indigenous relations

Henry Neufeld

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.

‘Our children need to know’

The sign directing people to Stony Hill, the former site of St. John’s Lutheran Church and of the Young Chippewayan Reserve No. 107, was changed earlier this year to reflect its importance to indigenous people. The name Opwashemoe Chakatinaw means Stoney Knoll in English. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Chief Sylvia Weenie of the Young Chippewayan band chats with Leonard Doell, coordinator of Mennonite Central Committee Saskatchewan’s Indigenous Neighbours Program, at the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6, held recently at Stoney Knoll. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

With her daughter Kimberley holding her notes, Chief Sylvia Weenie addresses the audience gathered to mark the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6. ‘Stoney Knoll history needs to be told,’ she says. ‘Our children need to know.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Rita Macdonald of Rosthern Mennonite Church, left, visits with Marshall Williams and his wife Verna at the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6, held recently at Stoney Knoll, Sask. Williams is the hereditary chief of the Young Chippewayan band. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Under darkening skies, participants line up to receive commemorative medals marking the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6. The medals are to be a visible reminder of the treaty, says Harry Lafond, executive director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Edna Zacharias of Osler Mennonite Church tosses a handful of soil onto the roots of a pine tree planted to commemorate the gathering of friendship that took place at Stoney Knoll, Sask., marking the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

“It’s really cool to see white people here today,” said Cheyenne Fineday. The first nation teenager was speaking at the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6 on Aug. 23, 2016. Held at Stoney Knoll, 76 kilometres north of Saskatoon, the celebration included both indigenous and settler peoples.

More thoughts on Future Directions

Photo by Marcello Gambetti from freeimages.com

As I’ve continued to follow the process set in motion by the Future Directions Task Force (FDTF), I’ve come to a different place with my thoughts on this major restructuring of our denominational body, Mennonite Church Canada. It seems clear that, with the exception of Mennonite Church Alberta, the recommendations of the Task Force have been approved to some degree by the area churches, and that the restructuring will most likely go ahead.

MCC B.C. ‘refocusses’ Aboriginal Neighbours program, releases staff

As part of a relationship-building event at Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond, B.C., Darryl Klassen, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C.’s Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator, presents local elder Ruth Adams with an MCC blanket. In Salish culture, this is an expression of adopting someone into the family. (Credit: MCC BC)

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) British Columbia has decided to dismiss long-time Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator Darryl Klassen. The decision, which was made early this year, will take effect at the end of December. Klassen, 64, has worked with MCC B.C. for 25 years. 

Can we talk?

Harley Eagle, right, Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s co-coordinator of Indigenous Work with his wife Sue, speaks with other MCC staff and partners at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. (Credit: courtesy of MCC UN office)

Vincent Solomon, the Aboriginal Neighbours coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba and a priest for the Anglican Church of Canada, says a blessing for the many MCC infant care and relief kits donated by Native Assembly 2014 participants this summer. (Credit: MC Canada/Dan Dyck)

Roland Ray, left, of the Mathias Colomb First Nation, Sandy Bay, Sask., shows Les Hurlburt how ancient rock paintings depict the land that once belonged to the band, at the fifth annual Spruce River Folk Festival this summer. (Credit: Donna Schulz)

Tension gripped my gut as I drove to a Mennonite church in Altona, Man., with an indigenous friend. We were doing a joint Sunday morning presentation about hydropower impacts. 

I wondered if an indigenous person had ever been in that church. I debated making excuses for whatever suspicion, or worse, my people might direct toward him. I tried to muster grace. 

Ears to earth, eyes to God

The land at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in downtown Winnipeg was too important as an inter-tribal meeting and trading place to be held by any one people, says Clarence Nepinak, a learning tour leader at Native Assembly 2014. (Photo by Moses Falco)

Steve Heinrichs, director of indigenous relations for Mennonite Church Canada, leads in singing during one of Native Assembly 2014’s worship services. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

In the Blanket Exercise, quilts covering the floor are Turtle Island—aka North America. The blankets are folded and removed to represent the insidious ways that land and control were taken from Indigenous Peoples through colonialism. Participants are crowded into smaller and smaller areas, or sent back to their seats to represent those who died from disease or imposed malnutrition. (Photo by Moses Falco)

An early morning fire and smudging ceremony started each day of Native Assembly 2014 that met from July 28 to 31 at the edge of the Assiniboine Forest on the Canadian Mennonite University campus.

We Shall Remain

We Shall Remain is the title of a documentary series by PBS. We watched a few of the episodes while living in Virginia, where we heard very little of indigenous people, culture, or history. Whenever we asked about it, people we talked to said, "oh yeah, there used to be lots of indigenous people in this area" and would point to the main highways running through as ancient trade routes and the name of the valley "Shenandoah" as an indigenous name.

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