The Honour Walk At MennoFolk

  DSC_3780This past weekend the Honour Walk was able to display an photo installation at MennoFolk, in Winnipeg, MB. The installation consisted of photos, a write up, the walkers shoes, walking sticks, the Honour Walk vehicle magnets, and tobacco gifted to us by aborignal friends along the way. The write up is shared below.

This write up was based on a portion the presentation the Honour Walk gave at the TRC.


ART INSTALLATION WRITE UP

The Honour Walk  consisted of a group of Christians from Winnipeg, Treaty 1 Territory. The 550 km walk began on March 8th at Stoney Knoll, Saskatchewan. It ended on March 27th at the sacred fire of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Edmonton, also know as Treaty 6 Territory.

DSC_3708Why walk so far? To honour and remember:

- the 150,000 Indigenous children who were separated from their communities and forced to attend Indian residential schools

- the many children who ran away from those schools, but never made it home

- survivors who have courageously spoken their truths and continue to do so

- Indigenous groups who have walked incredible distances for their communities and to bring awareness to current injustices

 

The idea for this walk came from a group of Christians connected to Student Christian Movement Manitoba, who for the past eight months have been exploring issues of building indigenous settler solidarity in Winnipeg. We walked to honour the many stories of survivors of the residential and day school systems. These include stories heard in Winnipeg, stories from the Young Chippewayan First Nation, Little Pine First Nation, Poundmaker Cree Nation and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation along with others during the walk. Lastly, this walk is to honour the many survivors stories were heard at the Edmonton TRC. We want to recognize these stories and chose a walk as one of the ways to remember and honour these living testimonies.

Although there were only four walkers, there were many in our home communities that commissioned us on their behalf. As we walked for twenty days, there were also groups of students and church communities back home that fasted and prayed to recognize residential and day school survivors. As a group, we represent communities that are wanting and needing to learn the history of residential schools and their ongoing impacts on indigenous communities across Canada.  As our group walked across treaty six, we further learned the difficult history of the residential schools through community gatherings and passer-bys who stopped to share their stories. We celebrated the strength and gifts of indigenous communities through ceremony and hospitality. We were also blessed by the many church communities who opened their doors for conversation on settler-indigenous issues, including discussion on residential schools, treaties, and land justice. Further, we were honoured with an invitation to present at the TRC and share our act of reconciliation. We offer gratitude for the many blessings along the way.

For those of us involved, whether we were walking or fasting or supporting in other ways, this a pilgrimage of listening and learning. These actions have been an opportunity for us to reflect on our own traditions and theologies that have legitimized the residential school system. These actions have been an opportunity to examine the ongoing colonial narrative that we as non-indigenous settlers continue to benefit from. And during the season of lent, these actions have been a time to lament the legacy of residential schools as we commit to work for right relationship with our indigenous brothers and sisters, with the creator, and with the land. As we learn to journey with our aboriginal neighbours, we invite you to join us.


The Installation was curated by Matt Vieth and Brandi Friesen Thorpe.

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The crowd at MennoFolk

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TRC Live Feed

Today Janelle TvE and myself watched (via live feed) as the Honour Walkers, and some of the Winnipeg supporters that met up with them in Edmonton, presented at the TRC. We are two proud wives!

For anyone who is interested, attached is the link for the live feed at the TRC.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE FEED LINK : http://www.livestream.com/trc_cvr?utm_source=lsplayer&utm_medium=embed&utm_campaign=footerlinks

We’ll update this post later with a direct video link and time stamp, so that you can witness the Honour Walk presentation as well.

 

What is an ‘outsider’?

A few days ago, an interviewer asked me what I thought of the residential schools, ‘being an “outsider”’. By calling me that, he was referring to me being from the Netherlands and moving to Winnipeg only three months ago. I came here so that my wife, who is from Winnipeg, could be with her family. I had thought of myself as a newcomer, but the term ‘outsider’ had not yet occurred to me. So during the interview I found myself wondering aloud whether or not I was one, and whether or not I could give the interviewer the outside perspective he was looking for.

In one obvious sense, I most definitely am an outsider: I have not experienced the residential schools. I do not know what it is like to be taken from your parents as a child, to be removed from life as you know it and to be raised in a loveless environment by teachers, nuns and priests whose aim is to take away your very identity. It is beyond what I can imagine. The only thing that I can do to learn is to listen to the stories of the survivors. It is their inside perspective and not any outside perspective that needs to be heard.

