On Saturday, October 28, a group of individuals representing Edmonton’s interfaith and intercultural community gathered in the beautiful fellowship space of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of the First Peoples.
A Common Word Alberta’s 13th Annual Dialogue consisted of Christians, Muslims and Indigenous teachers coming together in a spirit of learning and for setting a foundation of reconciliation. This dialogue took place as global events have brought news of untold suffering and an incomprehensible destruction of life. The Planning Committee wondered how these feelings of dismay and despair be integrated with our invitation to others to learn. By the grace of God, and with the help of Indigenous ceremony in the form of the opening smudge and land acknowledgement, we were brought into the present moment to absorb what we were meant to learn that day.
We were in the care of Indigenous Elder, Fernie Marty, and his helper, Candida Shepherd. Building on last year’s dialogue on the theme of “Expanding the Circle,” we gathered to further explore the intersections of land, history, displacement from one’s land and oppression and the impacts on the Indigenous people. We learned about our roles and our responsibilities as people of faith living today on Treaty Six land. The theme for the gathering was “Help me to be teachable today.” Fernie Marty is an Indigenous Cree Elder tasked with passing on Indigenous Cree teachings, and holds much knowledge about Good Medicine, medicine that contributes to our well-being including herbs. Yet, with all of this knowledge, Elder Fernie had shared that he wakes up every morning and prays, “Lord, help me to be teachable today.”
The goal of our learning was threefold:
· to understand the history that led to the Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action (2015)
· to begin to understand the Medicine Wheel as a tool to help us live into wellbeing for ourselves and every living thing around us
· to see where we are being invited to do the work of reconciliation through the unending circle of the Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel can help to heal us and the world. As Elder Fernie taught, we engage each day with the cycle of life in the medicine wheel. The four directions of help bring awareness to the four aspects of our human life experience that contribute to our wellbeing: our mental health, our physical health, our emotional health and our spiritual health. Our awareness is the first step to helping us rebalance these when one or more is out of synergy.
For the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of the First Peoples, the cross, in the context of Christ’s great love or “Sacred Heart,” is at the centre of the Medicine Wheel. All of our attention to experiencing the cycles of life, the cycles of planting, growing, harvesting and resting, contributes to our ability to rebalance our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. And all of this comes from and goes out from the centre which is our One God – our Creator.
The Medicine Wheel is a way to balance our inner and outer world. When we reflect on the Medicine wheel, we are invited to consider many moving parts of the cycle and the circle – things happening all at once, all the time. The medicine wheel helps us leave the temptations that pull us out of the center of the circle. For our current collective work, the medicine wheel helps us interact with the TRC, since all of the calls to action fall into either mental, emotional, physical or spiritual incompleteness for our Indigenous peoples. We learned that CBC is tracking the progress on the 94 calls to action at the Beyond the Calls website. This website can help us remember, and encourage our government to play its role in the reconciliation we want to see.
May we use this powerful tool of reconciliation as we remember our collective past here on Treaty 6 land, as we free people who have been harmed by the settler history of this land to speak their truth. Dennis Saddleman shared his truth in a poem about his Residential School experience called “I hate you Monster “ — 2022 — where he compares the residential school building to a monster who is hungry to devour culture, language, confidence, and children. The poem ends with a vision of transforming our monsters to reclaim our dreams and stories of tomorrow. As we listen to the truth expressed by our children and elders and everybody in between, may we contribute in ways that allow for all those whose dreams and stories have been snuffed out to reclaim what we all long for as believers in One God.