"FEAST" to Connect - UPDATED

Towards the end of June 2018, Indigenous Justice Ministry Coordinator for the Diocese of New Westminster, Jerry Adams (Jerry’s Nisga’a’ name is Nii K’an Kwsdins {loosely translated - of the Rainbow}) sent out a number of emails to First Nations leaders and organizations and to some clergy and lay of our diocese inviting them to a “Gathering for Meet and Greet of Our Communities”. The get together scheduled from 12-2pm on St. James’ Day, July 25 would be within the context of an informal “Feast”. The event to be held at the Synod Office on the green space between the Synod Office buildings and St. John’s, Shaughnessy with many of the components of the Feast including: songs, drumming, stories, greetings, blessings and opportunities to learn from one another and share a meal.

Jerry’s invitation began with this quote from Chief Bobby Joseph:

"True reconciliation, fundamentally, is about relationships. It means that you and I can coexist in mutual respect and all of us can afford each other dignity…”

Jerry went on to say:   

“We always have requests to come to work-related gatherings, but hardly ever do we gather to just share a meal and get to know each other. The Diocese of New Westminster would like to create that opportunity for our community and our neighbouring Indigenous communities to come together.”

The response to Jerry’s invitation was very positive and by the time the RSVP deadline of July 15 rolled around he had heard back from a large majority of invitation recipients, many said they would attend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018, The Feast of St. James’s was a beautiful day with nary a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the high 20s. Approximately 50 were in attendance and that group consisted of: diocesan clergy and lay, folks involved in indigenous ministry, representatives of organizations promoting reconciliation and others.

The agenda was brief and informal. Jerry was the MC and he began the Feast at 12noon by welcoming the group and introducing Archbishop Melissa Skelton who added her words of welcome and words of gratitude to those who were in attendance. Jerry next introduced Ian Campbell (Sim'oogit), hereditary chief and elected councillor of the Squamish Nation who also wants to become the next mayor of Vancouver. He is running as the Vision candidate in the upcoming election, October 20, 2018. In a brief address he shared that he was delighted to be at an event with people who had gathered as part of their commitment:

“to effect positive change…to come together with one heart and one mind. We have a lot to be grateful for today, for it is a beautiful day that we can come together in such a beautiful place in the world. I am truly honoured, and always humbled to see the open minds, the good feelings in our hearts, and the beauty that can be created by coming together in peace, unity and strength.”

The next speaker was Shelley Joseph (Kwakwaka’wakw name Hekwa’gila’owgwa), the youngest daughter of Chief Bobby Joseph and Community Engagement Liaison for Reconciliation Canada. Her address focused on children and how the true message communicated to her by her Auntie that “God is Love” was certainly not communicated to those who suffered in the Indian Residential School system. However, she pointed out that even as a child when she was with her dad, attending events with “traditional leaders, who were so angry at the church and shaking their fists, I knew inside me that God is Love.” She then shared another teaching that she received from her Auntie:

“a lot of our older people really took to the church and to the Bible, because the beliefs…are the same… just taught in a different way, and when I understood that, even later as a teenager, that all of us all around the world are given different ways of connecting to the Creator, connecting to God and connecting to the land…and once we can understand that, it is easier for us to have these dialogues that lead to connections and relationships among us, knowing that we have the same connection to Spirit which ultimately connects us.”

Squamish Elder Bob Baker (Squamish Ancestral name is S7aplek, Hawaiian name is Lanakila)is co-founder and Spokesperson for Spakwus Slolem (Eagle Song). He was joined by an Eagle Dancer and by Ian Campbell in presenting a number of songs and dances. He gave the history of his ancestral name and some history highlighting the connections of the Squamish peoples to the other Coast Salish peoples in the region.  He also offered the traditional welcome to the territory and a blessing.

At 1pm there was a performance by the Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga'a Dancers led by Jerry’s nephew Wal-aks Keane Tait. Jerry, wife Linda and daughter Melissa are members of the dance group. Wal-aks Keane Tait offered information about the songs and dances which helped those in the audience understand the symbolism being expressed through dance and song.  He told the group that the Anglican Church through missionaries had had a considerable effect on Nisga’a’ culture following the arrival of the settlers and the imposition of government regulations on the Nisga’a’, banning the potlatch and their language. The Anglican prayer books and hymn books and the Bible had been translated into Nisga’a’ language and that helped contribute to the survival of the language.

Before the lunch was served a blessing was offered by Joe and Joyce Fossella of Warriors Against Violence. The lunch was catered by Salmon ‘n’ Bannock Bistro located on Broadway just a few blocks south and east of the Synod Office.  The sandwiches were made with fresh vegetables and cold cuts processed from elk and buffalo between bannock biscuits. The sandwiches received rave reviews.

During lunch folks sat together, made new friends and renewed old acquaintances, and after a time that for many seemed all too brief Jerry called the attention back to the microphone introducing his friend Rose and Rick Lavallee who offered a song. Rick was for many years the Native Police Liaison Constable for the Vancouver Police Department and for even more years Jerry Adams sat on the Vancouver Police Advisory Board.

The program component of the Feast ended with a drum circle led by the Urban Aboriginal Ministries group based out of St. Mary Magdalene, located in the VGH neighbourhood and under the ordained leadership of the Reverend Vivian Seegers. Archbishop Melissa Skelton and the Reverend Michael Batten joined the circle as Rev. Seegers encouraged everyone to participate in the “Deer Song” and “Cedar Tree”.

The Feast for Connection concluded with a few words and prayers from the Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of New Westminster, the Venerable Douglas Fenton who is Métis.

When asked how he thought the Feast for Connection event went, Jerry’s response displayed the calm wisdom and brevity that those of us who know him have come to respect and expect… “It was a good start.”

IMAGES

  • Archbishop Skelton joins in with the Urban Aboriginal Ministries (UAM) Drum Circle led by one of their younger members
  • Ian Campbell
  • Jerry Adams introduces Shelley Joseph
  • A member of Spakwus Slolem Wal-aks
  • Keane Tait and the Eagle Dance
  • Feathers
  • Lunch
  • Rose and Rick Lavallee
  • The UAM Drum Circle with guests

Many more photos with captions available at Anglican Conversation, the Facebook Page of the Diocese of New Westminster