indigenous relations

CPT creates Turtle Island Solidarity Network

Indigenous land defenders and allies march at Standing Rock Indian Reservation that straddles the border of North and South Dakota during a protest in 2016. (CPT file photo by Kathy Moorhead Thiessen)

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In the wake of the closure of the full-time Indigenous People’s Solidarity Team due to necessary budget cuts at Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), the new Turtle Island Solidarity Network comprised of reservists who are engaged in Indigenous solidarity and decolonization has been created.

Turtle Island is the Indigenous name for North America. 

A life-long journey for freedom

Daryl Redsky of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation stands on a temporary bridge over the man-made channel that used to isolate his community but has now been replaced by Freedom Road. (2014 file photo by Will Braun)

Freedom Road is now officially open. (Churches for Freedom Road Facebook photo)

Workers construct the Greater Winnipeg Water District aqueduct between 1915 and 1919. (Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Heritage Archives)

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A worker stands on an incomplete section of the Greater Winnipeg Water District aqueduct. (Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Heritage Archives)

Klaas W. Brandt’s dredge used to construct the aqueduct. (Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Heritage Archives)

Klaas W. Brandt surveying for the aqueduct. (Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Heritage Archives)

For the first time in more than a century, the isolated island of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation is now connected to the rest of mainland Canada.

The Indigenous community, located on the Manitoba-Ontario border, just celebrated the official opening of Freedom Road, a 24-kilometre, all-season road that links to the mainland via the Trans-Canada Highway.

Walk for Common Ground puts faith into action

Local elders greet walkers at the Health Sciences Association of Alberta office in Calgary as part of the closing ceremony. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Allegra Friesen Epp carries the eagle feather at the head of the group as they walk along Range Road 11 between Airdrie and Calgary. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Caleb Kowalko (left) and Steve Heinrichs celebrate reaching their destination in Olds. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Cassidy Brown (right) and her mother Nola Brown walk along Highway 2A north of Olds, Alta., carrying the Treaty 7 flag. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Walkers approach the edge of Calgary. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Call for volunteers

Supporters welcome the walkers at their final destination. (Photo by Jonas Cornelsen)

Roger Epp of First Mennonite Church Edmonton), left, Kevin Guenther Trautwein of Lendrum MB Church, Werner De Jong of Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton, and Jake Froese of Trinity Mennonite Church in DeWinton join the first leg of the Walk for Common Ground in Edmonton. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Undaunted by the poor air-quality index due to the Alberta wildfires, Vic Thiessen, former Mennonite Church Canada staffer, braves the smoke-filled air to join the Walk for Common Ground. The walk began in Edmonton on May 31. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Led by Diana Steinhauer and her eagle staff, a group of Indigenous, unionist and church friends travel together on the Walk for Common Ground that began in Edmonton. The treaty walk is meant to nurture treaty understanding and relationship. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

A group of Indigenous, unionist and church friends kick off the Walk for Common Ground in Edmonton on May 31. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

A group of Indigenous, unionist and church friends complete the first 10.1-kilometre leg of the 350-kilometre Walk for Common Ground on May 31. (Photo by Joanne De Jong)

Friends and family huddled in light afternoon rain on June 14, waiting for about 30 participants in the Walk for Common Ground to arrive in Calgary. The walkers were led in by a Scottish bagpiper, then greeted with drumming and singing by local Indigenous elders. Tears of joy mixed with the rain as walkers were congratulated for finishing their 14-day journey from Edmonton to Calgary.

My day on the Walk for Common Ground

Tim Wiebe, centre, stands with fellow Walk for Common Ground participants Cassidy Brown, left, and Allegra Friesen-Epp, right. (Photo courtesy of Steve Heinrich)

The image on the Treaty 6 flag is striking. 

The crest shows a European and Indigenous leader engaged in a never-ending handshake, a longstanding and well-understood symbol of mutual agreement. 

The edge of the crest is lined with words that testify to the longevity of this agreement: “As long as the sun shines... And the rivers flow... The grass grows.”

A Canada committed to genuine and mutual relationships

Jack Penashue and Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of MCC Canada, sit together in Sheshatshit during a visit to Labrador in December 2018. (MCC photo)

Mennonite Central Committee shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ. We have a vision of communities worldwide in right relationships with God, one another and with creation.

