Jacqueline (Jackie) Ryan
Secretary to the Governing Council
Hi! I’m Jackie Ryan and my story begins with a prayer that my mother, Nelda Ryan, made for me fourteen years ago. I was studying Kinesiology at McMaster University and was battling with what doctors call “manic depression.” I would have good days, but also dark days when all I felt was hopelessness and despair. I went to see doctors, psychiatrists, and social workers. They all told me the same thing, “We strongly recommend that you go on medication.” I wanted to know WHY I had depression and did not see medication as a solution. I refused medication and my condition worsened. In October of my final year at university, my mother came to see me. She witnessed first-hand how strong the depression had become. Despite her many attempts to convince me that life was beautiful and full of meaning, she left feeling helpless and terribly afraid for me. On her three-hour drive home, she prayed. She had the faith to know that God could help in a way that she never could. She also asked her grandmother and great-grandmother to watch over me and protect me (something she had never done before). People say that the strongest prayers in the universe are those of a mother for her child. I know this prayer saved my life. A few weeks later, I met Diane Longboat.
Diane was the first person I met who described what I was experiencing in terms of “Spirit.” She explained that my darkness/depression was not the essence of me. Rather, there is a darkness that exists in the Universe. The more we strengthen our faith and connection to the Creator, the less power that darkness has to control us. I was so inspired by her words that when she invited me out to ceremony, I could hardly wait.
I remember being brought to tears during my first ceremony. I felt so much love, peace and a burgeoning sense of hope that I had not felt in years. I fell in love with “ceremony,” with the people I was meeting, and the beautiful way of life that I was learning. As I was completing my degree, I would visit Diane on weekends, at gatherings, and at ceremonies on the land. That summer I moved to the area so that I could focus on ceremony and my own healing. I never left!
The first several years were dedicated to my own personal healing, which continues to this today and will be a life-long journey. I did many Ancestor Ceremonies to deal with Ancestral issues. I needed to work on the guilt and shame that I carried as a “white woman.” This guilt originally surfaced as I became aware of the horrors of colonization. I will be eternally grateful to the Red People for helping me to connect with my own Ancestors, and to find peace and feel pride in the lineage, the beauty and the strength that walks with me.
As the years passed, my relationship with the Creator, Mother Earth, the Ancestors, the Spirit Helpers, and all of creation has strengthened. I have witnessed thousands of miracles and I now know that anything is possible when we put our faith in the Creator.
In September of 2007, I travelled to Baffin Island to do a ceremony for the Polar Bears. At the end of this ceremony I received a vision of a new model of education that would honour, protect and nurture the spiritual gifts, wisdom and pure hearts of the children. This vision has changed me and has given me a passion and purpose that has entered into every part of my being. I have devoted my life to making this vision become a reality.