Mother Earth's Journey: Promoting Aboriginal Tourism in NB

Marie Kryszko, from Pabineau First Nation, is a woman who likes to keep busy. Not only does she work full-time at the Community Health Centre in Pabineau as the Administrator/ Clinical Assistant, she also works part-time at the gas bar in the winter and runs her own business, Mother Earth's Journey (located in Pabineau First Nation), in the summer. She started Mother Earth's Journey, a hands-on tour that provides an authentic cultural experience to all participants, in 2010 out of a love for her culture and her sister’s inspiration.

Mother Earth's Journey

“It was my sister’s idea,” said Marie. “She wanted to do something for tourism in Pabineau and she knew that I was very involved in my culture. She threw me the idea and I said ‘Sure, I’ll do that’. The tours help keep me connected to the cultural part of my life plus you get to meet interesting people. I’m outdoors and in nature by the water, and that’s what I love to do. It keeps me connected to all of our relations.”

 Marie with a tour group

Marie with a tour group

During each tour, Marie leads participants to a sacred place along the river and shares her knowledge of Mi’kmaq culture. She also invites participants to speak a few words in the Mi’kmaq language.

The journey begins with an earth walk and releasing ceremony. Participants are then asked to join in a smudging ceremony where Marie presents and describes the significance of the four sacred medicines.  Each participant creates their own medicine pouches and then, all of the participants get the chance to play the rattle, sing, dance, and enjoy the moment. At the end of each tour, participants are invited to share some lusgnign (Indian bread) and tea.

“After we get to the sacred spot I explain everything I’m doing,” said Marie. “I acknowledge our Mother Earth and the water in my own language. I offer tobacco to the water and then I sing the eagle song. I talk about the four sacred medicines and explain their significance and then we go into a smudging ceremony. Everyone smudges and then everyone puts their medicine in their medicine pouch and then we smudge the pouches. Next we go into Mi’kmaq dancing and traditional powwow dancing. I explain why we dance in our culture and why I drum – to connect with mother earth and her heartbeat.”

Mother Earth's Journey is open from mid-July to mid-September and is by appointment only. Most tours run on Saturday mornings but Marie also offers group tours after 4pm during the week. Most people who participate in Mother Earth’s Journey are tourists, either from Quebec or Moncton, but Marie has also had local businesses come and do the tour as a team building activity. Marie actively promotes her community and after the tour, participants often eat at the seafood takeout and buy their gas in Pabineau.

 Marie with a tour group

Marie with a tour group

“People really enjoy the sessions,” said Marie. “They enjoy connecting with nature and they enjoy learning about the Aboriginal culture. The releasing ceremony really affects people and helps them feel better and lighter. It also makes me feel very spiritual because I am helping other people heal. I usually get a helper from the community to help me carry my items and that way they get the experience too.”

Marie started really connecting and exploring her culture in 1993. Currently, she is the sweat lodge keeper in her community, she does cultural activities with the children once/month, and in the summer she does children sweats. During the International Multi-Cultural festival and the children’s festival in Bathurst, she volunteers at the event doing crafts with the kids and cultural awareness sessions with different organizations.

“I started following the powwow trail and from the powwow trail I learned different teachings along the way,” said Marie. “In 1998 I met one elder who really helped me find the cultural way of life; learning about medicines, healing stones, and sweat lodges. It’s been a long journey with many teachings along the way from then until now.  I attended many Gatherings, where people are sharing, that have been very important to my learning. Throughout the last 10 years, I increased my knowledge with sweat lodge teachings, healings and medicine and I learned from many elders.”

Marie’s education has also helped her with her business. She graduated from university in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education. She majored in French and minored in Aboriginal studies. In addition to learning about her people, she also learned how to teach, write and do public speaking, all of which are important in her business and her work.

One of the challenges that Marie has encountered during her journey as a business owner is getting the word out to potential customers.

“The promotional part is hard,” said Marie. “It is kind of slowly taking off. When you read about it on paper, it is not the same as hearing about it verbally; when you hear about it then you will be more inspired to go. When I talk to people about it, they want to come. My sister has helped with the advertising but advertising in the New Brunswick tourism guides costs money. Most of the money from the tours is reinvested into the business right now; there are several costs: the leather materials, the tobacco, sage and other supplies. I make all of the pouches myself. There are also pamphlets, business cards and advertising. But I do it every year, whether I get a group of 1 or a group of 75 because I love it.”

To learn more about Mother Earth's Journey and to register for a tour, check out the website http://www.motherearthsjourney.org/ or the Facebook page Mother Earth’s Journey—Pabineau First Nation, NB.

To contact Marie directly, phone (506) 547-4204 or email motherearthsjourney@hotmail.com.