indigenous reconciliation

Grassroots reconciliation at Spruce River Folk Fest

Cree elder, Harry Lafond, offers the opening prayer at the Spruce River Folk Fest as Ray Funk (centre) and members of the bluegrass band O’Kraut look on. (Photo by Emily Summach)

The Spruce River flows past a teepee where the opening pipe ceremony was held. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Music is a universal language. In Saskatchewan, music is also the language of reconciliation. On August 15, the Spruce River Folk Fest was held to encourage friendship and understanding between Mennonites and Indigenous neighbours.

MC Canada leaders promote National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

(Image courtesy of Government of Canada)

Today marks Canada’s second-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday that recognizes the impact of residential schools on the country’s Indigenous people.

Mennonite Church Canada’s executive ministers have made a statement encouraging people to make Sept. 30 a day for listening, learning and seeking reconciliation.

A walk through Mennonite history

A cyclist rides the Peace Trail, which crosses almost 55 kilometres of southeastern Manitoba. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Village)

The Shantz Immigration Sheds cairn, one of the waypoints on the Peace Trail, marks where Mennonites stayed when they first landed in Manitoba. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Village)

Volunteers prepare the Peace Trail with scythes. (Photo courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Village)

A new trail, spanning almost 55 kilometres across southeastern Manitoba, has been created by a group of Mennonites.

The Peace Trail was dreamed up and implemented by the EastMenn Historical Committee, a group under the umbrella of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, along with community members volunteering on the Peace Trail working group.

Bridgefolk asks how to repair harm to Indigenous Peoples

Muriel Bechtel, left, Jay Freel Landry, John Stoesz, Fr. William Skudlarek OSB, and Samantha Lioi are pictured at the Bridgefolk hymnsing. (Photo by Gerald W. Schlabach)

Jaime Arsenault, tribal historic preservation officer for the White Earth Nation. (Photo by Gerald W. Schlabach)

Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. (Photo by Gerald W. Schlabach)

John Stoesz of Mountain Lake, Minn. (Photo by Gerald W. Schlabach)

Abbot John Klassen of St. John’s Abbey takes part in a panel discussion with Bridgefolk founders Weldon Nisly, on screen, Gerald W. Schlabach, and Marlene Kropf about the history of Bridgefolk. (Photo by Joetta Schlabach)

Participants in the Bridgefolk movement for dialogue and greater unity between Mennonites and Roman Catholics have long made the phrase, “Proceed through friendship,” their byword.


‘Walking together, doing things together’

Norman Meade, the former director of MCC Manitoba’s Aboriginal Neighbours program, took his granddaughter Everlee to hear the Pope speak in Alberta last month. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Although the focus was on the Roman Catholic Church when the Pope visited Canada in late July, Mennonites also have a role to play in promoting reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in this country.

Interpretive path tells story of reconciliation efforts in rural Saskatchewan

Leonard Doell shares a few words at the event. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Wilmer and Barb Froese serve as masters of ceremony during the program. (Photo by Emily Summach)

George Kingfisher, Young Chippewayan ancestral chief, and Ray Funk describe each other as ‘like a brother.’ (Photo by Emily Summach)

Students from Rosthern Community School in Rosthern, Sask. hold up a collaborative art “quilt” they made for the event. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Guests examine the chainsaw-carved archway that serves as the entrance to the interpretive path. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Visitors pause to read a storyboard along the interpretive path. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Theresa Driedeger examines a storyboard and the views of the land from the top of Stoney Knoll. (Photo by Emily Summach)

The final storyboard on the path overlooks the land surrounding Stoney Knoll. (Photo by Emily Summach)

Members of the Stoney Knoll Historical Committee and special guests cut the ribbon to open the new interpretive path. (Photo by Emily Summach)

An area of disputed land in Saskatchewan has become a seedbed of reconciliation with the launch of an interpretive path to make the story of that journey come alive for visitors.


Indigenous leader critical of MC Canada decision

Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam, pictured speaking at a church event in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Kairos Canada)

One of the co-founders of the grassroots Indigenous-led movement Idle No More says her trust in the Mennonite church has been shaken by Mennonite Church Canada’s recent decision to reduce its Indigenous-Settler Relations (ISR) position from full-time to half-time.

Leonard Doell receives lifetime achievement award

Leonard Doell speaks at a City of Saskatoon event honouring residential school survivors. (Photos courtesy of Leonard Doell)

A group of leaders from the Stoney Knoll Band, and the Mennonite and Lutheran communities meet to share stories, information and connection. Doell is pictured in the back row, left.

In 2017, Senator Lilian Dyck invited members of the Stoney Knoll Band, as well the Mennonite and Lutheran communities, to share their story with MPs and senators at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. They are gathered outside the Parliament Building to commemorate that event. Leonard Doell is pictured second from left.

A Saskatchewan man was recently recognized for his decades-long work in peacemaking and community building, especially between Mennonite settlers and Indigenous Peoples. Leonard Doell was honoured with the 2022 Global Citizen Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation.

Watch: Steve Bell’s Freedom Road update

In a new video, musician Steve Bell gives viewers a tour of Freedom Road and shows them the impact the road has had on Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.

“It’s a pretty good story,” Steve Bell says in a new video. That’s an understatement.

In the 12-minute video, published on Bell’s YouTube page earlier this month, the Winnipeg singer-songwriter gives viewers an update on Freedom Road—the 24-km., all-season road that links the once-isolated Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to the Trans-Canada Highway.

