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For Ceremony. For Life: New Position at Anishnawbe Health is helping preserve Traditional Healing Practices for the Future

Elder and Traditional Healer Cynthia (Cindy) White was born into the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and is Onondaga Snipe Clan.


Her Mohawk name given at birth was Kawennanoron, which translates to ‘Precious Words.’ Kawennanoron was aptly named as she has been given the important work of researching and documenting Traditional Healing services, ceremonies, and medicines that will in turn be respectfully shared with the larger Indigenous community. Cindy’s work is vitally important given that the community’s healing practices and traditional knowledge systems were eroded when governments sought to ban and outlaw traditional medicine practices and ceremonies.


Cindy started her work at Anishnawbe Health Toronto in July 2022 as the Traditional Policy Analyst, a two-day per week position funded by generous donor support. However, her journey into medicine began many years ago when she attended the State University of New York at Plattsburgh where she studied nursing and received a Bachelor of Science degree. After meeting her teacher, Diane Longboat, Cindy did not stay in nursing long. Cindy explains, “I didn’t grow up in a Traditional family. I came about it in middle age and have been doing ceremonial work for almost 30 years now. I started as an Osh-ka-be-wis because I really wanted to learn.” Cindy currently lives at the Six Nations Grand River Territory in Southern Ontario, Canada, where she is also a Spiritual and Ceremonial Leader. According to Cindy, Spiritual Training requires that one is engaged in one’s own healing. A central belief also held by Anishnawbe Health and is one of its teachings: “we are all responsible for our personal health, wellness, and healing.”


Cindy’s role as Traditional Policy Analyst isn’t her first introduction to Anishnawbe Health. Cindy first came to know the Health Centre as an advisor on the Toronto Indigenous Health Advisory Circle (TIHAC) alongside Anishnawbe Health Toronto, Executive Director, Joe Hester in 2015. TIHAC provided leadership to the City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health to create the first Indigenous Health Strategy for the city. When asked about what drew her to Anishnawbe Health, “As the first Indigenous organization in the city for health for people who reside in the GTA, there is a long history. They’ve made a lot of inroads and broken ground on so many levels for everyone else to follow. Joe has my respect. The organization has my respect. I’m just happy to contribute.”


Cindy has also been involved in the Wisdom Weavers virtual storytelling series as a drummer, singer and Firekeeper. When asked about how she came about her love of drumming and singing, Cindy shared a teaching, “Yes, I love to drum and sing but the teaching is this. All warriors can sing, and every single person is a spiritual warrior of peace. The song and the drum are critical to the ceremony. The ceremony is only as strong as the drum.” Cindy continues, “When I began to hear Spirit in those early years, They taught me and told me that I really had to pour every ounce of faith I had into the song. For ceremony. For life.”


To view the Wisdom Weavers series with Cindy, visit the AHT YouTube channel at


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