Gibimishkaadamin is a yearly canoe trip of Indigenous and Non Indigenous Youth from across the country held in August. The youth gathered in Toronto this past weekend and we shared in worship together. What follows is remarks from trip leader Joe McGill, trip participant William Miller and Rev. Karen Bowles.
Thank you to Karen Bowles for inviting me to share with all of you today some reflections on Gibimishkaadimin.
Many more people today are taking the time to more fully introduce themselves before publicly speaking and I will begin in the same fashion with a personal twist. I have no knowledge of a traditional language in which to introduce myself so I can’t give credibility to my heritage in that way. I can say that my father was a Canadian of Scottish and Irish heritage and that my mother was of Onondaga and English heritage. My father played the ‘bagpipes’ and my mother was a ‘half-breed.’ Both have had a very strong influence on my life. My name is Joseph William McGill. William from my father and Joseph from that really cool guy with the colourful coat in the Bible, also the colourful life story. This introducing of myself could be so much longer but you can be thankful that I have other things to talk about today.
Let me introduce Gibimishkaadimin 2018 to you. It doesn’t begin with the youth, it began with the YOU.
People who are brother and sister, neighbours, lovers, grandmothers, and grandchildren and people who find comfort but more importantly learning and challenges in the work of God, sometimes called the Love of God. Love of God, love of goodness, love of Gibimishkaadimin. That’s how I would like to say it may have begun and where it was expressed on the journey together was Love, love, love.
So there they were, these youth from across the land, from Turtle Island you brought them together at Bear Island on Temagami Lake so they could experience a new love. Did it look like this when they started out. Absolutely not. It looked like a bunch of really scared kids, I mean scared kids wishing nobody would look at them, nobody would ask them to lift a canoe, jump in the water (Oh yes, I forgot fly in a small plane), eat food prepared in a camp kitchen or sleep on a wooden platform. These were all of the easier parts of the trip. What happened was that with the guidance of youth leaders, camp leaders and adult leaders they found that they loved lifting a canoe, loved the lake and the bush, loved food that is best eaten immediately after it comes off the fire and importantly they began to love one another. Not fall in love, not that romantic and silly summer love, the Love of God love, the love of creation and sharing creation and appreciating creation and thanking creation. Quite simply they engaged in acts of Love.
They remained ENGAGED in this love, this process, this travelling together and sharing of their stories. Some stories of joy, some of great sadness, maybe some healing but most certainly some acknowledgement of hurt.
Gibimishkaadimin, travelling together by water, engaged in a love of the land, and a love of new companionships. It feels like a beautiful story that we can just listen to but it is a call to ENGAGE ever more deeply, non-indigenous children, youth, and elders engaging more fully with indigenous children, youth and elders on busses, subways, and Ubers, in churches, schools, friendship centres, business meetings, and Yoga classes by making eye contact, listening, listening, listening, crying and laughing. I would ask everyone here to engage your neighbour, your cousin, your mother, your hair stylist, your doctor, and yes even your stranger in conversation and in those times try to bring Gibimishkaadimin into the conversation. Tell them it is a wonderful project because it is but also take time to ask them what else they think might be a wonderful project. What would they love to do? You can even begin this conversation after the service today and I hope that you will.
I would like to thank you for all you have done in making Gibimishkaadimin 2018 a successful journey, and a life giving experience for the Youth. I say thank you to those youth, to my fellow leaders, to the organizing committee, to our hosts this weekend, and to Creator God for all that I have. Miigwetch.
Reconciliation, a word that means many things to many people, to many people who don’t know what the word means they assume Reconciliation is an apology and that’s it is a one and done fix.
But the word reconciliation itself means “the Resurrection of friendly relations.” And though Apologies come hand-in-hand with restoring friendly relations, that is not the end when it comes to reconciliation. When a child is told by an adult to apologize for a Wrong they have done to another person, and they do not sincerely mean it, the words spoken are turned cold and leave the two farther apart than before.
That is what has happened with the government federal apology.
That is the reason why reconciliation is important for Canada. The words that have been spoken are still cold amongst Canadians today. In 2008 when Stephen Harper made a statement of apology to former students of Indian residential school on behalf of the Canadian government a lot of people thought that would solve the problem and this apology would magically solve a life time of cultural genocide. Though our words are one of the most powerful tool that God has given us, without action, words are pointless.
James 2:14-17 speaks of this message:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Though the government has apologized for the wrong things they have done to Indigenous peoples, they still continue to deny many Indigenous communities with the basic Human rights we take for granted every day. Communities like Shoal Lake who have been on a boil water advisory for 17 years are still denied clean drinking water and many communities lack access to basic health care and have to be flown out to seek medical treatment and many community still lack schools to provide their youth with high school educations, forcing them to leave their families and community to seek a higher education.
Though the truth about Indian residential schools and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples is being made known, the work of healing has just begin. The gap in today’s society between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is still visibly present and can be seen today in our schools, places of work, communities and even how our city’s population is divided.
We as a people need to stand together to restore friendly relations amongst Canadians as a whole.
Reconciliation is not just about the Indigenous population. Reconciliation is about all peoples, bringing people of all walks of life no matter their age, ethnicity, religious views, sexual orientation and everything that has ever and ever will divide people – the door is open to all, so that we as a people can bring warmth to our words and live in right relations with all.
Rev. Karen Bowles
Reading 2: 2 Corinthians 5: 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
And to be reconciled to God we must be reconciled with one another
The TRC definition of reconciliation:
“. . . Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”
And that is what this project called ‘Gib’ is all about. – learning from one another through story and shared experience. But I would also like to mention 2 other reasons on this day. The work of the Church and each one of us should always be about the work of reconciliation as followers of Jesus. We hear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians this, the gospel for today from The Message:
16-20 Now, we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from God who settled the relationship between us and God, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with God through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
Christians are required to reconcile themselves to one another, to be in right relationship with one another and thus with God. And we get this from the example of the life and teachings of Jesus.
And secondly it is about learning from one another – any learning that makes understanding larger, that causes heads and hearts to open and perspectives to shift toward one another and widens and deepens our spirituality is good and right.
One of the traditions of the Haudenosaunee people is to give what is called The Thanksgiving Address at the beginning of every gathering – it is an invocation of gratitude and in the onondaga language it is translated as the words that come before all else. I have put copies at the back of the church if you would like to study this teaching further.
It begins with words like these:
‘Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.’
It goes on to enumerate and give thanks to all the natural world – its form and its function. It has been widely shared, in many versions and has been published in over 40 languages and is to be shared, in the words of an Haudenosaunee elder with all people, otherwise how can it work?
Such a litany is, in the words of one writer ‘a credo for a culture of gratitude, a reminder that every day beginning with where our feet touch the earth, we send greetings and thanks to all members of the natural world.’ And there is no better to cultivate gratitude for mother nature than to be immersed in it, as these youth have done in their time together this past summer.
Toward the end is this call for thanks:
‘We now turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greeting and thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are one.’
We are each called to this ministry of reconciliation. The address ends with words like these:
‘We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of the things we have named, it is not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way. And now our minds are one.’
And so we now will consider the question I spoke of at the outset of this morning – out of what you bring with you and what you have heard and learned today, what is one gratitude you will take with you? I invite your participation.