On missions, we are always told to expect the unexpected, or to prepare to do things on the fly – even as we were prepping, Pastor Edmund told us that there were many things we planned to do, but we might not even do any of those things. This trip has really challenged the inner organizer in all of us. Most of the days we figure out our schedule the day beforehand or even as the day goes by. However, this was a blessing in disguise because with such a free schedule, we were able to visit different places across the reserve, such as the local Christian schools, the federal public high school and elementary school, sewing centre, the government offices as well as a local museum.
Our team has been diligent in forming relationships by volunteering at places and returning to them the next few days. Through these volunteer experiences, we are able to really immerse ourselves in the Cree culture. Many of their traditions are heavily present in every building we went to – such as smudging where sage or sweetgrass is burned and the smoke is used to cleanse oneself as you enter in a room. In the highschool, Cree culture is heavily taught in the curriculum – the language, arts and traditions. In art class, the kids learn how to use porcupine quills and fish scales as traditional Cree artists have done and in sewing, many girls work on their pow-wow outfits. By sitting through these classes, a greater appreciation was gained for the history and background as to why the Cree have all these traditions. Many of the Cree legends and meanings behind the ceremonies are passed through word of mouth and the Cree take great pride in their identity, which is why they are so willing and eager to share with us about them. However, with the cultural oppression many locals faced from their time at the residential schools, their culture is slowly being lost. So to preserve it, the Cree integrate it heavily in the schools so the youth of today can learn it. Since tradition is so closely tied to identity, it can be difficult for the Cree to accept Jesus because for most of them, accepting Jesus can mean you are giving up your traditions and therefore your Cree heritage.
Please keep them in your prayers, that they will find spiritual clarity. Also pray for the youth, that they will be able to find hope despite all the tragedies that occur in the reserve. There is also a need for spiritual protection over the kids and there is also a great need for more teachers in the schools.
Saddle Lake STM team