Advertised as “A day to meet each other in friendship; to learn together; to share stories together; to play together, to feast together … to become a people who walk together”, the (now) annual Feast for Friends was an intercultural celebration held at the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre in Beausejour, Manitoba on September 21st. Feast for Friends was organized and sponsored by the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, the Centre for Christian Studies, the All Native Circle Conference,and the Conference of Manitoba and Northwest Ontario of the United Church of Canada. CCS staff Ann Naylor and Lori Stewart were in attendance. (Ann facilitated the morning session.)
This is Lori’s reflection on the day:
Was it a feast “for” friends or a feast “of” friends? As we gathered at West Broadway Community Ministry folks were friendly, introducing themselves and their friends to those they didn’t know. People paired up on the bus to sit together and talk. We were warmly welcomed at The Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, joined a genial reception line, moved into the hospitality of the lodge where coffee and muffins and many new friends awaited.
The first speaker, Aimeé Craft is an indigineous lawyer from Manitoba. She spoke about her research into the negotiations that led to the signing of Treaty One. She says that to understand this treaty it is essential to understand the aboriginal law that undergirds it. In her work she set out to document the perspective of her ancestors and how they understood this treaty. She spoke in a moving way about the title of her book Breathing Life into the Stone Fort Treaty, which refers to the fact that this fort is made of stone and as a result still exists. The stones that make up its walls, as part of the creation, are understood to be living beings. These grandfathers and grandmothers were there when the treaty was signed and continue to stand as witnesses.
Throughout the day there were opportunities to meet people around the sacred fire, at the Feast, and in workshops. I heard stories everywhere people were gathered.
In the afternoon I went to the “It Takes a Village” workshop which was done as a kind of reader’s theatre*. The participants heard a folktale from each of three aboriginal traditions. The wisdom in the story was further explored and interwoven with tales of people who had been in residential schools and stories of the subsequent breakdown of family relationships and culture. It became clear that community is made up of all of its members: children, youth, parents, and elders. This workshop offered a way for all of those generations to gather in one tent to learn together.
At the close of the day we were invited to join a closing gathering around the sacred fire led by Jules Lavallee. He spoke about the land we were standing on. A young woman who had told him about her a sacred vision received a new name — “Ribbons of the Sun” — which is the translation from Cree of the word for rainbow. As he spoke the wisdom washed over us. We were sent on our way with an honour song.
*According to Aaron Shepherd “Reader’s theater was developed as an efficient and effective way to present literature in dramatic form”. (Readers on Stage, Shepard Publications, 2004)