Respectful Relationships: From Toddler to Elder
May 24, 2023
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The Canadian National Gathering this year focuses on reconciliation. The theme of reconciliation can help us to understand many other facets of our Christian walk. Enjoy this reflection from Jeremy Vander Hoek on how reconciliation will further the CRCNA’s goal of “Listening to the voices of every generation, to shape us for ministry together.”
Reconciliation isn’t easy. Unravelling the harms of colonization will require generations of reflection and action. Although much of this work may be uncomfortable, it’s worth exploring the joys and hope that it can bring too. A recent experience I had shares a glimpse of the better way that can come with reconciliation.
In early May 2023, I went to Samson Cree Nation a few hours from Edmonton. I was in Treaty 6 territory as part of a research group hoping to learn more about this community’s view on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Before we arrived, our team committed to doing research in a way that was grounded in right relationship. Reconciliation has required researchers to reevaluate their relationships to knowledge and how they do their work. For our team, this meant being open to the ways the communities we engaged with communicated knowledge. So when we met with our community lead to begin preparations for our trip and she said we needed to begin with ceremony, we were all in.
On our second day in the community, we were off to a community hockey rink. As we arrived, we saw dancers dressed in their stunning regalia chatting and preparing with an excited energy. We were about to experience a mini-pow wow hosted by Samson Cree Nation honouring our team and starting us in a good way.
What struck me about the amazing mix of feathers, beadwork, and bells was the generational representation! These dancers were made up of elders, young adults, teenagers, kids, and even toddlers. Community members of all ages donned their regalia, danced, and sung to the drum to bring us into a good way.
Just before it began, I was whisked into the opening procession wearing the ribbon shirt I was graciously gifted. My dancing skills left much to be desired, but the drum kept me going and gave me a rhythm to aim for. What a joy it was to be honoured in this way among generations of Samson Cree Nation dancers!
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission defines reconciliation as, “an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.” Respectful relationships are something to look forward to, a way of living that is better than the patterns of colonialism.
Our faith reminds us that the release of domineering power and control is not a loss but a gain. While reconciliation may be challenging, it can bring about a better way for all of us and I think every generation has a way of expressing this.
This ceremony was one of deep inclusion and an enfolding of honoured elders and excited kids. The energy and joy of each generation of dancers carried our team for the entire trip, and their wisdom did as well. We heard Elders share about their decades of advocacy in the wake of their residential school experience. Teenagers eager to learn more about Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. The laughter of a joyous toddler popping in and out of the teepee. Seeing dancers of all ages—and hearing their stories—brought me hope for reconciliation.
Jeremy Vander Hoek is a lifelong member of the CRC living on Haudenosaunee, Anishinabe, and Attawandaron territory. He works as the Assistant for Indigenous Rights at the Canadian Friends Service Committee, the justice arm of Quakers in Canada.
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