Reflections on 150 Years of Canada in Eastern Ontario

IN 2017.10 Eastern Ontario and Quebec residents reflecting on Residential School System Pic IN Cropped
For European Settlers and Indigenous Hosts, finding a smooth path towards reconciliation through the tangled web of our mutual history can be a difficult process. Given our Settler legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery (see 2015 Sacred Circle: Bishop Mark MacDonald on the Doctrine of Discovery), the ongoing journey to deep understandings, re-thinking our assumed narratives, seeking justice and mercy and following the Jesus way is a challenge.

The latest Nestooaak in Eastern Ontario was a time of heavy reflection and tough questions. We began with the detailed recounting of Host-Settler relations from the early days to the present: The blanket exercise is a strong visual tool that literally walked us through the history of relationships between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people here in Canada.

That pesky Doctrine of Discovery, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action as well as the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples were teaching and discussion points, led by Samantha Bird, of Cree and European heritage. Issues like cultural appropriation, stereotypical views of the Natives and connecting in culturally sensitive ways made for interesting discussion sessions. One participant commented that “…conflict is good. It shows we have a long ways to go.”

Other highlights of the workshop involved the spirited Hoop Dance performed by Kenny Wallace of Afro-American and Native American heritage. Kenny is in process of doing his PhD in ethno-doxology, studying how different cultures praise and worship Creator. Mohawk Elder Mavis Etienne, of Oka/Kanehsatake conflict-resolution fame, blessed us with God’s Amazing Grace as she sang in Mohawk and reflected on healing and reconciliation. Rick Martin reflected on his and Linda’s lives together in ministry in the North and Linda’s remembrance of God’s promise to not abandon her as she faced a life-threatening situation as a young girl. We were all challenged to believe that people can overcome great hurt and change their perspective thanks to meeting Francine Lemay and hearing her story of reconciliation with the Mohawk people.* Francine’s husband Daniel Lacasse had led us in the Blanket Exercise the first evening. (*See Francine’s story: http://francinelemayenglish.weebly.com/my-story.html)

Finally, our thanks go to Wilma Tibben and the entire hosting team (and chief food provider Lis VandenBerg) at Community Christian Reformed Church, Brinston, Ontario. Much appreciated!

- Tim Stime