Introducing the Seventh Generation Wellness Series

Introducing the Seventh Generation Wellness Series
 “When I think of the health and wellness industry, I often see complete erasure of our voices –  complete erasure of our teachings. I think it's time that we exist within that, as well.” 

A transformative wellness practice that Shayla Stonechild gives credit for a lot of the abundance in her life is that of prayer. She would offer tobacco and call upon her healthy ancestors to guide her physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and relationally. When she began this practice, it created a ripple effect that was a huge contributor for her healing journey. She is now in a position where she wants to “pass the torch” and elevate as many Indigenous voices as possible – which is what led to her creating the Seventh Generation Wellness Series for Matriarch Movement. 


The seven sacred teachings are love, wisdom, respect, honesty, truth, humility, and courage. They are embodied as moral stepping stones that build an Indigenous cultural foundation. Shayla Stonechild created this wellness series as a way to invoke these seven sacred teachings into Indigenous-led wellness practices that include powwow fit, lacrosse, yoga, strength training, somatics, boxing, and mindful movement. 


After speaking with Shayla, it's so clear that the sacred teaching she embodies the most is that of love, which is represented by the eagle. For myself, growing up as a little Cree girl in the plains, my aunties always told me that the eagle is the most sacred animal of all because he flies the highest and carries our prayers to the spirit world. When we think about the medicine wheel teachings, the center of it is love. It acts as the hearth for all the sacred teachings and the four directions, grounding the circle and giving love to all other sectors of the wheel. Shayla’s journey which was founded on prayer was the exact invocation of love, carried by the eagle into the spirit world. The Seventh Generation Wellness series is an act of that love – a mission of lighting other torches from the hearth. 


Tell me a bit about the virtual Seventh Generation Indigenous wellness series?

The Seventh Generation Wellness Series amplifies voices of seven Indigenous wellness facilitators across Canada. We have facilitators focusing on lacrosse, yoga, and powwow fit classes! Each facilitator has their own expertise and lived experiences – their own way of doing wellness through each session. When we were thinking about this series at Matriarch Movement, we were thinking of making these special sessions accessible to Indigenous youth. When thinking of our audience, it was for Indigenous youth to have access to wellness sessions at home that they can do through social media, or through their laptop on the rez. We want to diversify the health and wellness industry. That goes with us leading our own wellness sessions, and also speaking from our own teachings. The Seven Generation Wellness Series is a nod to the seven sacred teachings. Each facilitator speaks about each one of those teachings and what it means to them and also incorporates that throughout their wellness session.


Why is it important that we have Indigenous representation and inclusion within the health and wellness industry?

When I think of the health and wellness industry, I often see complete erasure of our voices –  complete erasure of our teachings. The health and wellness industry within Western society is often dominated by non-Indigenous people. It's really important that we amplify our voices, because that's where the teachings come from. They come from our people. A lot of these holistic approaches to wellness encompass the teachings that are tied to our values, ceremonies, language and worldview. So representation is important because it's reclamaition of who we are and where we come from. It is also a form of harm reduction and suicide prevention. It's focusing on life promotion, and utilizing our voices in those spaces that have suppressed them. I think it's time that we exist within the health and wellness industry as well.


Agreed. I feel as Indigenous people we've all been in a situation where you go into a yoga space, or whatever wellness space and they have their little sage that they bought from the store, waving it around… 

Yeah! I think when we see ourselves exist within these spaces, it tells us this is also meant for us. There's often a big misconception that yoga or wellness sessions aren't for everybody, maybe because of the cost, or they just don't have access to classes within their community. Seeing Indigenous representation within these spaces, the inclusion tells you that you're also meant for this wellness practice. You also belong here and we can do this healing work together within these spaces.


I think that segues perfectly into the next question. What do you hope viewers will take away from this series?

I hope participants take home some tools they can use at home for their wellness practices and lifestyle. I hope that viewers invite the seven sacred teachings into their life and try to embody it daily and see if they can influence someone within those seven sacred teachings. If it's around honesty, how can you be honest with yourself? How can you be honest with others within your community? If it's about love, how can you really truly love yourself, and also love your shadows and your darkness – and love parts of the world that maybe you don't want to send love to? I hope everyone has a chance to embody one of the seven sacred teachings through each of the practices, and also connect with the facilitators. Each facilitator brings their own medicine and it's always inspiring to hear from other instructors and other ways of viewing the world – from different nations outside your own.


Which one of the seven sacred teachings do you feel like you're embodying the most right now? And which one do you think maybe you need a little bit more of? 

I always try to come back to truth. For me, as long as I'm embodying what's true to me, I will never sway from my values. I will always be living within my values system if I'm being true to myself. That involves saying no to things that don't feel in alignment with me. Staying connected to my truth means that someone else could have a completely different truth at the same time, and I will not take it personally. I always come back to: what does my own truth look like? 

The one that I need to work on would maybe be respect, because within the same breath, I think sometimes we don't respect ourselves. We're often burning ourselves out by maybe taking on too much at a time, or putting someone else's needs in front of our own. I think as Indigenous women, sometimes we care so much about the community and the collective and we almost surpass our own feelings, our own self care and health care for the sake of others. I need to maybe respect myself a bit more with my bandwidth of what I can actually handle.


What was your favorite part of creating this series?

Creating this series was passing the mic to other wellness facilitators. We have so much to learn from one another, and we will have that much more impact on the collective if we're working together – honoring each other's voices and lived experiences. Seeing each instructor come into the session, maybe a little nervous or a bit uncomfortable at first, but then when they're in their zone and purpose, you see them light up! You can see that confidence and their self esteem come to life! Or, seeing how they were nervous at the beginning with a transformation after the session – I was like, OK, that is healing in itself. I hope viewers also find the healing in that it's okay to be uncomfortable coming into a wellness session, because that's when you grow, is through that uncomfortability. I think each facilitator, even though it may have been uncomfortable or their first time on camera, they all did transform by the end of the session.


What do you hope to see within the health and wellness industry?

I hope to see more amplification of Indigenous voices within health and wellness spaces. I also want to see yoga and wellness sessions more accessible to Indigenous people and communities. I know sometimes the class prices or cost of training is not accessible for all of us. I would love to see a sliding scale or donation based classes or something to help Indigenous people access these spaces more often. I would also love to see more collaboration between wellness brands and Indigenous facilitators and artists. I think there's a lot of cool creations that could come out of collaborating with a brand and Indigenous artists and utilizing those designs within our wellness practices. I also just want to see when you log on to YouTube, when you type in one of the workouts you want to do it would be great to see an Indigenous instructor that you could work out with! I would love to see an Indigenous wellness practice platform where we can start to connect to other Indigenous instructors throughout Turtle Island! 


Written by Chyana Marie Sage