Today was day 2 of the parenting workshop and we got to hear Elder Ron speak (he is also the Financial Comptroller in Saddle Lake!). He briefly shared about various traditions in the Cree culture including how to earn a pipe. Someone needs to prove they are worthy of a pipe by partaking in traditions and ceremony. Unfortunately, there are many people who simply just purchase a pipe now but that is not the proper way to receive a pipe.
Afterwards, we were given an opportunity to share about our culture as one of the elders had requested. I (Matthew) shared about how I as a Chinese, Canadian, Christian formed my worldview. Though I come from a colonized territory (Hong Kong), I still retain much of my culture (language, cuisine and major festivals such as Chinese New Years & Mid Autumn festival). There are parts of culture that were incompatible with Christianity such as burning money and goods for the deceased but we still honor our deceased relatives but in different ways such as gathering for a meal or visiting the grave site which do not take honor away from God.
Roxy next shared her own identity crisis as a Chinese Filipino Canadian Christian. She used an analogy of braided hair how the different strands (Chinese, Filipino & Canadian) are kept together by her over arching faith in Christ. She shared her testimony, coming from a family where her father had 2 different wives in the same household and how she did not have a good relationship with him. This seemed to resonate with our Native friends who come from similar backgrounds of broken families. She also shared how she was able to teach her children to speak their native tongues even though they moved to Canada.
Renie & Everett shared their testimonies on why they call Jesus Christ their Lord and savior. Lastly, Phil challenged some of their practices. There was a lot of emphasis on the practice of certain Native traditions and doing them when needed. Phil likened this to a dog who only goes to their owner when they needed something. He reminded us that the creator is someone who seeks relationship and questioned us on how the creator may feel when we only go to Him when we need something. The elders who heard this message were receptive and many in the room seemed to take this challenge to heart.
It was a major blessing and honor to have been able to speak so much truth into many prominent members of the community and also some of the young who look to be a larger part in the community in retaining their culture. They expressed gratitude in knowing that there are others in Canada who have experienced something similar to them in being colonized and having the same identity crisis. We pray that in sharing our experience, we have given them a glimpse of hope in being able to move forward without it being at the expense of erasing their past.
Afterwards, we visited Elder Ron in his office at the Band administration building. He introduced us to his team including many who knew Esther who was part of the team last year that spent a month working in the office. It was humbling to know that we were associated with the previous years team who they had all accepted into their community even though we had done nothing. He also showed us the museum and explained more of the history to us.
At night, we joined Phil for a group guitar lesson that he holds at the healing lodge. There were people of various levels who learned how to play together. It was held on the same night where there are lessons on Native drumming and singing. Phil says he does this on purpose.
Please continue praying for those who heard our sharing at the parenting workshop, that they may reflect on what we talked about.