I see a new world comin’

September 7th

I see a new world comin’              - Wilmer Froese

It was a very good day.  Rain didn’t stop the 100 or so people from attending the 4th gathering of Mennonites, Lutherans and descendants of the Young Chippewayan Band on Stoney Knoll near Laird, SK on August 24th.

We all gathered in a large circle in the huge tent that was set up for the occasion.  While we visited and renewed acquaintances, another small group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders participated in a pipe ceremony in a traditional teepee.  This traditional ceremony is a way of asking the Creator for a blessing on the day.

Our Creator, our great God did answer all of our prayers.  A spirit of goodwill and harmony pervaded throughout the day.  The theme of love and forgiveness was highlighted by a number of the stories and talks that were presented.

The spirit of love, hospitality and trust has grown deeper over the years in the story of Reserve 107. It wasn’t always that way.  When the Young Chippewayan band first approached MCC and then us, the farmers and setters in the Laird district, laying claim to our land, there was considerable fear and even hostility by some. Gradually there came an acceptance of the fact that the land had wrongfully been taken from the band in 1897 by an Order in Council in Ottawa, and given over to white settlers.

Several decades ago a potentially hostile confrontation was averted with help from MCC.  In the early 90’s, leaders from both sides met to hear and understand one another. We soon realized it was better to build bridges than to erect walls.  Both sides wanted to give peace a chance.

Trust and friendship has grown over the years.  We from the Mennonite and Lutheran communities have learned to respect and appreciate these Indigenous neighbours.  Getting to know them has been a privilege and has enriched our lives.  And they respect us and appreciate the love we have for this land.  It was again repeated that they would not want to displace us.  They simply ask for our support in getting compensation for their loss.

Perhaps the biggest gain for all of us, is not about the land but about restoring relationships .  At this year’s August 24th gathering, Chief Sylvia said that today’s buzzwords of truth and reconciliation began at Stoney Knoll long before they became fashionable.

A big part of reconciliation is getting to know and love one another.  This was done not only by speeches, but by the sharing of traditional Cree food and Mennonite and Lutheran farmer sausage and potato salad, and by playing Indigenous games.  In a true spirit of reconciliation, we ended the day with a circle dance (and yes, even we Mennonites managed to dance!)

None of us know exactly how this story will end.  Right now it is in the hands of the courts and the Canadian government.  We pray that God will answer our prayers and bring justice and self-sufficiency for all.

In the meantime we do what we did on August 24thWe celebrate what we have in common, our love of the land, but most importantly, our love for one another.

Perhaps the last verse to a song that Barb and I sang that day, that we composed for the occasion (to a familiar Johnny Cash tune) called the “Stoney Knoll Blues”, sums it up:

“I see a new world comin’

To the old I say good-bye,

When I hear of all that’s happening

I know it ain’t a lie,

We’ve come to Stoney Knoll

Just to watch the sky,

And when we stand together

We see Creator smile.”