2018 Manitoba Harm Reduction Conference:  Improving Access in Rural, Remote, Northern, and Indigenous Communities

Conference Activities


Pipe Ceremony

Leslie Spillett will open the conference with a pipe ceremony, at 9am on Tuesday, Feb 27. 


We will honour everyone's ceremonial protocols during the opening pipe ceremony so those who wish to wear skirts please do so. For our relatives who may be attending ceremony for the first time, we welcome you into this ceremony with our hearts wide open - just come as you are, whatever your attire is completely acceptable. Love transcends protocol, every time.     


Leslie Spillett

Leslie was born in Northern Manitoba in 1951 and raised in Wekusko (Sweetgrass) by a family with deep roots in the land.  Her material ancestry is Cree from Cumberland House and Red River Metis and her paternal ancestry is Irish and Scottish. 

Leslie attended boarding school in Saskatchewan and completed high school in Calgary. She obtained a Diploma in Journalism and Administration from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1972 and worked as a journalist and photographer prior to moving to Winnipeg in 1977.  She also attended the University of Winnipeg for two years working toward a Political Science degree. 

Leslie has held various positions related to administration including her present position as the Executive Director of Ka Ni Kanichihk which she, along with other community women, founded in 2001. She was also one of the principle founders and leaders of Mother of Red Nations Women’s Council of Manitoba and held an executive position on the Native Women Association of Canada Board of Directors between 2003 – 2007.

It was during her tenure that NWAC began its Sisters in Spirit campaign to raise awareness and action regarding the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. She participated in Amnesty International research and subsequent report, Stolen Sisters in 2003 – 2004. It was also during this time that activities to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Women began in Manitoba. Leslie also raised this issues related to Missing and Murdered Women at a UN World Conference Against Racism in 2001 and at a UNESCO conference in 2003. 

As the Executive Director of Anishnaabe Oway Ishi, she founded the Aboriginal Youth Achievement Awards.   She also founded the successful Keeping the Fires Burning, an annual event that recognized the importance of traditional knowledge and restoring the status of indigenous women.

Leslie has been an activist and advocate for many people on a wide range of issues, including child welfare, justice, education, health, environment, employment and women’s rights.

The Cedar Bath Ceremony

Cedar baths will be provided throughout the conference by Candace Neumann and Melanie Brass. More information on signing up will be posted soon. 

About the Cedar Bath Ceremony

Cedar is used for protection, purification and bringing balance into yourself. It is also known for attracting positive feelings, energy, and emotions. 

The cedar bath ceremony is a personal ceremony that brings healing and comfort to the body. This gentle and relaxing ceremony provides healing from past traumas, grief, negativity, fear and toxins.

During a cedar bath ceremony, an individual dresses in comfortable clothing, and lies on a
treatment/massage table, where they are made comfortable and covered with a cotton sheet. Cloths soaked in cedar water are placed over the eyes, neck and top of the head, and one is placed in each hand. In four successive turns, four cloths are placed over the heart and are pulled down the body to the feet.

After all the cloths have been pulled, the individual is covered with a blanket to keep them
warm, while the Elder/Healer continues the ceremony. Eagle fans, whistles, drums or rattles are used to provide further healing as needed for the individual.

The cedar bath ceremony is both powerful and gentle at the same time. Throughout the entire process, messages and information are passed on to the Elder/Healer, which are shared with the individual to further support healing.

Everything needed for the ceremony, including tobacco, is provided for you, but some people like to offer their own tobacco and/or a small gift.

You can still have a cedar bath if you are pregnant, on your moontime, or have used the day before. You cannot have a cedar bath if you are under the influence at the time of the cedar bath appointment. The cedar bath ceremony is holistic, in that it works with your mind, body, emotions and spirit to do the work. If you are under the influence during the cedar bath, these elements are not working together for the ceremony.



Candace Neumann

Candace is a Metis woman, a sundancer, daughter, niece, sister, aunty, and wife. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Candace returned home in 2013, after living in Toronto for 15 years. For the past 13 years she has worked in the Indigenous communities of both Winnipeg and Toronto, as a literacy and lifeskills teacher, counsellor, youth worker, and advocate. Candace has had the opportunity to sit in ceremony with Elders and teachers from Manitoba and Ontario and was taught the Cedar Bath Ceremony by a beautiful, Anishnaabe Elder in 2014 and she has been providing cedar baths ever since.


Melanie Brass

Tansi, Aniin, Boozhoo
My spirit name is Keewatino Binese Ikwe (Northern Thunderbird Woman) and my English name is Melanie Brass. I am an Oji-Cree status member of Tootinoawaziibeeng Treaty Reserve and grew up in The Pas, Manitoba. I moved to Winnipeg in 2014 and was gifted with the beautiful teaching of the Cedar Bath Ceremonies from Elder Josephine Wood and have been practicing for just over a year now. I am honored to be working alongside Candace Neumann as a helper during these ceremonies.

Community Sweats

We will be offering two community sweats. Participants who indicated their interest in attending a sweat will be forwarded details and asked to RSVP. 

Our sweat conductors are: 



Sherryl is Ojibway from Swan Lake First Nation. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Education. She has been a teacher in many Indigenous communities throughout Canada. She has been following her culture and traditions throughout her life. She teaches alongside her husband David. They conduct the Spruce Woods Sundance in Manitoba and have been doing so for more than 20 years. She has been taught by her grandparents many teachings that she shares in communities. She is a proud grandmother, mother and wife that continues to teach what was shared by her grandmothers and grandfathers.

wilf pic for HR bio.jpg



My name is Wilfred Abigosis, I currently make my home in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, I am originally form Pine Creek First Nation, Manitoba.  I worked in different areas as a Elder and Spiritual Caregiver for various organizations.

This is a snapshot of who I am. I am a father, grandfather, great grandfather, husband & friend.

I am fluent in and write the Ojibway language as well I understand Cree and Oji-Cree. I have been a pipe carrier for over 25 years which I am honored and privileged to carry the sacred sweat lodge.

I have personal experience as a survivor of the residential school era as well with addictions. This has given insight to the issues that face people and how this lifestyle can take them from their families. I have done one on one and family counseling based on the seven teachings of the Anishinabe.

I have worked and trained as a life skills coach therefore I have facilitated workshops and have done sharing circles.

I strive to have a balance and holistic lifestyle by balancing work, ceremony, spiritual and social aspects of my life. I participate in pow wow’s as a traditional dancer/grass dancer.  I traveled extensively over the last 25 plus years to various communities both in Canada and the USA. I design and bead most of my regalia, dancing brings warmth, love and a beautiful feelings within my soul, as such creates balance in my mind, body and spirit.

I have had the experience to work with Corrections Canada where I worked with individuals who were either prior children in care that were either adopted or in the foster care system.  I am well aware of the issues that our first nation peoples are faced with, by the colonization and oppression which are the direct impacts from the reserve, residential and sixty scoop era and the penal systems.  

I strongly believe that these systems have created the lack of opportunity, despair and dependency we see our people in today.

I work towards establishing my own healing and working hard to help those who want to go on their healing path.