On April 12, the non-profit organization Reconciliation Canada brought together 60 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with different religions and beliefs to explore the spiritual dimension of the process of reconciliation. Three Baha’is were invited to attend the gathering at Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba.
The participants, diverse in culture, religion and age, joined together in a three-day gathering of prayer and traditional ceremony. Many agreed that the process of reconciliation would be slow, with significant barriers, if we ignore fundamental issues of human nobility and our care for the earth.
Those gathered were Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Sikh, and many from a range of different Indigenous traditions. Participants discussed how spiritual concepts, such as love, trust, and justice, can contribute to efforts at reconciliation. Stories were shared, in and out of the sessions, about the bitter tone that can surface in conversations about reconciliation if these concepts and qualities are ignored.
Karen Joseph, Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Canada, said the idea for this event emerged from an understanding of the sources of resilience from which different persecuted communities have drawn. In one conversation a Jewish participant noted how the most constructive responses to oppression and genocide, and the greatest displays of resilience by individuals and communities, seem to be grounded in spiritual belief and practice.
During another part of the program, participants sitting in a circle with others were encouraged to ask questions and share their reflections about reconciliation. One of the first questions raised was about the relationship between reconciliation and sovereignty. Deloria Bighorn, one of the Baha’i participants, and Chairperson of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, said, “The honour of one is the honour of all. All people want sovereignty. What we need is to move forward in a way that helps all.” The importance of the interconnectedness of all people, in Canada and beyond, was voiced time and again. Reconciliation Canada’s own position of Namwayut roughly translates to “Oneness of all people.”
In an impromptu offering of a traditional adoption ceremony, a few non-Indigenous participants were adopted into Indigenous nations. The significance, shared by the Elders at Turtle Lodge, was that all Canadians should see themselves as belonging to the land, and as bearing a responsibility for its stewardship. “Reconciliation” Elder Dave Courchene noted, “includes reconciling with the land; Mother Earth that provides for all our physical needs”. Elders spoke frequently of the significance of sacred ceremonies, some of which were conducted as part of the event, and how their conscious practice elicits a humble and respectful posture towards the land and to other human beings.