Sometimes we share God’s love through an emergency food response to disaster. Often, we seek right relationships by working alongside partners in community-based, on-the-ground development.

Workshop challenges participants to move from multiculturalism to antiracism 

Stacey Swampy, the Micah Mission’s Indigenous Awareness Program facilitator, tells his story of life within the system and of healing, at a two-day workshop entitled, “The awakening: Indigenous voices in restorative justice.” (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Group 2 has all the advantages in assembling its Lego set, including the participation of the presenter’s 11-year-old daughter! (Photo by Donna Schulz)

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As part of an exercise to mirror the experience of Indigenous children in the residential school system, Group 1 must try to assemble the Lego set without instructions and without speaking. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Group 2 succeeds in assembling its Lego set. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Becky Sasakamoose-Kuffner believes that racism can be overcome with a ‘concentrated and deliberate change of policies.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

There were two Lego sets and two groups of participants. The first group to assemble its toy would be the winner, but it quickly became apparent that the playing field was not level.

‘That is a Christian!’

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Alvin and Helen Lepp pose in front of a mural at the Siksika Nation community hall following a service honouring them for their service to the First Nation in 2010. (File photo courtesy of Neill and Edith von Gunten)

Members of the Rosemary Mennonite Church community and the Siksika Nation gathered together on Jan. 4 to praise God for the life of Alvin Lepp. 

‘A picture of his grandmother’

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Henry and Gerald Neufeld have assembled a collection of about a thousand archival photographs of First Nation communities in the Berens River watershed. They are holding a photograph of Miskwaatesi ’oskiisik and his wife Kihcimoohkomaan from Pauingassi. (Photo by Gladys Terichow)

Gerald Neufeld and his father Henry share a passion for linking families from First Nation communities within the Berens River watershed in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario with archival photographs of their ancestors.

Gifts symbolize Indigenous relations

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As a sign of honour and respect for the work of Steve Heinrichs, left, Mennonite Church Canada’s director of Indigenous-settler relations, Lorne Brandt, the chair of Mennonite Church B.C.’s Service, Peace and Justice Committee, presents his vest and moccasins, that were made by Cree craftspeople in Manitoba in 1974, to him at a meeting of the regional church’s Indigenous Relations Group. (Photo by Henry Krause)

A vest and moccasins presented to the Mennonite Church Canada director of Indigenous-settler relations symbolized the ongoing work of Indigenous relations in B.C.

The long path

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In a recent adult Sunday school class, a member of my church spoke about her quarter-century journey of relating to Indigenous people. Twenty-five years and still learning, she admitted. Given the centuries of injustice and pain our neighbours have experienced, that doesn’t seem like such a long time.

Mennonites attend Indigenous theological studies symposium

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During an Indigenous theological studies symposium, held in Wolfville, N.S., the presenters sang a traditional Christmas hymn in English while drumming. Many of the audience members sang along. (Photo by Kathy Thiessen)

The 20-or-so Mennonites who attended the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS) symposium were humbled by the grace of their hosts who welcomed them, without hesitation, into the conversation.

When strangers become neighbours

Ben Pauls of Zoar Mennonite in Waldheim, Sask., leads an ensemble of 15 singers from a number of MC Saskatchewan congregations during a joint worship service at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation on April 22, 2018. (Photo by Jason Gooding)

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A ‘blessing dance’ opens a joint worship service at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan on April 22, 2018. (Photo by Todd Hanson)

Music continues to be the catalyst for growth in the relationship between Mennonite Church Saskatchewan and its Indigenous neighbours.

On Earth Day, April 22, 2018, Mennonites and members of the Muskeg Lake community gathered for An Afternoon of Song at Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in Marcelin on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.

What does ‘sorry’ mean?

During the Sixties Scoop Apology Engagement at Edmonton’s Amiskwaciy Academy on March 1, 2018, survivors were invited to paint their experiences onto canvas for others to see. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld )

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During the Sixties Scoop Apology Engagement at Edmonton’s Amiskwaciy Academy on March 1, survivors were invited to paint their experiences onto canvas for others to see. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld )

“Sorry” is a very Canadian expression, but what does it mean?

