On Wed, Jan. 11, the Coming Home Society and Urban Native Youth Association hosted a community feast. More than twelve St. James’ parishioners and many others, including staff and youth, enjoyed a meal of traditional food – salmon & wild rice with local vegetables as well as bannock pudding for dessert. The feast was held to celebrate and give thanks for the Wisdom of Elders program.

From youth in the program, we heard about its beneficial impact. The word “blessing” was heard reciprocally – staff member to youth, as well as youth to staff member. For many participants, this was their first opportunity to learn the language and wisdom of Aboriginal People, to participate in and learn the rituals, spiritual practices and traditional skills of their heritage. A highlight was canoeing in summer and, during the winter while canoes sleep, youth enjoyed carving their own paddles. Activities also included medicine walks, making salve, drums, medicine bags – all of which involved time with an elder, learning new skills while discovering the values and creeds of the culture for which they had no previous opportunities to learn from their own upbringing.

Doing things, acquiring traditional skills and language are all part of every person’s identity. Being a person is about the interior life. Being is knowing where you come from – your ancestors and their geographical places. It was very impressive to hear the youth and staff members introduce themselves and the location of their ancestors in the language of their people. They demonstrated powerfully the beauty of human language. Many nations were represented: Musqueam, Coast Salish, Gitxan, Anishinabe, Metis, Russian, Scottish, Maltese, Cree. To be grounded with our ancestors and place is to understand who we are.

Many of us occupy a place of privilege in society, and to our detriment, we take these matters for granted. We need again and again to remember where we came from – our families, our communities, our Creator. These young people with roots amongst the Aboriginal People, eager to learn about their culture, invite us to look freshly at our values, our people, to whom and where we belong. Their gratitude and inclusiveness promises to make all reconciliation efforts rich for all.

Deacon Joyce Locht