I found the First Nations ‘representation’ concept interesting and in some ways relevant. Aside from their not making eye-contact as a show of respect, I too feel that the contents of a first impression are much more valuable than the presentation of ones self. It’s really cool to learn of their values though, and how I could possibly adapt them into my own life or at least challenge my own values and morals based on theirs.
In reaction to the Firs Nations land, I only ever knew what other people would tell me. That we’ve stolen their land, and they hate us and just want their land back and are stealing our tax money. But learned first hand, what is really going on. It opened up my eyes and not only reminded me how naïve I am, but it gave me a stronger appreciation and sympathy level for them. I learned that since they believe that they belong to the land they had never had a concept of ownership before. But now, because of our force, they must adopt this policy. And I think I’ve created a way that I can best understand this vicious cycle that they are living in and it goes like this:
First Nations people can only maintain their culture as Status Natives if they live on a reserve, if they live on a reserve they cannot own any land because it is seen as government owned land (Federal), if they want to own their own land they must leave the reserve, if they leave the reserve they are sacrificing a big part of their culture.
What a horrible cycle to be stuck in –all just to live out their heritage, their history, their culture. I can’t imagine living in such a way with regards to my faith.
The second night we joined with six First Nations elders for a healing/sharing circle. This is a time for people in the circle to share what’s on their hearts, what they feel the Creator wishes them to share. For us, it was a time to be more of an observing audience, but they seemed to have slightly different plans. It’s almost impossible to find words to explain what went on that night. Beyond all the smoke and waving of eagle feathers, these elders had some great wisdom that they were happy to share with us. Some of it raised a few eyebrows as it clashed with many of our Christian beliefs, but amidst this like I said before, we were able to have an open heart to what they wanted to say and God was able to use them to speak powerful words to each one of us.
To begin, one of the students sat in the Medicine Man’s (Uncle Norbert’s) chair, but he told the student that he could. To the other elders, this was quite prophetically powerful. As they later learned that the student was from the same territory as the Medicine Man, they saw that he would be a great leader when he grows up. There was so much power in this for the First Nations people.
Midway through the night, as an elder share his personal past addictions with alcohol, another student couldn’t hold back their tears as they could relate in some way to this. Farey ‘The Love Lady’ later spoke on how wonderful it is that the student shared those tears with the rest of us. After she continued with a speech to the student, she asked for all the elders to share some two-sentences of wisdom that they felt the student needed to hear. As they did, it was clear that it not only affected the one student, but all of us. As tears were being shed by many, the words of wisdom were heard by others in the room that needed to hear them for themselves (as we later learned during a debrief session). This was very powerful and despite some of the elder’s beliefs, God used them still as the affected student reflected, “Who but God knows our thoughts? No one. They didn’t even know me, but knew just want I needed to hear.”
It was impossible not to feel loved in this place. From the moment we walked in, there was a real sense of God, a complete sensation of true love. And as Farey shared throughout the evening, you could tell she was just so full of love –she even told us, all of us, each one of us, that she loves us. It’s no wonder that with comments from her like “You have arms to hug with, a voice to say ‘I Love You’ with, you have these things, everyone has these things, use them” that another student was led to share in our debrief exactly what they felt.
“I saw real genuine love tonight, something that Christians speak so highly of but rarely actually have. I’ve never felt that kind of love from any Christian group before, and if I ever had to choose, I’d much rather join their type of lifestyle and belief system than Christians because they’ve got it, they’re real, and that’s what everyone needs.”
It was a slap in the face –something that was so necessary to be said. I wish he could slap the face of every hypocritical Christian out there. I thank God for his raw words of honesty.
Our week continued on as we visited the Charlie Longhouse where a man, Kelsey Charlie, who had just hosted a funeral the day before and wasn’t expecting us at all, welcomed us into his home with open arms. As he started up the fire hoping to warm his home for his new guests, he shared with great excitement of his family’s history, the traditions they had, and the stories that are the foundation of their territory as the Chehalis tribe. Kelsey felt so comfortable and respected by our group that he wanted to show us his great grandfathers’ pit homes, where they use to live underground. What an honour it was that he wanted to share this part of his family’s heritage with us –something he would rarely ever do with a group.
As we were told by Brander, Uncle Herman (one of the elders from the healing circle) said that he’s never been so happy at a healing circle before. And our good friend Tim, who helped co-ordinate this week for us, shared that the opportunities that we encountered this week were one of a kind. He told us that we followed through with many missionaries broken promises to participate and learn from their culture. We represented so much more than just a small school group. We helped to bring restoration by paying respect to this beautiful culture that so many are quick to reject.
We had the incredible opportunity to be invited to join the Chehalis in celebrating the new year. We indulged in some Salmon, and sat and watched many dances and songs –ever being welcomed to join in at one point. No textbook can give a student the education that these experiences gave us. We were never supposed to be there, but at the last minute we were invited –they wanted to share their culture with us. Near the end of the celebration, as children ran to our group and gave us gifts of fruit, artwork and peach jam, the man on the microphone expressed the entire groups appreciation that we joined them, and how pleased they were to share their culture with us. Surely, we were the blessed ones. What an honour it was –to be shown such love, generosity and hospitality. Despite some of the elders and First Nations belief systems, I ask myself which one of us would be more easily recognized as living the life that God calls everyone to live. It hurts to say, that probably more First Nations people are living this life than most Christians who believe in the God they claim to be following.
How do we obtain this lifestyle, this love that we talk of but rarely act out? What does it truly look like? And how do we break from our selfish moulds to selflessly love the way we’re called to. Even those who don’t believe in God can do it, so what’s stopping us?