MC B.C. posts land acknowledgment

Members of Mennonite Church B.C. congregations were among those who heard First Nations drummers on Orange Shirt Day in Abbotsford in 2018, supporting children who survived residential schools in the past. MC B.C. continues to support relations with First Nations of B.C. through a statement of land acknowledgment now posted on its website. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

In the spirit of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia, a statement of land acknowledgment has been adopted by Mennonite Church British Columbia. It states: “We respectfully and gratefully acknowledge that we gather on the unceded, traditional and ancestral lands of Indigenous First Nations.”

Indigenous elder leads series on history, reconciliation

A large group gathers for David Scott’s first talk on Sept. 28 at Morden (Man.) Mennonite Church. (Photo by Denise Thiessen)

This fall, a collective of people in southern Manitoba working at Indigenous-settler reconciliation, called the Truth and Action Working Group, is hosting a series of talks with David Scott, an elder and policy advisor from Swan Lake First Nation.

Protesting pipelines in British Columbia

Piles of pipe for the Coastal Gaslink just outside of Houston, B.C. (Photo by Josiah Neufeld)

Mennonite Church B.C.’s Indigenous Relations Task Group, which is committed to creating redemptive relationships between settler Mennonites and their Indigenous neighbours, has officially registered its opposition to the Canadian Government’s support for two projects: the Coastal GasLink Pipeline bringing fracked gas from the Peace River to Kitimat, B.C.; and the Trans Mountain Pipeline bringin

MC Canada issues National Day for Truth and Reconciliation statement

Previously known as Orange Shirt Day, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 is an opportunity to remember the impacts of Canada’s 140 Indian Residential Schools. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

In advance of Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation tomorrow (Sept. 30), Mennonite Church Canada is reminding the nationwide church about Mennonite involvement in Indian Residential Schools, and asking people to take steps toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

MDS Canada, MCC complete office renovation project in Timmins

MDS Canada volunteers Joe Bless and Nic Hamm of Vineland United Mennonite Church, and Dave Brubacher of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, with the special mitts given them by the MCC Indigenous Neighbours program as a token of thanks for their work on the MCC office in Timmins, Ont. (Photo by Lyndsay Mollins Koene)

In light of the news about the unmarked graves of children at former residential schools in B.C., Saskatchewan and other parts of the country, the work of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Indigenous Neighbours office in Timmins, Ont., took on new resonance for volunteers.

Lament and love

(Photo by Nick Fewings/Unsplash)

Once again news headlines are about how the church has failed.

News about residential schools fill our newsfeeds, schools generally run by churches and funded by the government, with decades of separating families and leaving wounds of trauma for seven generations.

‘It was a wake-up call’

This is where the girls lined up to brush their teeth at the former Blue Quills Indian Residential School. Children were referred to by numbers, not by names. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

A 2018 learning tour sponsored by MCC Alberta at the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills, formerly a residential school. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

A look inside the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills, formerly a residential school, during an MCC Alberta learning tour in 2018. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

Tour guides were Sherri Chissan, Blue Quills’ president, and Karl Quan led the 2018 learning tour, sponsored by MCC Alberta. (Photo by Suzanne Gross)

At the end of May, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 First Nation discovered the grave site of around 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Like many people, Jim Shantz, former Indigenous Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta says, “It was shocking but not surprising.”

Colleagues, friends remember Menno Wiebe

Menno Wiebe with a fish at Pimicikamak (Cross Lake), Man. (Photo by Rudy Regehr, courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Archives)

Menno Wiebe (centre) presents at the Mennonite World Conference with Lawrence Hart (left) and Elijah Harper (right). Winnipeg, 1990. (Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Archives)

Menno Wiebe, who died on Jan. 5 at his home in Winnipeg, was highly respected in Mennonite circles and beyond for his work and relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

'Be It Resolved' released

(Photo courtesy of Steve Heinrichs)

A new anthology published by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada and Mennonite Church Canada hit the press this fall. Be it Resolved: Anabaptists & Partner Coalitions Advocate for Indigenous Justice, 1966-2020 is a collection of more than 90 documents detailing commitments Anabaptists have made to Indigenous justice and decolonization since the 1960s.

Leon's Island

Members of the Kitchekeesik family gather for a final visit to Leon’s Island in late August. (Photo by Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie)

After 20 years of negotiations, planning and construction, the water has gone up behind Manitoba Hydro’s $8.7-billion Keeyask dam about 725 km. north of Winnipeg. The troubled project on the province's largest river now floods 45 square kilometres. 

Evangelical path to truth and reconciliation

Les Dysart of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation in northern Manitoba. (Photo by Will Braun)

Robert Spence of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, 2013. (Photo by Matthew Sawatzky / Courtesy of Interchurch Council on Hydropower)

I started out by digging into the commitments recently made by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) in relation to Indigenous peoples, commitments that include renouncing “white supremacy” and “unsettling” evangelical theology.

The perfect complexity of Coastal GasLink protests

Wet'suwet'en solidarity action in Toronto on February 8, 2020. (Photo by Jason Hargrove)

In 2012, I spent two memorable hours in Smithers, B.C., with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), one of the chiefs at the centre of the Coastal GasLink crisis now confounding our nation. I also spent time with the chief and other members of the Haisla Nation, which supports the pipeline. 


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