Tuesday, April 18, 2006

First Nations' Voices -- Canada, Colombia

Dear friends,

For those who celebrate them, I hope that your Holy Week, Passover, or celebration of Mohammed's birthday, Al-Mawlid, were meaningful and strengthening.

Here is a reflection from Sandra Rincón, a Colombian who participated in a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to visit First Nations people in Ontario. Her essay raises the question for each of us: What prevents us from seeing each as brother, sister?

What prevents us from moving beyond supportive beliefs to acting in solidarity?

May our voice of hope never be silenced.

Yours for grace and peace,

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

CPTnet | 15 April 2006
By Sandra Rincón
translated by Duane Ediger

[Note: The following reflection by Rincón has been edited for length. People wishing to see the full reflection may request it from kkcpt@earthlink.net .]

"We are Anishnaabe. The Creator gave us this land to take care of, land sacred to us because it gives us life." These words of a First Nations Elder in Canada awakened in my heart the pulse and voice of my South American indigenous ancestors.

Fourteen men and two women, with ages totaling nearly a thousand years, shared about their lives and struggles with a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation in Grassy Narrows, Ontario, in March 2006. The wisdom transmitted by each Anishnaabe has borne their nation's life, culture and traditions for more than 13,000 years. It sent chills up and down my spine, especially as I remembered with sadness all the indigenous wisdom lost in my home country of Colombia.

"We were removed from our homes, taken far from our parents and grandparents, far away from our nation." I frequently hear the voices of Anishnaabe and other First Nations men and women in Canada who survived Residential Schools, where they "learned" religion, math and English. But they refused to forget their loved ones' faces or the smell of home-cooked food, and shed millions of tears hoping for a quick exit to freedom.

The idea behind the schools was to impose on thousands of Anishnaabe a certain way of thinking and seeing the world. But the wisdom of their culture and history kept calling out from their hearts, saying, "you must be who you are: Anishnaabe." The same call gives me a longing to know who I am.

The voices I hear are also those of Anishnaabe women: beautiful, strong, powerful, sensitive, sweet, brilliant; mothers, wives, daughters, nieces, Anishnaabe. The spiritual strength given these women by the Creator has allowed them to persist in the long struggle for their nation.

That same struggle exists in Colombia, and it has been for me a source of energy, pride and hope. It has its origin in different world views. Most people see their planetary home in fragments. Dams, lumber, gold, oil, uranium, fertile lands. For the First Nations, on the other hand, "it is impossible to possess something we have not created."

As this struggle has unfolded, the lands and lives of many First Nations have been snatched away. Others have designed, defined and set limits to their ways of living, their "prosperity" and their civilization. Sadly for the First Nations, the arrival of colonists has meant mostly pain, exclusion, death and desolation. As a mestiza (of mixed blood), I want to listen the voices, including my own, that defy all attempts to be silenced.

Though others turn away and deny First Nations voices, as I listen they lead me to question myself: if all are brothers and sisters, why don't we see it that way? Why continue in the race to self-destruction?

As my ears remain open to these voices, may my life give adequate answer to the questions they raise.


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