Monday October 7th marked an anniversary of 250 years since the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was made. This proclamation, or promise, recognized the Aboriginal people of Canada as sovereign with rights to land. This proclamation was made legal part of Canada's Constitution. A gathering of more than 200 people, Aboriginal and Mennonite included, at the Idle No More Event on Monday evening in Winnipeg, MB came together to recognize that this constitution of Canada has not been in honoured in 250 years. In fact, this constitution has been a broken promise that has aided in establishing a broken system of dysfunction that has harmed the Aboriginal people deeply. What was beautiful to me about this gathering was that I saw fellow Mennonites standing in solidarity with Aboriginals as they sought to heal and be heard.
Idle No More encourages the advocacy of rights and the participation all peoples in helping share histories of harm and heal from them. They welcome all people, Mennonites included, to join them in solidarity as they share unjust histories that have long been hidden. The speakers, encouraged at the presence of attendees, young, old, and of varied ethnicity, spoke out proclaiming that the gathering was about love and the claiming of broken promises.
One such speaker, a young aboriginal man by the name of Michael Champaigne, spoke passionately. He explained the Idle No More peace action was not necessarily about rights, but rather about the responsibility that all treaty people hold, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Champaigne emphasized that it was time for his people to claim their histories and let no one stand alone or traumatized. He emphasized that this gathering was about love, and that the gathering was not just to change how a constitution was enacted, but to 'change ourselves'.
From the echos of this speech, the deep rhythm of the drums began. Aboriginal women formed a drum circle and a dance circle was formed around them. As the song grew, so did the dance. Hand in hand I witnessed Mennonite and Aboriginal join in an ever growing dance that covered legislative steps and earth. In a way, this dance defied 250 years of what has defined a negative relationship and use of land. It reached for a reconciliation that crossed cultural identity, cultural clashes, and inflicted harms. This peaceful stance of intercultural unity may not seem the relevant or important to some, but to this Mennonite woman it cannot be mistaken for anything other than holy. This peaceful action contains the very echoes of a model Christ laid down for his disciples, and in turn, for us.
Jesus showed the way over and over, defying the exclusivity of Jewish culture and instructing his followers to love all people despite of history and culture. His disciples were told again and again to embrace the Gentile, the Samaritan, the Greek. Christ even renamed his disciple Peter, whose name changed from a traditional Hebrew name to one of Greek origin, perhaps as yet another encouragement to cross the cultural divide lines and embrace the divine calling in Peter's life. To Christ, all nations were to be loved and to be in relationship. Witnessing Mennonite and First Nations together at this peaceful action, despite a tangled difference of history and culture, demonstrates a loving face of Christ I see too little of in this world.
Whether one is comfortable or not with broaching the conversation of colonization, land sovereignty, broken treaty promises, public actions of peace, First Nations and Mennonite relationships historically or modernly, it matters not. I believe that most simply reduced, we are called to love all people, including our Aboriginal neighbours. If this creates discomfort for Mennonites and the church, I suggest it is for good reasons that, trusted to the Holy Spirit, can bring about good fruit. Seeking to love and build peaceful relationships is something that can only invite more of God's presence.
Dear Church, I pray that you seek to establish relationship and reconciliation in all places in life. May you do so in comfort and because it, in discomfort and despite of it, and may you love deeply all people, because Christ first loved you.
For more information on Idle No More, visit their website: http://idlenomoremanitoba.com
If you wish to join a peaceful action, there is a Healing Dance being held this Saturday, October 12, at Portage and Main in Winnipeg. See the website for more information.