If you were up early on Friday morning, April 20th, in front on the Vancouver Native Health Society you would of witnessed a group of men gathering. These men were eagerly awaiting vans to transport them to the annual DUDES Club retreat. This year the retreat was hosted by Eagle Valley Retreat and was located in Upper Squamish Valley, Squamish BC.
Twenty-one males filed into vans for the trip to Squamish. The ride to Eagle Valley was a scenic feast for the eyes, mind, and soul as the drivers wound their way along the sea-to-sky Highway. Some vans could not resist the opportunity to stop along the way to take in the breath taking scenery. For some, the trip was a first and for others it was a long time coming to take the trip again.
After the vans drove through the city of Squamish, the men ventured onto a winding dirt road, enclosed by a thick canopy of trees. The majestic road set the tone for the retreat and took them to the door of Eagle Valley Retreat. The men were greeted by staff and were given a brief overview of the grounds and facilities. After orienting themselves to the facility (Coach House and Lodge) the DUDES Club kitchen crew, led by Derek Harry, started making lunch. It was decided that this year the men themselves would prepare meals. It was the skill-set of Derek Harry and the hard working crew that made the meals a success.
After a hearty lunch of Bannock Tacos, the men walked to Anderson Beach, a sandbar located on Squamish River. Here, the men participated in a smudge in the presents of the powerful setting of the river and mountains. A few brave souls ventured into the swift and fridge waters of the Squamish River. Others took in the landscape skipped rocks, chatted, and enjoyed the company of each other in the embrace of mother earth.
The men headed back to the Lodge, along the way chatting and visiting local horse farms. After a feast of moose stew, prepared by the kitchen crew, the men settled in. After relaxation and socializing the men participated in a brushing off ceremony and talking circle facilitated by Greg Dimmer (Culture Saves Lives). Some of the men took advantage of the sauna for additional healing. As the night moved on, a fire circle formed and gradually the group settled in for the night.
The men woke early and were met with a heart felt breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, and fried baloney. Again, the kitchen crew stepped up to the challenge and fed the men one-by-one as they awoke from a much-needed reprieve from the day-to-day grind of the DTES. The morning shifted into midday and the men participated in a talking circle followed by a salmon feast. After a full lunch the men tidied up the lodge and filed into the vans for the trip home.
Men commented that each retreat is different and they take different things from each retreat. The retreat this year was no exception. Each man reported something that was significant to him personally. Men reported everything from engaging in nature and ceremony to an opportunity to get away from the daily grind. One thing that is common from one man to another is that the retreats are a safe opportunity for healing. In this way the men support each other, in a good way, along their healing journeys.