she explains, fasting isn’t about seeing how long you can go without eating.

Manitou appe is almost like giving up everything you know: there’s nothing but you, the teachings, and Earth. Living without food or water—or any of the other world—puts it all into perspective on how large the world is.

“When you stay at the same little area for a week, everything else out in the world doesn’t even exist anymore. Time goes by so slow, and days blur together, and your dreams start to give you visions on what life is going to be or is supposed to look like.

“You start to feel things you didn’t know you could comprehend. You feel so small and become one with the Earth. One of my lodge’s chiefs always says, ‘Your body needs to be broken for your spirit to come alive.’

“When the fasting is over, it almost feels wrong holding a bottle of water, and, in a way, its like you’re so full of life and love that you no longer need those things to survive.

“If anything, I just recommend people go on fasts or vision quests there. It is for everyone, and it’s such a beautiful experience just being there. You never get sick of being spiritually awake and close to our true mother, Earth, you know?”

No, Svea, you never get sick of that.

Thank you for reminding me!

Editor’s note: Svea is 17 years old, beginning college this fall.

6 thoughts to “Manitou Appe ”

  1. Such a powerful concept and beautifully expressed. She really cuts to the heart of the matter with no western overlay of what the purpose is. The thought of doing something like that is both frightening enough to send my brain racing like a frightened squirrel and at the same time *very* attractive. I’m also very impressed at how willing she is for outsiders to share that experience and place – just glad you didn’t bust in on someone using it!

    1. The telling aspect of her words is that she texted them to me on the fly. I said something like, “Hey Svea, I just visited that place you told me about. Could you tell me more about your experiences there?” And off she went, probably typing on her phone what I feel like Joseph Campbell took books to get down.

      1. Bloody Gen Z and their lightening quick thumbs 😁 As someone who has taught first year students you can spot the ones that have it pretty quickly and I’d say she likely does – in whatever’s she’s going to do.