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posted 28 Nov 2018, 21:08 by June Miller, MCA Communications   [ updated 28 Nov 2018, 21:15 ]


Submitted by Robert Proudfoot

Truth and Reconciliation Activities Group (TRAG) at First Mennonite Church Edmonton (FMC) is active and unapologetic in its efforts to learn about indigenous Canadians, engage them socially and participate in their events, as well as to inform / involve our wider FMC congregation, that we may journey in reconciliation and friendship together with indigenous neighbours.

Our Beginning
TRAG was formed in September 2016, after the 2013 Canadian Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) Hearings into Indian Residential Schools held in Edmonton, and in response to the Calls to Action detailed in the Commission’s final report.

Suzanne Gross, FMC’s then congregational moderator, with assistance from Henry Janzen, a long-time government worker and advocate for indigenous peoples who currently works as a Policy Advisor for Tribal Chiefs Ventures Inc., wrote a Letter of Response for FMC to Carolyn Bennett (federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs) and National Chief Perry Bellegarde (Assembly of First Nations) on April 10, 2016, acknowledging all TRC Calls to Action but specifically to 48 (IV).

This letter affirmed that the FMC congregation
This letter affirmed that the FMC congregation were “Treaty People” and beneficiaries of Treaty 6, and that our church building and members physically reside on Treaty lands.
were “Treaty People” and beneficiaries of Treaty 6, and that our church building and members physically reside on Treaty lands. We in south Edmonton are also located within the boundaries of the former Papaschase Reserve, which was extinguished by the federal government in the late 1800s and its members forced to relocate, to allow development of the city by settlers. FMC’s Letter of Response also affirmed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and quoted our approval of Article 10, which speaks of the principle of “free, prior and informed consent” as related to removal of indigenous peoples from their communities. TRAG’s formation, goals and activities follow FMC’s Letter of Response, continuing our work as “Treaty People” to heed truths and seek reconciliation.

Our Members
TRAG currently has 16 members, including one indigenous person and two others with
extensive indigenous cross-cultural experience and / or ancestry. We meet for annual potlucks to check in with one another on activities and learning we do or connections we make, individually or as a group with indigenous friends.

Past Events
Documentaries  (Winter 2017) review of a series of documentaries featuring two filming arts students from Mount Royal College (one Blood First Nation member, one Chinese immigrant), that document many of the issues indigenous Canadians continue to struggle with.

Blanket exercise and church service  (June 4, 2017) Michelle Nieviadomy, Assistant
Director of Edmonton Native Healing Centre, led the blanket exercise (created in 1997
by KAIROS), assisted by Jim Shantz of MCC Alberta Indigenous Neighbours’ Network
(INN), who provided the Message and also led debriefing with selected participants.
Stew and bannock (provided by Native Delights) were served at an all-comer’s lunch.

Learning tour (May 12, 2018) learning tour to Blue Quills University (BQU) near St. Paul, Alberta, sponsored by INN and hosted by Sherri Chisan, BQU’s Acting President. We
participated in a preliminary smudging exercise, toured the former residential school
now repurposed by BQU for academic studies, administration and public awareness,
and discussed how visitors from mainstream society can advocate for and continue to
interact with BQU.

Walking tour and discussion
(October 14, 2018) North Saskatchewan River valley walking tour and discussion led by Lewis Cardinal, an indigenous actor, politician and booster for many local indigenous arts and cultural projects. We visited an outdoor art display reflecting “the stories of This Place”, created and installed by six artists with Canada 150 funding, to
show how indigenous people connect with the land in the river valley, a traditional place
for gathering, relationship building and commerce. Iniw, the Cree name for the Indigenous art park, is located on historic River Lot 11 within Queen Elizabeth Park, on land where originally lived Joseph McDonald, a Metis settler. Participants then crossed the North Saskatchewan River, itself a sacred water course, and visited a restored graveyard where First Nations, Metis and some white settlers were buried during the early 1800s, when Ft. Edmonton was located nearby on-site of the current EPCOR Rossdale Power Plant. This graveyard was forgotten by later generations after Ft. Edmonton was moved up-slope to its final location near the Alberta Legislative Building; it was partially covered by a roadway connecting to the Walterdale Bridge from the 1970s to early 2000s.

Upcoming Events
"Treaty Talk: Sharing the River of Life" (January 2019) view the film “Treaty Talk: Sharing the River of Life”, created in Saddle Lake / St. Paul by Patricia Makokis. A time of discussion would follow.

.Submitted by Robert Proudfoot, a TRAG member.

Reflections on Blanket Exercise during FMC’s June 4, 2017 Worship Service, by selected participants (left to right): Jim Shantz, Rebecca Janzen, Jessi Taves, Randy Haluza-Delay and Roger Epp. Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, Photographer.

Various participants at FMC’s Blanket Exercise on June 4, 2017. Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, Photographer.

Lewis Cardinal (left-centre at mid photo) chatting with various TRAG members at “Turtle” by Jerry Whitehead in Indigenous Art Park, during TRAG river valley walk October 14, 2018. Michael Buhr, Photographer.

“Iskotew” by Amy Malbeuf in Indigenous Art Park (INIW) on River Lot 11, with Rossdale Power Plant and Edmonton’s downtown skyline north across river in background, October 14, 2018. Michael Buhr, Photographer.