Learning about the partnership between PWRDF and Indigenous communities in Canada – that was the focus of the gathering at Trinity Church in Cambridge at the end of October.
By Rev. Canon Greg Smith
On a warm autumn Saturday toward the end of October about thirty individuals gathered in the parish hall of Trinity Church in (Galt) Cambridge, hosted by Archdeacon Greg Jenkins and members of the parish. Individuals present represented several churches from the Waterloo Deanery and welcomed some visitors from Stratford and London as well. They gathered to learn about the partnership between the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and some Indigenous communities in Canada.
Suzanne Rumsey, Public Engagement Co-ordinator of PWRDF and Greg Smith, Chair of PWRDF/Huron Hunger Fund and Diocesan Representative to PWRDF, took leadership for the gathering. After gathering in prayer using resources from the Anglican Indigenous Covenant and the Anglican Healing Fund, the group was re-introduced to the values and work of PWRDF as an organization of all Anglicans in Canada extending the healing mission of Christ into the world through partnerships with local groups and organizations, committed to building a world of peace and justice. All were reminded of PWRDF’s ongoing work in recovery from emergencies in places like Haiti and Nepal, its food security work with partners in places like Cuba and Bangladesh and its programs in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in places like Mozambique and Burundi (work now being matched financially by the Canadian government). Following this review, the group was led into an exercise in understanding the story of the peoples – indigenous and settlers – who now live on the northern part of what First Nations people call “Turtle Island”.
On a map of Canada filling the floor of the hall, we traced the journeys of peoples coming to the land, beginning with a visual representation of the many First Nations that populated the land from coast to coast before the arrival of Europeans. We then recalled the history of the arrival of other peoples and those of us who could trace our roots back to these arrivals, entered the map in wave after wave.
Standing on the map, eventually crowded shoulder to shoulder, many of those present expressed the awareness of conflicting feelings being among new arrivals standing on top of the names of all of the indigenous peoples. In a time of debriefing following the exercise there was plenty of opportunity to reflect on the emotions invoked and the surprises of learning about the experiences of relationship between indigenous and settler communities. This led into conversations about potable water on indigenous territory and the mixed assessment of pipeline extensions.
After a luncheon break we then turned the focus to the ways in which the Anglican Church of Canada, through the development work of PWRDF and its partners has been engaging with First Nations communities in Canada and the hopes for expanding that work:
Nuu-chan-nulth Language and Culture Program supporting community initiatives in the preservation of language and culture in British Columbia.
First Nation Adult and Higher Education Consortium developing online courses in Blackfoot Cosmology, Epistemiology and Knowledge to contribute to Blackfoot people’s understanding of their origins, culture and language and developing positive self-concepts.
Kanien’kehaka Onkwswen:na Raotitiohkwa Language and Cultural Centre working to preserve and strengthen language and increase access to culturally relevant programs through cable programming in Quebec.
Pikangikum First Nation Water Project Pimatisiwin Nipi (Livign Water) in Northern Ontario, retrofitting homes with water filtration and sewage systems and training local people in the installation and maintenance of equipment, improving sense of community self-worth and creating employment opportunity.
Indigenous Maternal Health collaborative program between indigenous communities and universities in Canada, Mexico, and Peru with the goal of disseminating midwifery knowledge and sharing best practices, incorporating learnings from Maternal, Newborn and Child Health programs currently happening in Africa and Asia.
The day spent learning and dialoguing together raised the awareness of those present and created a sense of enthusiasm and pride for being a part of the outreach work of Canadian Anglicans through the dedication and gifts of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
Rev. Canon Greg Smith is the diocesan representative to PWRDF.