God is bringing shalom among the urban Indigenous community in Saskatoon's Westside through smudging, listening and story telling.
David Fineday is from Sweetgrass First Nations, Treaty 6 Territory. He is a local leader and Indigenous elder that advocates for better housing and leads a weekly community smudge* in Saskatoon’s Westside.
Servant Partners staff has been journeying with him over the past few years to kickstart these actions and connecting him to the local community association for funding and support.
Through communal storytelling, smudging, and David's leadership, God has been bringing transformation in local families and communities!
“Smudging is our way of sending our prayers to Creator. I wanted to make smudging available in a grassroots way, to Indigenous people on the street here in Saskatoon. Since then I've seen it changing lives. I've been able to smudge people from diverse backgrounds. I believe this is where reconciliation happens.” - David
“It gives me something to look forward to every Saturday. When it's done we all start counting down 6 days and 18 hours before we do it again next Saturday!"
Healing within Families
David has witnessed numerous stories of transformation among those who participate in the community smudge. He shares one with us where an Indigenous mother had a strained relationship with her son - they would constantly argue and she was exhausted. David encouraged her to bring him along so that he can encounter the Creator in community.
The son participated in the smudge and David made space to listen to him patiently and offered him some teachings relating with respect and gratitude to our life-giving parents. David also gifted him a black feather to remind him of Creator’s strength in moments of need.
Since then, the mother and son had stopped arguing and their relationship has been transformed into one of peace and love. Miraculously, the son also stopped his substance use!
What a wonderful example for one of our 9 Signs of a Transforming Community, Whole Families, where community leaders like David is helping families break free of patterns that destroy the health and unity of families.
“I just sat there and listened and listened to him - he walked away a different man.”
Healing within Community
David also loves sharing his story of surviving foster care and rediscovering his Indigenous culture and identity as an adult. Time and time again he has seen his story powerfully soften hearts and lead to understanding. In the past, he has generously shared his story with local Saskatoon church leaders as a learning opportunity for Christians to engaging meaningfully in truth and reconciliation.
Currently he is partnering with another community leader to share with seniors from dominant cultural backgrounds in their community to make way for further relationship and reconciliation among different neighbours.
We rejoice at the ways that God is bringing about shalom to his Indigenous community through David's leadership in a culturally safe and honouring way! It is also a gift for us to witness David’s joy and pride in serving his community through smudging and story.
Learn more about our Saskatoon team as they continue to journey with and amplify the leadership of local Indigenous leaders for community transformation!
*A note on the practice of smudging:
Many, but not all, Indigenous cultures in Canada practice a traditional ceremony of smudging. During a smudge, plant leaves or stems of traditional medicinal plants are placed in a container, set on fire, then blown out and the smoke is wafted over the person, either by hand or with an eagle feather. The person being smudged pulls the smoke to them and gently inhales the smoke.
Many Indigenous followers of Jesus also smudge, following the tradition throughout the Bible from Abraham, through Leviticus to Revelation in offering smoke and incense to symbolically remove negativity and bless God in prayer. An excellent resource by Casey Church to learn more can be found here.