SASKATOON — On a hot and muggy Father’s Day many people from different communities came together in prayer at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in downtown Saskatoon to recognize the beginning of a week marking National Aboriginal Day.
The event included the unveiling of a plaque recognizing the place of the cathedral on Treaty 6 land; such recognition has become a practice among many Christian churches.
Bishop David Irving of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon opened the time of prayer, which was then led by Walter and Maria Linklater, who shared sacred teachings about the creation of the world, the uniqueness of men and women, as well as the gift and responsibility of children.
A climactic moment came as Bluejay Linklater, a young man, drummed the “Opening Song.“ Simultaneously, a storm broke out, bringing a fresh breeze into the worship space, with the thunder adding to the sacred song. The simultaneous experiences were a reminder of the holy ground beneath the feet of the participants and the treaty relationships that most Canadians are part of.
The core of the event focused on praying for National Aboriginal Day, which brought together a host of elders, Christians, multifaith, community and political leaders. As each offered greetings, a common thread was the recognition of past harms, the current enthusiasm around the changing culture, and a willingness to work on the mission of building relationships.
Harry Lafond, executive director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, reminded participants that “it is the Creator who created diversity”: “We are called to acknowledge his role in each of our lives,” he said, followed by the question, “What is it that we need to let go of to live in the harmony that we are created for?”
Rev. Kevin McGee, diocesan administrator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, spoke on behalf of the Christian community and invited Christians to be “open to more fully receiving the gift that reconciliation is offering.”
MLA Cathy Sproule highlighted the benefits of treaties, stating that they are the “underlying source of sovereignty in Canada.” She added: “Each of us needs to accept our responsibility in this relationship.”
Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky of Congregation Agudas Israel articulated this responsibility by quoting Jewish theologian and philosopher Abraham Heschel, saying, “In a free society some are guilty, but all are responsible.” Jodorkovsky stressed that this is nothing new, in that “God created only one Adam so that no one could ever claim that my ancestors were more important than yours.”
Lyndon Linklater offered an address of optimism, asking, “Who would have thought 150 years ago that a church would have put up a treaty plaque?” He applauded the diversity of religious traditions that are awakening to the harms caused by residential schools and working to reconnect indigenous peoples with their roots. Linklater described some of the harm and trauma that still live on, but stressed that past harms were “not the fault of God, or the church, or anyone gathered, but of people who made mistakes.”
Emphasizing that it is up to all of us to engage in the healing of these mistakes, Linklater challenged participants to live out the Calls to Action of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a passionate Canadian, he stressed that the country belongs to all of us, and spoke about his grandfather, who fought for Canada in the Second World War.
Grounding the greetings, prayers and addresses was a reading of Isaiah 40:21-31 simultaneously in Plains Cree and English. Participants were then led into a prayerful reflection by a choir from the Saskatoon Baha’i community.
A period of reflection was an opportunity for all present to write down prayers that were then collected onto a star blanket. A sizable crowd of elders and clergy gathered to bless the intentions. As a sending forth, Bluejay Linklater led the assembly in drumming the “Travelling Song.”
The annual event was organized by Sarah Donnelly of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral.