‘Under the tall, tall trees of Camp Valaqua’

Youth get an ‘amplified’ education on colonial/settler relations, worshipping God

September 14, 2022 | News | Volume 26 Issue 19
Joani Neufeldt | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Water Valley, Alta.
Gathering from across Canada, Mennonite youth, sponsors, volunteers and parents took part in Amplify! at Camp Valaqua. (Photo by Dan Driedger)

From July 31 to Aug 4, 132 youth, sponsors, volunteers, parents and planning committee members from across Canada gathered under the tall, tall trees of Camp Valaqua to learn, worship and fellowship, at the Mennonite Church Canada youth gathering Amplify!

Joined by Christy Anderson, our guest speaker, we were challenged to “amplify” the voices of others, stretch our understanding on colonial/settler issues, and to worship God. In a few short days, friendships were made, adventures were taken, minds were blown open and a ton of fun was had.

Workshops were led by Zoë Chaytors and Allison Brooks-Starks of Emberwood (Edmonton); Ruth Boehm of Faith Mennonite Church, Leamington, Ont.; Jess Klassen of Winnipeg; Canadian Mennonite University; and Conrad Grebel University College.

Camp Valaqua activities included a climbing wall; archery; and time in the river swimming, canoeing or kayaking.

Service projects were led by Linda Wiebe Dickinson of Mennonite Central Committee Alberta, and Jeff Schellenberg of Camp Valaqua.

The planning committee expresses our gratitude to everyone who came and took part in the event. We are ever grateful for the support we received—financially, emotionally and physically—from across the country. We are especially thankful for the time that Christy spent planning and leading our youth. Her wisdom will guide all of us forward.

At the final session, she shared the following list to help the youth continue working toward reconciliation, and it pertains to all of us:

  • Research First Nations/Inuit/Métis peoples in your area to understand their history and contributions to history, including the Doctrine of Discovery, Indian Act, 94 Calls to Action, 231 Calls for Justice into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, and UNDRIP.
  • Watch movies / read books by Indigenous authors and filmmakers, including Reservation Dogs (PG13), The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline and Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King.
  • Learn more about Indigenous arts and artists.
  • Follow Indigenous peoples on social media.
  • Attend local Indigenous cultural events open to the public. If an Indigenous person invites you, just go.
  • Research and do a presentation on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for your school, work or  church.
  • Learn the land acknowledgment for your area and use it in your meetings and events.
  • Visit a local Indigenous or friendship centre. Get involved and make relationships.
  • Participate in Orange Shirt Day, Bear Witness Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day and National TRC Day.
  • Ask a knowledge keeper/elder/Indigenous person to come to your school. Learn the local protocols, and make sure that you offer the appropriate compensation or gift.
  • Attend a march or protest in your area. Bring your parents.
  • Study an Indigenous language. It is meaningful to learn culture in your local context.
  • Organize a fundraising event for an Indigenous charity. Make sure that it is organized and led by Indigenous people.
  • Keep having conversations, wrestling with convictions regarding ongoing settler/colonial relations. 

Related story:
Three youths reflect on their experience at Amplify!

Gathering from across Canada, Mennonite youth, sponsors, volunteers and parents took part in Amplify! at Camp Valaqua. (Photo by Dan Driedger)

Guest speaker Christy Anderson challenges youth to work toward reconciliation. (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

Canadian Mennonite University organized a campfire at Camp Valaqua for youth participants at Mennonite Church Canada’s Amplify! gathering this summer. (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

Worship times happen under a large tent. (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

Worship (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

Left to right: Mackenzie Hildebrand, Louisa Adria and Danika Warkentin lead the group in times of worship. (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

During free time campers do crafts, including rock painting. (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

Youth assembled MCC school kits as a service project. (Photo by Mel Harms)

During free time campers do crafts, including rock painting. (Photo by Joani Neufeldt)

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