Reflection on an Ecumenical Solidarity Visit to Chief Spence

Epiphany Sunday
January 6, 2013

We came to Victoria Island with an arrangement to meet her, but travelling gently knowing that her strength and health were tested. We wanted our solidarity to be gift and not burden. When we arrived, we were told she was resting, but we were warmly welcomed around the sacred fire by her supporters. As our intention had been to offer prayers, we were offered the space to do so and we opened into a large circle in front of her teepee. The falling snow felt like blessing, as we stood in a circle—diverse peoples and traditions.

The Reverend Andrew Wesley, priest and elder, began in Cree with prayers in the four directions. And then the circle was opened to prayers in any language and from all sacred paths. Some of us had paper, but we relied more on silence and the words of our hearts as we prayed for Chief Spence, for our leaders, for our country, for one another. People spoke of their yearnings for justice, for peace, for truth, for reconciliation and for unity. Andrew and his partner Esther offered a song in Cree and you could hear humming around the circle as some tried to add their voice. We closed by passing peace and justice to one another, shaking hands pulled warm out of mittens.

Before we left we added tobacco to the sacred fire and left gifts: two pouches of tobacco, a blanket from the 2001 Jubilee land rights action, and a banner from the 2011 UN Declaration action. It was only after we left that I realized they came from the four directions—the blanket from the West, a pouch of Tobacco from the East, a banner from the North and more Tobacco from close by in the South.

Once again I felt, as I have since this movement began, that something was breaking open and a path of right relation was being revealed. And I felt unexpected joy, worry, yes, for the health of Chief Spence, grief for the injustices of the past and the present, determination not to let this kairos moment—this moment of change—be lost, but also joy. At the last KAIROS Indigenous Rights Circle I learned a teaching about “journeying to where we belong.” I am wondering if, as a country, we are beginning that journey, helped by friends around the world. Something has begun, something is renewed, something is being revealed and I am grateful. And I am hopeful.



On a Cold Hushed Island

On a cold hushed island under falling snow,
stands a small encampment round a fire’s glow,
and the sweet grass cleanses all who come and go!
Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya-hey, hey-yo.

Here the welcome’s easy, though the burden’s great,
as a chief lies sleeping in her weakened state,
in a teepee dreaming of her people’s fate.
Ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey-ya, yo-hey.

To this humble circle have we come to pray;
in the sight of Parliament cross the Ott’wa bay,
that our mingled voices might the powers sway!
Ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey-ya, yo-hey.

To the Great Creator in this time of woe,
give your peoples courage, let our prayers o’er flow;
‘til all live in dignity and in friendship grow!
Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya-hey, hey-yo.

Words:  Read Sherman © January 8, 2012
Tune: King’s Weston 11 11 11 11 (When a Star Is Shining #97 VU)

Dedication: To Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat nation, and all who work towards right relations and justice between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.


Filed in: Indigenous Rights, Spirited Reflections


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