To the more than 200 Sixties Scoop survivors gathered at the Amiskwaciy Academy in Edmonton on March 1, 2018, the word is problematic. The hearing is the last of six events held across Alberta by the NDP government in an effort to make an upcoming government apology meaningful.

Who is my neighbour?

Call for volunteers

Screenshot from an episode of CBC Radio’s show “Out in the Open,” which originally aired Jan. 8, 2017. The photo appears on the Farmers with Firearms Facebook page.

Farmers with Firearms are flexing on Facebook. Indigenous activists are indignant. Justin Trudeau is straining to hit all the enlightened notes, as usual. And Murray Sinclair is urging justice reform, again. 

Seeking reconciliation through jubilee

Steve Heinrichs, director of Indigenous-settler relations for Mennonite Church Canada, presents a workshop at Rosthern (Sask.) Mennonite Church entitled ‘Unsettling discipleship: The cost of colonialism, the joy of jubilee.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Call for volunteers

Steve Heinrichs, left, invites workshop participants to stand on an imaginary spectrum identifying their views on reconciliation, ranging from advocates for land reparation to those advocating education and friendship. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

What does the ancient Levitical concept of jubilee have to do with reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and their settler neighbours? Plenty, according to Steve Heinrichs.

Seeking reconciliation through multicultural art

Art by Ovide Charlette of the Opaskwayak First Nation. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Rosanna Deerchild, host of CBC Radio One's Unreserved, reads a poem from her book Calling Down the Sky. The book tells the story of residential schools in Canada and her own mother's experiences and struggles as a generational survivor. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Bryn Friesen Epp of Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, adds a leaf to a collaboratively decorated tree. Each leaf contains a gallery visitor's hope for reconciliation and commitments to taking part in it. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Clairissa Kelly and Marlene Gallagher organized the Reconciliation Through the Arts exhibition. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Clairissa Kelly, right, her mother Marie, and her Grandmother Lorraine, seated, are pictured in front of 'Granny Lorraine.' Kelly, coordinator of the Peguis Post-Secondary Transition Program at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), and Rick Unger, a CMU maintenance technician, used acid on metal and etching techniques to create the rusted portrait. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Jochebed Giesbrecht, Laura Carr-Pries and Allegra Friesen Epp stand around Tracy Fehr's installation of clay bowls. Fehr encourages visitors to take a bowl in honour of an important woman in their life and leave a note about the woman in its place. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

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A collection of photographs and pieces of abandoned Canadian residential schools. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

A dream catcher by exhibition co-organizer Marlene Gallagher. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Clairissa Kelly smudges the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in preparation for the exhibition's opening event. (Photo by Ray Dirks)

Clairissa Kelly gives roses to the many different artists involved in the Reconciliation through the Arts exhibition. Over 15 artists were involved in creating the many diverse pieces on display. (Photo by Ray Dirks)

Clairissa Kelly’s daughter, Chloe Mallett, dances for a large audience at the exhibition’s opening event. (Photo by Ray Dirks)

Art by Ojibwe artist Trip Charbs. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Around 200 people gathered at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery on Jan. 26 to celebrate the opening of Reconciliation Through the Arts, an exhibition of Indigenous and settler art that explores the history and present reality of colonization in Canada and different visions of reconciliation.

Fraught with possibility

Hereditary chief George Kingfisher, left, and Mennonite landowner Ray Funk chat during a scene in the documentary film, Reserve 107, about land rights in Saskatchewan. (Photo by Brad Leitch)

Call for volunteers

Fish is smoked over an open fire during an Aski (Cree translation for 'land') learning tour. (Photo courtesy of Lyndsay Mollins Koene)

A Sachigo First Nation grows tomatoes to provide food security for herself and her family. (Photo courtesy of Lyndsay Mollins Koene)

Long before the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the celebrated United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), we already had a 4,000-page report w

Henry Neufeld

Call for volunteers

Henry Neufeld, right, spent a lifetime building positive relationships among Mennonite and indigenous peoples. He is pictured standing beside Pastor Jeremiah Ross from Cross Lake, Man., at a Conference of Mennonites in Canada (now Mennonite Church Canada) conference in Vancouver in 1981. In 1968, Neufeld was given permission to build a house and to live with the people of Little Grand Rapids.

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