Monday, May 24, 2010

Releasing Forgiveness Tour, Flying Dust, May 18th, 2010

Fr. John Zunti OMI from La Loche, Fr. Paul Guzman, pastor of Meadow Lake and I attended this event which was held on the Flying Dust First Nation. This meant traveling down from Patuanak for me and from Beauval for Fr. John. The agenda was simple: prayer by and elder, a meal, entertainment by coutnry gospel award winner Yvonne St. Germaine, a grand entry with a drum group, eagle staff and flags, messages by dignitaries, some sharing by survivors, comments by non-aboriginal participants, a candle-light ceremony and presentation of a charter of forgiveness that will be taken to Ottawa for a national event in June. The event was a unique blend of traditional and Christian spirituality which in itself speaks of reconciliation and respect. This tour is traveling across the country to set the stage for the national event in Ottawa where the message that will be communicated to the Prime Minister by the First Nations peoples involved is: "We forgive you."

A large crowd of folks from Flying Dust and the surrounding area gathered for this event that began of course with a catered meal. For me it was like a homecoming as i knew people from most of the areas from which them came, such as Red Pheasant, Loon Lake, Canoe Narrows, La Loche, Waterhen and the Flying Dust community, to name some.

The elementary school grades of the local Flying Dust School sang the Oh Canada in Cree, and were invited to do so in Ottawa.

Former FSI Chief Lawrence Joseph, who was recently awarded an honorary doctor of Canon Law degree by the Emmanuel Chad College at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, spoke eloquently of his hopes for the future through the power of forgiveness. He mentioned that the residential School was a blessing for him as his family was mired in poverty. He also mentioned the impact that the visit by former National Chief Phil Fontaine to Pope Benedict in Rome had on him as he witnessed the pope praying over cultural symbols that in the past were seen as pagan. Developments such as these and this event filled him with hope for the future.

Former chef Kevin Blacksmith from Quebec was the inspiration behind the tour. He explained that the purpose for the tour was bigger than simply to respond to the apology by Prime Minister Harper in 2008, though it included that element. The deeper purpose was to promote forgiveness as the best way to heal, to move beyond victimhood, and to open the way to a brighter and better future.

Marcie Merasty was the one who took the initiative to organize this event for our area after experiencing it elsewhere.

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