Sunday Dec. 3, 2017
In place of a sermon this day, Erik Sorensen one of the Jesuit organizers of the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage in July and August, 2017, in which a number of people from St. Aidan’s participated, will speak about reconciliation. Erik brings a strong background in First Nations’ history. He has led Blanket Exercises. In addition to organizing the pilgrimage, he paddled the the route used by First Nations and the early Jesuit missionaries. A major focus of the pilgrimage was to impliment the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Canada process. Native Elders from different tribes spoke to the paddlers during evening presentations and informally during the days about reconciliation. Erik will talk about his experiences as a paddler as well as his reflections on what reconciliation means to him.
First Nations’ Learning
Partners in Truth and Reconciliation
Youth Visit to Old Crow, Yukon
We are in the beginning stages of planning a visit for our older youth to the fly-in G’wichin community of Old Crow, in the NW corner of the Yukon. This would take place next summer, and might lead to a group from Old Crow visiting us in Toronto the following year. The purpose would be to learn about a place, people and culture very different from our own, and to find out what we have in common. As with the youth trips to Nicaragua, it will involve learning and service but this time within our own country. More details will follow in the fall.
People from St. Aidan’s participated in the French River portion of the pilgrimage and provided funding to support a First Nation’s youth for the trip. Those of us who participated will be setting up a presentation of the trip in the weeks to come.
The Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage included 28 days of hard paddling, rain, friendships, spectacular natural settings and many discussions about truth and reconciliation between members of First Nations, French and English speaking Canadians, and people from Asian and South Asian cultures.
One moment of reconciliation discussion was when Sister Eva Solomon, an Ojibway elder and Roman Catholic nun, described it as a continuous process of dialogue between people from different cultures but also, significantly, between individuals. She stressed that each person has a unique story of the way that colonization affected their families and that reconciliation requires that we hear the personal stories. Some First Nations people are scarred by experiences that do not appear to have left permanent marks on others. She encouraged the paddlers to listen to each story.
On Saturday February 25, two Native Elders, Dr. Robert Phillips and Wanda Whitebird, along with four KAIROS volunteers, led people from St. Aidan’s and the local community on a Blanket Exercise. The exercise used blankets to represent the lands of what is now called Canada, and participants to play the role of the First Peoples who lived on those lands. Once they stepped onto the blankets, the narrator took them back in time to the arrival of the Europeans. The narrator and a person representing a European described the history of treaty-making, colonization and resistance that resulted in the nation we now call Canada. It included stories about the use of smallpox as biological warfare, the disenfranchisement of people from their native status rights, the residential schools, the loss of land, and the forced extinction of their languages. The Blanket Exercise itself took about forty minutes, and was followed by a talking circle in which everyone spoke of their sometimes powerful reactions to acting out the story in this way.
At our Annual Vestry Meeting the next day the parish unanimously passed a motion to “… commit ourselves to continue to work to implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” and to urge the Government of Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Since the Blanket Exercise took place, we have been looking at a number of options for follow-up, including another visit to the former residential school in Brantford, joining up with the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage of reconciliation, connecting with aboriginal groups in Toronto, doing a book/documentary study, and arranging for our youth to do an exchange with indigenous youth from the Yukon. Details to be announced.