Tag: Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

How One Step of Faith Led to a 600 km Walk

Leading up to the summer of 2017, I could never have anticipated the depth of transformation I would experience, and the alteration this would have on my daily life as a young, white, settler student, and as a Christian.

Colin Remier 2

As I prepared to work over the summer, Erin Froese (a fellow CMU student, and previous #myCMUlife blogger) planted a seed in my mind at a screening of the documentary film Split Lake last Spring, about entering the Indigenous-settler conversation more intentionally through the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights.

While I thought little of it at first, God pulled me in. After consulting with some of my spiritual advisors, I took a leap of faith and committed to the entire walk: 600 km from Kitchener to Ottawa.

Did I know what I was getting myself into? Was I prepared for God’s new, transformative path, of which he had begun preparing me for? Could I have anticipated being who or where I am now, from who I was and where I began last spring?

The answer? No.

With great joy and exhilaration I walked; learning along the way, first hand, what it meant to be an Indigenous ally, to walk the path of reconciliation, and what the struggles have been like for our host peoples over the past 150 years of colonialism. 

Colin Remier 3

Engaging with people of faith and walking day after day, I found a deeper connection and passion growing inside me for the pursuit of justice and reconciliation, believing even now that the church belongs here.

As I developed relationships with specific people such as Leah Gazan, Steve Heinrichs, and MP Romeo Saganash, this personal drive grew exponentially. 

Along the way, I contacted my parents and asked about my grandfather’s work with the Indigenous communities of Manitoba, and came to learn that my ancestry traces (at least partially) into the Indigenous community of The Long Plains. Recognizing that I am the grandson of honorary Chief White Cloud, and that indigenous peoples’ value ancestry very highly, I committed to reignite the reconciliation work my grandfather had begun back in the 1970’s.   

Colin Remier 1

Following the completion of the Pilgrimage, I found myself planning, but in a type of limbo as if waiting for some guidance as to the direction I should go. While developing a list of actions surrounding the Pilgrimage and Bill-C262 had been simple, taking initiative to provide local education and support in my hometown of Boissevain, Manitoba (Treaty 2 territory), proved to be quite challenging.

However, after several meetings with my pastor, various conversations with fellow Indigenous allies, as well as suggestions from mentors and my parents, I pushed hard for action in August. Since then, I have begun planning possible citywide events with Kerry Saner-Harvey of Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba around a variety of Indigenous issues, particularly those surrounding Muskrat Falls. 

Through the editorial assistance of a few individuals, I wrote and had an article published in the local paper, the Boissevain Recorder, where I discussed the relevance of the Pilgrimage, and the essential importance of Bill-C262 being passed. I have also become a Fellowship Group leader, leading a group on the study and discussion of Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, a book that tackles church-indigenous relations.

Last, but not least, since the latter half of the Pilgrimage to now, I have become an activist on social media lobbying for the Bill, for Indigenous Rights, and for the positive change that can and is happening.

Colin Remier 5

While I am back at CMU, I continue to lobby and participate in various actions surrounding Bill-C262, and am excited for the future of where this new path may take me. It is here that I have found truth to the phrase, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

I found joy on the Pilgrimage, and in discussion and writing over the summer, and I continue to find joy and see God’s grace in the love and community that I have returned to for another year at CMU.

Colin Reimer is a third year Psychology major at CMU.

A semester on Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

In December 2016, I was tired. I felt dissatisfied—like I had failed to actively engage in my education. So when the opportunity arose for me to participate in the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights (PfIR), I seized it.

A semester on Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

Mennonite Church Canada and Christian Peacemaker Teams together organized the PfIR. The Pilgrimage involved a 600 kilometre walk from Kitchener, Ontario, to Ottawa, in response to Call to Action #48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It calls for churches to engage in public dialogue and action surrounding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). So that’s what we did.

As we walked, we talked with churches about the UNDRIP, and what it means for our lives, our communities of faith, and this country. It was also an opportunity to push the government to adopt the UNDRIP through Bill C-262.

The Pilgrimage meant something different for each walker. Some were walking for specific people, some carried stories. For each of us, it was an opportunity to do our own inner and outer decolonization work.

For me, the Pilgrimage was an opportunity to learn in a new way, a way to reimagine the “classroom.”

I was given the opportunity to participate as an independent study course for the Winter 2017 semester. 

Instead of a traditional university course, this independent study took me on a whirlwind of learning. From countless hours spent on the phone with churches arranging accommodations and food for walkers, to participating in many planning meetings with dedicated and experienced activists. From leading a group of people on a very long walk, to taking my own intentional steps as we journeyed to Ottawa.

Erin Froese (centre) with a group of fellow smiling walkers in from the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, having successfully reached their destination.

There is a different sort of knowing that comes from active learning. I learned many practical community-organizing skills, but the learning went beyond that—it seemed to seep into my whole being.

When I sat in a circle with a Cree woman who wept because she couldn’t believe that there was a group of settlers who cared about Indigenous rights, I knew the brokenness of this land in a new way.

When we arrived exhausted at the doors of a church, to receive an enthusiastic welcome, copious amounts of food, and even a foot massage, I knew hospitality in a new way.

When I walked through the landscape, hearing the songs of the birds and the cars, seeing the beautiful Canadian Shield, and piles of garbage along the roadside, I knew the land in a new way.

When I arrived home to find that my home community had done a solidarity walk to show their support of the Pilgrimage and Indigenous rights, I knew the spreading of grassroots actions in a new way.

A semester on Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

My teachers included my 87 year old friend Henry Neufeld, and my 10 month old friend, Junia, who both joined us for the whole walk. My faculty advisor, my co-planners, numerous authors, the many indigenous elders and activists that we met along the way—every person that I had the honour of walking with and meeting on this journey, and the land herself—they were all my teachers.

The learning was diverse and plentiful, and it continues. I am grateful to CMU for its courage to step outside conventional ideas of what university looks like. I will carry these learnings with me as I journey into my final year of studies and beyond.

Erin Froese is entering her fourth year in Environmental Studies at CMU this fall.

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