Musical sharing at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation

August 24, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 17
Phyllis Goertz and Harry Lafond | Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan
A group of Indigenous people and Mennonites gather under the arbor at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. (Photo by Randy Klassen)

About 75 people gathered at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, located an hour’s drive north of Saskatoon, on August 6 for the Singing in the Arbor event. The event, which included music, food and relationship-building, was sponsored by the Cree Nation and Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s Walking the Path initiative.

Muskeg Lake elder Harry Lafond has been a long-time member of the Walking the Path group, and much of the success of this event was due to his leadership.

The event was emceed by Lyndon Linklater, a well-known Indigenous speaker and knowledge keeper, with roots in Northern Ontario and Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan. The afternoon opened with greetings and a prayer offered by Muskeg Lake elder Dolores Greyeyes Sand, followed by a land acknowledgment from Randy Klassen of Mennonite Central Committee Saskatchewan. Randy noted that his grandparents arrived in Rosthern in 1925, completely unaware of Treaty 6 and the unfulfilled obligations of the Treaty, which continue to this day.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with song. The initial welcoming song was sung by Brenda Montgrand and Mona Caribou from Sandy Bay. A Mennonite choir then shared several songs, under the direction of Jordan Wiens with accompaniment by Sharyl Reikman. Their first song was a hauntingly beautiful piece about the buffalo, with lyrics by Jo Cooper, a Métis woman with close connections to the Ancient Echoes Interpretive Centre in Herschel, Saskatchewan, and a rhythmic, drum-like musical setting by local composer Audrey Falk Janzen.

Other selections by the Mennonite choir included Larry Nickel’s “True Evangelical Faith” and the 606 doxology. Brenda and Mona then led in several songs, including old favourites like “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” in both English and Cree.

Dolores Greyeyes Sand then offered several solos, including a moving Cree version of “Ave Maria.” A group of mostly younger people from the Catholic church at Muskeg Lake, under the leadership of elder Harry Lafond, sang a very enthusiastic version of “This Little Light of Mine.” The musical portion of the event ended with an open mic time. Edmond Lucier from Muskeg Lake just happened to have his guitar with him, and shared a couple of songs. And from the younger end of the audience, we had two young friends (and one mom) bring an inspiring song from Veggie Tales. It was an intimate, encouraging and heart-warming afternoon of sharing faith through music. The singing was followed by a generous meal of farmer sausage, bannock and a delicious selection of potluck salads and dessert, accompanied by wonderful conversations where we got to know each other a bit more. The first Singing in the Arbor event was held in 2019 and we hope to have more. 

A group of Indigenous people and Mennonites gather under the arbor at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. (Photo by Randy Klassen)

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