Over the last two weeks, we received hospitality from several First Nations: the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, the Poundmaker First Nation and the Little Pine Cree Nation. Their Elders entrusted us with the stories of their childhoods in the Residential School system. The stories were heartbreaking. We heard of a family that had five consecutive generations go through residential school, stories of horrible abuse and of trying to find healing. I am deeply grateful to the Elders who shared their stories, as they are profoundly affecting the way I am experiencing the country that surrounds us as we walk.

Taking the word ‘outsider’ in a very different way, I feel that calling myself by this name would be letting myself off the hook way too easily. I am not an outsider to colonialism at all: as a European and as a Christian, I am part of the culture that gave rise to the evil of colonialism. More specifically, my home country has a very bloody colonial history – there is absolutely nothing to be proud of there. So I also have to ask myself the questions that Canadian settlers who aspire to be allies to Indigenous people have to ask: whatever is it in our culture that made us think it was okay to do this, and what steps can we take to overcome that mentality?

The Residential Schools where one dramatic stage in a long history of dispossession; traditions and spirituality were taken away from Indigenous peoples as well as the land and its resources. Now that we’ve entered Alberta, the oil storage tanks that surround us serve as constant reminders that the colonial project has not stopped; it is still going on, at a great cost to the Earth.

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Having moved to Canada, I am now also making use of resources that were taken from this land. I am now also receiving many of the privileges that come with being a white settler in this country. Thus, the history of oppression and colonization in this land is becoming a history that I share. Even as a newcomer, I have a responsibility to learn and to take steps that might lead to healing. In this sense, I am not an outsider anymore.

- written by Laurens Thiessen van Esch (Walker)

Letter From the Wife of an Honour Walker

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Janelle and Laurens at the WInnipeg Honour Walk Send Off

As this walk is about love and relationships, one of the team’s supporters was willing to share part of their journey. This is an email letter from Janelle Theissen van Esch, to her husband Laurens. Laurens is one of the walkers and has currently been on the road for 22 days.

Dear Laurens,

Today at staff worship time there was a painting of our wedding passage, 1 Corinthians 13 presented as something that can help to motivate us:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I realised at that moment that I have been forgetting to be motivated by love. I have been forgetting to look at each person to see their beauty and I have definitely been forgetting to look at you and your journey with love. I was allowing the difficulty of being apart from you to stop me from seeing the reasons for your journey, which were clearer to me before you left. I haven’t been able to forget what you said to me, “at least you know that I am coming back”. I shared about it with the Settlers in Solidarity story-circle at CMU , not sparing anything including my defensive and frustrated response to your words. The fact is I do understand why you are walking, at least as much as I can. I am glad I can know that you are coming back to me and when.

I can’t imagine the utter desolation of being separated from everyone I hold dear, from my family and community, being forced into a place where I don’t experience love and in fact experience abuse and deprivation and then the desperation and courage that would cause a child to run into the countryside, perhaps not even knowing the direction only making a final attempt to find the place where they are loved.

Nor can I imagine being left behind and knowing I will probably never see my loved ones again. Knowing they are being taken away and being forced to forget me. Hearing that they died trying to get back to me.

I can’t imagine. And with all the love I have my heart breaks.I am glad you are walking to help people remember, to help me remember.

-written by Janelle TvE, Winnipeg faster and supporter

Honour Fast – Jared Redekop

Jared Redekop, at he Winnipeg Honour Walk send off

Jared Redekop, at the Winnipeg Honour Walk send off

As I was unable to do the Honour Walk with Brad, Anne, Laurens, and Nathan I decided to fast in solidarity as they walk, an honour fast. This is not a complete fast because it will last for just shy of 3 weeks. The fast is for 20 hours of the day, I only eat between 8-12 am.

When I skip my evening meal I do my best to pray for the walkers, for their safety, strength, meaningful connections and for the greater population to understand why they are walking. I also pray that there is healing for the survivors of the residential schools, for them to know that there are settlers that care for them, want to hear their stories, want their recognition and justice from the federal government and population at large.

