The Stoney Nakoda First Nation west of Calgary, Alberta was host in May to a book launch for Equals and Partners: A Spiritual Journey Toward Reconciliation and Oneness, Wazin Îchinabi, a new memoir by southern Alberta author Patricia Verge. Wazin Îchinabi is the Stoney-Nakoda word for oneness.
The teachings of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, were first introduced to the Stoney Nakoda people in the 1950s.
“People came to the launch who were descendents of those early Baha’is, who had recognized the principles of the oneness of humanity and the importance of cultural diversity,” said Mrs. Verge. “It was so heartwarming.”
The event, which drew over 50 people, was held in a teepee-shaped room at Nakoda Elementary School on the reserve. The program included prayers in Stoney Nakoda and English, Indigenous drumming, a stew and bannock supper, visiting and storytelling from the book. As well, Daryl Kootenay, one of the drummers who is a faculty member at the Banff Centre for Indigenous Leadership, read the message from National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, which was sent to the Canadian Baha’i community on the bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s birth last October. In the message, Mr. Bellegarde stated that “Baha’u’llah taught the importance of unity and justice among all peoples regardless of their race or faith. This message resonates deeply with First Nations peoples…”
Mrs. Verge, who is of Irish and Croatian descent and has known members of the Stoney Nakoda Nation for over 35 years, said she chose the form of memoir to write the Baha’i history of the reserve because she realized how much her own spiritual journey had been entwined with Indigenous people. She also realized that, as a non-Indigenous person, she had a responsibility to learn the true history of the settlement of Canada to promote change that would lead to true reconciliation. To do this, she undertook to reflect on the history as well as spiritual prerequisites for unity and justice.
Equals and Partners describes Baha’i activity over several decades and, importantly, the beginnings of the implementation of programs of the Ruhi Institute, a worldwide training program developed among the Indigenous peoples of South America, which seeks to empower every population to take charge of its own spiritual, material and social development.
Equals and Partners is available through FriesenPress.