The music rang out in a penetrating chorus of voices calling around the big drum. The aroma of fresh salmon sizzling on the barbecue wafted through the streets. Friends, neighbours, curious onlookers and eager participants alike, we all enjoyed the festivities under the blessing of sunny skies during our sixth annual Aboriginal Celebration.
Lead by MC Kat Norris and head dancer Leslie Nelson, our colourful Entry of Nations included decorated WWII veteran Ron Davies carrying a Canadian flag, the amazing pow wow dancer Will "White Buffalo" Visser carrying the American flag, and a white-legged guy in Scottish tartan carrying a British flag (that would be me). This was our own small version of a "Grand Entry," the traditional start of every pow wow.
This year our aim again was to bring people together, shine a light on Aboriginal culture and bring awareness to the ongoing work of reconciliation. Particularly with the upcoming National Truth and Reconciliation event hosted here in Vancouver in September, we wanted to give our all to creating a space for non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal brothers and sisters to gather together for celebration and friendship in honour of First Nations culture on the eve of National Aboriginal Day.
As Ruth Adams, an elder from the Tswassen Nation told me, "The most beautiful thing about this is that it is the bringing together of many different peoples. There aren’t any other celebrations of this kind hosted by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organizations, together, that I know of."
And we had fun! Over 40 volunteers facilitated a large-scale salmon barbecue (100+ lbs worth), the many stage set-ups and performances, a children’s activity bus and several artisan booths. With more than 500 people attending that day, it was the biggest event that Mosaic and our project partner Hummingbird Ministries have ever undertaken. As we look back, it is important for us to ask whether we accomplished what we set out to. To this I would say a resounding yes!
In the long shadow cast by the enormous atrocity of a church-run Indian residential school system (and all other forms of colonization underpinned by the church), it behooves Christians to do everything possible to repent of the arrogance, abuse of trust, oppression and violence directed at Aboriginal people, both past and present.
And beyond repentance, we need to creatively and collaboratively work to rebuild what has been broken. We do this by seeking to honour, elevate and promote Aboriginal culture, worldview and spirituality. The magnitude of the destruction will only be redeemed by the magnitude of our efforts to heal.
It was a deep honour for myself, a non-Aboriginal person, to experience the voices, dancing, grace and humour of my Aboriginal friends, those who were guests that day and those who are a vital part of our community. And I hope and pray that they experienced the love, admiration and recognition they deserve. You see, our celebration of Aboriginal culture is not merely a show of appreciation for the diversity among us. It is an acknowledgement of an immeasurable cultural and human loss over centuries, and our intentional move to counter this.
So thank you, everyone who came and everyone who supported this important event. May the joy, love and excitement of June 15th carry forward into all that we do at Mosaic, and be felt in the lives and families of all who came.
For those of you in the Vancouver region, please watch for information about the upcoming National Truth and Reconciliation event on the PNE grounds September 2013. Let's grow and deepen its important work though our prayers and awareness.