There is still much pain and suffering that stems from these residential schools that has become generational trauma that sadly goes unnoticed, It pains me to hear from people who don’t know the history of the residential schools who say the natives need to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’. How can they when they don’t get the recognition, time or space to grief? I don’t claim to know much about residential schools or the many difficulty the natives face today but i do know that the Canadian government is silencing their voices. So I pray that this honour walk will help their voice to be heard. I hope our small act of walking and fasting will open up avenues for the native voices to be heard and honoured. I am a settler and still need to learn so much about and from the natives of our land.

This hasn’t been a complete fast and only has been going on for 12 days but I have learned so much, mainly we as Canadian middle class settlers live in extreme over-consumption without even knowing it. The first week I didn’t even get hungry for my usual 5:30 suppertime. I just felt like I need to eat being it was ‘suppertime’. I realize I eat because I am bored or when my routine tells me to. I do not need to eat all my meal to survive or very function at full capacity. I realized I have more energy in the evening when I skip supper then when I eat a large meal because I believe I usually over eat. I feel tied because my body has to digest all the extra food. It has sickened me at all the over consuming that I do just because I can, that I have the means, without me noticing it. I even went dumpster diving for the first time in the first few days of my fast and realized the amount of waste that our society produces. This was at Winnipeg harvest, the end of the line for our food, and yet still their garbage bins were overflowing with mostly eatable food. Why do we produce for much waste? This gets me thinking about how reserves don’t have the food choices I do and are completely under funded by our government all the while we are throwing away perfectly good food.

I have also been invited and gone to dinner engagements over my fasting period. It is a little strange and awkward sitting around the table full of food watching other eat while just have a drink. That is when it is hard to say no to food, because I feel like a bad guest but I know, sadly, that their are millions in Canada, maybe billions of people around the world that had to go hungry and they don’t have the option. I pray that their hungry bellies will be satisfied. While being at other people’s houses I have been able to tell them why I am fasting and hopefully they join the cause for healing and reconciliation for the residential school survivors and their families.

- written by Jared Redekop, faster in Winnipeg

 
Jared Redekop, at he Winnipeg Honour Walk send off

March 14 – Little Pine First Nation and Poundmaker Cree Nation

 

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Christine and Sekwun joining the walk from Poundmaker to Little Pine (Below)

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Walkers traveling from Poundmaker Cree Nation to Little Pine First Nation are greeted with a drum circle.

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A ceremony and community banquet for residential school survivors and the walkers held at Chief Little Pine School.

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It was a gift to be invited to share a meal, partake in a round-dance, and witness the strengths of these two communities.

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Deep thanks to all those who shared their stories with us.

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Also a special thank-you to Reilly and Sekwun for coordinating the community gathering and hosting us overnight.

 

Honour Walk Photos – Day Two to Six

The first week of our walk was an opportunity to encounter the beauty of the prairies as we walked the quiet country roads with rollings hills.  Abandoned settler homes and churches from the not so distant past dotted the landscape. Despite the chilly weather weeks prior, the first days of our walk came with above seasonal temperatures. For the group of walkers, this week was an opportunity to have some fun together. It was also an opportunity to quiet ourselves with the land as we reflected on the opening stories of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and Stoney Knoll.

- Ann, Brad (Walkers)

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General Updates

A little bit about everything!

  1. Walkers Update – I spoke to the walkers yesterday — spirits are high, bodies are slightly sore, and the journey continues with blessings. Friday night they were able to stay at Little Pines First Nation and were honoured with a dinner and a breakfast. Saturday was a warm walk, and the walkers were able to stay at the Maidenstone United Church
  2. Track the Walk – If you want to track the  walkers, check out walk map — click here for the link!
  3. Lodging Locations – I am happy to announce that we only have ONE location left to book, March 22nd in Ranfurly. If you have contacts, or are willing to host in these areas, contact Brandi Friesen Thorpe at brandi.j.thorpe@gmail.com
  4. Winnipeg Events – Local events in Winnipeg start this Monday night! Click here for more info!
  5. Share Your Story – This journey is about learning about loving and honouring our aboriginal neighbours, honoring the living stories of residential schools deliberating and discerning the implications of of privilege and colonialism,  pursuing justice, confronting the churches history of harm in aboriginal communities, and much more. If you have been on this journey with us, have experienced questions and revelations, share it with us. (email brandi.j.thorpe@gmail.com or leave a comment) We are interested in sharing how you journey with us. Expect reflections from the wider community in the weeks to come.

Posted by Brandi Friesen Thorpe, Winnipeg Supporter