Mi'kmaq history and people: The Vision Quest

Compiled by Jasen Sylvester Benwah

je'sn penwa
Spotted Wolf

Pjila'si (welcome). The Vision Quest is common to many Native American nations and is a form of connecting and communicating with the forefathers and ancestors who often serve as teachers or our spiritual guides. Most often our spirit guides will appear in the form of an animal.

A vision quest may be initiated for many reasons, including reaching adulthood or such as when one comes to a critical moment in one’s life, when a new direction or better purpose must be chosen. Some will first spend time in a sweat lodge to help clear their body and mind. Fasting is a very important part of a vision quest. A Vision Quest is a very personal venture, and quite sacred to the Mi'kmaq. The vision quest ceremony is done in guarded seclusion usually in the woods or other areas where absolute privacy could be assured. Often times the person in a vision quest is overseen by an elder or a medicine person who often gives guidance, instruction and protection to ceremony and usually meditates while the ceremony is taking place. Most often a sacred circle of stones are placed on the ground. The individual remains in the circle for a certain period of time. One must look to the Creator for guidance and pray. The ceremony usually does not end until the person in the ceremony is successful in attaining a vision and is given a message and can last many days. One may not always receive a vision. Someone may be assigned to check on the individual, especially in bad weather, to make sure her/she is okay.

One must properly prepare for the journey. Preparation includes being able to fast, camp out for long periods of time, having knowledge of first aid and of meditation. One may wish to bring sleeping equipment. Much wisdom comes from the animals who act as our spirit guides:

Afterward receiving a vision, many may not immediately understand its significance. It may take time to process all that has been experienced. Sharing the experience with a medicine person, elder and others will help make sense of the experience. Some believe a Vision Quest can cure illness while others are say they have received confidence, great wisdom and appreciation for life about their lives and the road they have taken with their lives and family. It is an experience that will put meaning and understanding in one’s live. It is a highly recommended experience. Welálin (thank you).

Additional notes: Please remember that the Mi'kmaq did not call this ritual a Vision Quest. It is an english name that has been used to cover similar rituals used by many North American aboriginal tribes. The new world order is also allowing many tribes to use the traditions of other tribes as their own. Having said this, it is generally accepted that the Mi'kmaq people historically, and still do today, practise their own version of what we now know as the vision quest.

January25, 2005

Compiled by Saqamaw Jasen S. Benwah

St. George's Bay, NL.




Website Copyright © 2005 Jasen Sylvester Benwah