Lori Abraham sets out a ring of chairs, and, at the front of a lodge, sets a brown basket with a bundle of sage, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco, and an abalone shell and cloth for smudging. It’s the end of August, and she’s at Forks Niizhoziibean in Winnipeg, preparing for a sharing circle. Soon, about 20 Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants will gather to reflect and plan how to bring teachings to their communities.
“To me, I want [settlers] to be on that journey with us,” said Abraham, who is the Indigenous cultural program director at 1JustCity, a network of local United Church-related outreach ministries. “I invite them to come, to sit with us. I invite them to come learn with us, to heal with us. [Indigenous people] are not the only ones that need to heal, from a lot of things that have happened in Canada for hundreds of years. It is not just our community that needs healing.”
Since 1JustCity began hosting the circles in July, participants have come together in a safe space, where what is shared in the circle stays within the circle. About half the participants are Indigenous, including residential school survivors. The group is continuing to meet, aiming for twice a month.
Colleen Matthews, an Anglican Church member, spoke of how this was her third time attending the circle. “It is hearing the stories,” she said, when asked why the experience has been valuable. “I am dealing with the damage my church did to the Indigenous people.”
“When I think about ‘reconciliation’ as a word and the way Canada uses ‘reconciliation’ as a word, it doesn’t mean much,” Abraham said. “But when I think about resurgence, when I think about our children and the women…. When I think where we need to go and who is going to lead the way to get there, that is what I think about — our children and our women…leading the way towards healing.”
Vivian Ketchum is a writer and member of the Wauzhushk Onigum Nation, living in Winnipeg.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s December 2021 issue with the title “Sharing their stories.”
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