Saskatoon staff Sarah shares her experiences at Kids Culture Camp and the gifts of being led by Indigenous elders and community on her journey towards right-relatedness as a white settler woman.
A Reflection on Love and the Eagle
“A few years ago, at Kids Culture Camp (KCC), a friend told me about a Gitxsan elder guiding them through the grandfather teachings. They were taught first on love. This elder’s understanding was that love was foundational for the rest of the teachings to build upon - that it was difficult, if not impossible to build up other teachings without love, including love for yourself. Here at KCC I’ve been taught how the eagle embodies the teachings of love, flying high and closest to Creator- and I have found that when I choose to see and participate in that flow of love, that I do feel closer and more connected to Creator. Last year at KCC, I was in a conversation with an elder, and they made me feel so seen and cherished for the path I’m on. After the deep sense of love I received in that conversation, I wandered into the forest to soak it in and found myself overwhelmed by the gratitude and connection I felt with the grass bending in the wind, the squirrels nattering away, the support of the ground, the tall upward reach of the spruce. It felt as though my ability to see my relatives with love and gratitude was greatly heightened by receiving deep love myself.”
Taking on a Learners' Posture
During Kids Culture Camp orientation a few years ago, a circle of leaders was asked to each share a reflection on one of the grandfather teachings, and these were the words that I shared on love and the eagle. I owe these understandings entirely to the community who have so graciously invited me into KCC.
iEmergence’s Kids Culture Camp (KCC) was established by Dr. Terry LeBlanc, who is Mi’kmaq-Acadian, and his wife Bev. It is a weeklong summer camp offered to kids aged 6-12 to learn about themselves, their people and their Creator out on the land.
This year, I’ve had the honour of attending again with Indigenous youth in our community. I learned alongside and witnessed our summer staff Kendal’s growth in leadership and his cultural identity. He was an excellent tipi leader! Other families from our neighbourhood have heard some of our stories and are already keen to join us next summer!
As a young settler woman with English-Welsh ancestry, I could not have foreseen the significance that my connection to KCC would come to hold. It began when the Christian summer camp I worked for was the host site for this week-long camp facilitated by Indigenous leaders for Indigenous kids and youth. During that first summer, the orientation training included my first Kairos Blanket Exercise.
This Blanket Exercise felt like a “scales falling from my eyes” moment and I felt a sudden and strong sense of collective responsibility for the role my people have played as both settlers and people of faith (collective sin) in the injustices that Indigenous peoples continue to be impacted by.
As my connection to the Kids Culture Camp community strengthened over the years following, I sought out any opportunity to learn from Indigenous leaders following Jesus like Terry LeBlanc, Cheryl Bear, Ray Aldred, Ji-gaabiikwe Campeau and many others. So many gifts. So many lessons.
Gifts of the Journey
Because of Kids Culture Camp and the impact these Indigenous leaders have had in my life…
I have made so many treasured friendships- and met my husband too ;)
I continue to explore my identity and culture as a white settler woman with British-Welsh ancestry now living in Treaty 6 Territory.
I’ve been equipped to investigate how my cultural lens has impacted my spiritual formation.
I’ve been able to see with clear(er) eyes and tell the truth about how my people have not always lived in good ways and good relationships.
I am not surrendered to cynicism or shame.
I can recognize that the same tools that caused harm will not be the same tools to bring healing and repair.
And, I can actually believe and hope in a good way forward of truth and justice and right relatedness amongst all life, all Creation.
Truly, for us non-Indigenous folks, what a tremendous honour it is to be led by Indigenous peoples in our communities who have generously invited us to join together in remembering how to be good humans in our own identities, cultures and to follow Jesus from this place.
We have the choice to join in right relatedness, in good ways, towards shalom - where nothing is broken and no one is missing. I’ve caught a glimpse of that at KCC.
May it be so!
If you've been compelled by these stories of iEmergence and Kids Culture Camp, we encourage you to learn more and explore opportunities for support here.
Sarah is part of our Saskatoon team, facilitating peer leadership, generous hospitality and mutual learning in the Meadowgreen community alongside her neighbours. You can learn more about and support her work here.