Images from Right Relations 2023

Images from Right Relations 2023

Seven students and three Program Staff spent the week of April 20-26, 2023 exploring reconciliation, social justice, and right relations between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. We were blessed to have the Moderator of the United Church of Canada (and super cool person in her own right) Carmen Lansdowne as part of the circle for most of the week.

On the first day of the circle we spent some time talking about how we got her (literally, eg. walked from my bed-and-breakfast) as well as how we got here. In the afternoon we wrestled with the principles that would guide our learning in the circle and would guide the learning of congregations committing themselves to right relations. How does the principle of “Nothing about us without us” sit alongside the principle of “It is not the responsibility of Indigenous people to educate Settlers”? How do we hold the awareness that Indigenous people worldwide share common experiences of marginalization and displacement alongside the diversity of Indigenous people and the knowledge that there is no “single story” and that Indigenous people are not a monolith.

As well as engaging non-fiction readings by writers like Chelsea Vowel, Vine Deloria, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Adrian Jacobs, Martin Brokenleg, Ched Myers and Elaine Enns, students read novels and poetry by contemporary authors like Tracey Lindberg, Richard Wagamese, and Tanya Tagaq.

On the second day of the circle, Carmen and Alcris helped us unpack the concept of Mission. In the afternoon we went to the Forks to visit the Agowiidiwinan Centre for treaty education. Allen Sutherland took us through the history of treaties, from the two-row wampums to the numbered treaties and the unceded territories of BC. After hearing about the ways that the Indian Act was imposed by the Canadian government without Indigenous consultation or respect for treaty covenants, at least one CCS student wanted to “burn the Indian Act to the ground”.

On Saturday, in a joint session with the CCS Central Council and Integration circle, we got to listen to a conversation between Carmen Lansdowne and this year’s Companion of the Centre Wenh-In Ng, about what reconciliation looks like from an intercultural perspective.

On Monday and Tuesday we went out to the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre in Beausejour, MB. SSSC is a sister school to the Centre for Christian Studies, preparing Indigenous candidates for United Church ministry, often in Indigenous communities. The Sandy-Saulteaux students generously expanded their circle to include us, and shared their stories of struggle and cultural strength. Hard truths were spoken, but there was also lots of laughter. In the afternoon of the first day we went for a walk on the land at Sandy-Saulteaux, learning some teachings of the four directions. We spent Tuesday morning in small groups, shelling beans, chopping up squash, cutting onions, etc. in preparation for the Three Sisters soup we would have at lunch. As we sat at tables working, we shared stories about food in our cultures and communities; stories about feasting and fasting, the proper way to cook a goose, the impact of remoteness and the market on a community’s diet, etc. In the afternoon we shared reflections on gratitude, crafting our own psalms of thanksgiving. We ended the afternoon with communion and expressions of appreciation for the opportunity to spend time together.

On our final day, back in Winnipeg, students reviewed their learnings from the week and thought about next steps toward right relations.