November 24, 2022
By Gary Dyck
It was 4:30pm, and the voice quietly reminding me the past few afternoons to make a call, was saying ‘call now’. I knew that sometime in November, the Manitoba Museum was visiting the Roseau River First Nation elementary school with their sacred bundles including a treaty document and peace pipes. Vice-principal Josephine Hartin answered my call immediately, ‘Yes, they are coming. Tomorrow is the day.’
I’m so glad I didn’t wait another day.
When Kaelyn Nickel (Mennonite Heritage Village’s Development Coordinator), and I arrived at the school the next day, children were setting up chairs, elders were talking with each other, and Manitoba Museum staff were laying out the sacred bundles. When I asked the person beside me his name, it turned out to be the person MHV had been trying to contact for four years! As the day moved on it contained several more divine appointments.
One of them was just happening to stand in the lunch line with Cathy Merrick who was recently selected by First Nations leaders as the next grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Chief Merrick is a former band councillor and chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba. Moments after being announced the next grand chief she said her eyes instantly flooded with tears. “I just put my head down. I gave thanks to the Creator for putting me where I needed to be to be able to lead our chiefs with their support,” she told reporters.
Merrick is a real leader who leads with wisdom and deep care. I saw it in how she held the pipe in a pledge of unity with the Roseau River Chief Alexander holding the other tip (see photo). I see it in her words such as when she told reporters that “one of the things that’s close to my heart is to someday have all our children born in our communities.”
As a father who has experienced the sacred bond that happens when your child is born in your presence and home, I will pray that more and more Indigenous communities can have that experience also. It is so important for the health of families and the next generation to have a strong bond with your ‘village’ from the first hours.
Merrick knows the other side. At the age of two she was brought to a Steinbach Mennonite family who were potentially adopting her and her brother, later they moved to Winkler together. Growing up far away from her Cree community in Northern Manitoba, it is remarkable that she is now the grand chief of Manitoba. I believe a lot of good work will be coming forward from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in the coming years. Our connection with the new grand chief of Manitoba is just another example of how deep and broad Mennonites and Indigenous communities and history intersect. It is time to build bridges of better understanding and appreciation between our communities. May we all know each day what Creator has for us to do and be, may we listen to the good voice in our heads.
As the Quaker song goes, “Tis’ the gift to be simple, tis’ the gift to be free, tis’ the gift to come down where you ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right T’will be in the valley of love and delight.”
MHV Village Books & Gifts shop and Galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The grounds are available for strolling (heritage buildings are closed).
The Christmas Train, December 7, 1-3pm Blumenort School Presents selections from, “The Christmas Train.” Join the ‘Train’ as the students travel across Canada to experience different Christmas traditions. Enjoy this school presentation as you sample Christmas goodies and beverages. Open to everyone. No cost for admission.
An Evening with the Authors, December 7, 7pm – Village Books & Gifts presents “An Evening with the Authors”. Join us as local authors Gina Giesbrecht (Come Now, It’s Time to Go) and Rudolf Duerksen (Death at the Grass Huts) share their writing. Refreshments to follow.
12 Deals of Christmas November 15 – December 22 Every Tuesday and Thursday, check out our social media posts or our website at www.mhv.ca for some wonderful deals leading up to the Holiday Season!
Winter Day Camp Registration Now Open Children ages 6 – 11 are invited to experience winter at the Mennonite Heritage Village! There will be skating, crafts, sleigh rides, and so much more!