Spiritual gifts: Native elder teaches and heals

By Mara Rockliff

What will Mi’kmaq elder Albert Ward say to the crowd that comes to see him Thursday evening at the Unitarian church? Apparently, your guess is as good as his.
“He’s very much attuned to what different people bring with them,” says Bill Gorvine, a PhD candidate in religious studies at UVA and the main organizer of the talk. “He doesn’t go in with an idea of  ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ He’s one of the most humble people, but he’ll tell you that he can read people a lot of the time, what’s in their heart. He’s really gifted spiritually.”
Ward, a former construction worker and truck driver, didn’t come to spiritual work until his 40s, when he met up with a Cree healer named Albert Lightning. Since then, he’s traveled around his native Canada, the United States, and Mexico, bringing traditional Native American beliefs to people from all kinds of backgrounds.
“He feels very much that it’s for everybody,” Gorvine says.
Thursday’s event kicks off a three-day gathering Ward will lead at an as-yet-undisclosed “scenic rural location” near Charlottesville. The gathering, which runs from 11am Friday to 3pm Sunday, will include sacred tobacco offerings and sweat lodges. The fee for the full weekend is $210 including meals and camping. Children and teenagers under 18 are invited to attend for free.
Some people may simply be interested in learning about Native American lore, or may be seeking personal growth. Others come to Ward with a specific problem. “We always have something on the front burner,” says Gorvine. “Relationship issues, work issues, ‘What should I be doing with my time?’”
He adds that Ward’s healing gifts even extend to medical conditions. “One woman came with hepatitis C and was told it would go away. Later, I heard she was doing well and it had in fact disappeared.” Others have found relief from cancer or chronic fatigue.
“If people come with a little openness, some faith,” says Gorvine, “things do happen.”

Mi’kmaq elder Albert Ward speaks at a public “teaching circle” Thursday, July 25, at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, 717 Rugby Road at 7pm. Donations requested. Ward also leads a three-day gathering near Charlottesville over the weekend. For more information, call Bill Gorvine, 975-9941, or visit  home.earthlink.net/~ldmaring.

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