Join in the opening ceremony of the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights on April 23, 1:30pm, at Stirling Mennonite Church in Kitchener (57 Stirling Avenue North).
Among the distinguished guests presiding over the opening ceremony:
Myeengun Henry, an elder & Aboriginal Traditional Counselor from Chippewa of the Thames First Nation near London, Ontario will offer a traditional sending ceremony.
MP Diom Roméo Saganash (Quebec riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou) will bring greetings. Mr. Saganash is the author of the Private Member Bill C262. “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Leah Gazan, lecturer, community leader, activist, policy analyst and teacher in the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg will address the gathering.
After the opening ceremony, all are invited to accompany the walkers on the first leg of their 600 km journey, which will conclude the day at its first destination of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 810 King St. E, Cambridge.
Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights in support of UNDRIP
by Deborah Froese WINNIPEG, Man. —Henry Neufeld is joining more than 50 other walkers in the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. From April 23 to May 14, participants will cover the 600k stretch between Kitchener and Ottawa, Ont. in support of the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The walk will be a challenge, but perhaps especially so for Neufeld. He’s 87 years old and he is taking along his drum.
“I can’t go without my drum,” he says.
Neufeld’s passion for drumming and singing Christian faith songs in English and Ojibway is deeply rooted in his commitment to God and to Indigenous peoples. As Mennonite Church Canada workers, he and his late wife Elna lived in Indigenous communities for almost 20 years, developing friendships that continue today.
We’re excited to report that there are over 50 people registered to walk all or part of the Pilgrimage!
The way the numbers and dates synch up means than there will be at least 30 walkers at all times. These numbers are current as of the registration deadline of March 31. The age range is 9 months to 87 years old, with the most distant walkers coming from B.C. and Virginia, USA.
Walkers are still warmly welcomed to join in for a section of the journey, even if it’s just for a few hours or a day. Our desire is to welcome as many walkers as possible. However, after the registration deadline of March 31, we cannot offer food and accommodations, as we are working with limited space in certain host communities. You will need to find your own travel to connect up with us, and to make your own way home. See the map.
The Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights is on a learning journey to engage the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) so that we can actually live into it. To help churches do this, the Indigenous Rights program of KAIROS Canada has developed the “Let Justice Roll” campaign to help churches understand and advocate for justice for Indigenous peoples. Thank you, KAIROS, for your work on behalf of all of us.
To say that Henry Neufeld (87) and Kathleen Vitt (29) are in inspiration would be an understatement. Both Henry and Kathleen will be walking hundreds of kilometres on the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights.
Henry has been a teacher and church worker among Indigenous people in central and northern Manitoba going back to the 1952. Henry is rare among white settlers in that he is fluent in Ojibwe.
Kathleen Vitt is 29 years old. She is an International Studies graduate from Canadian Mennonite University, has served with MCC’s SALT program in Bolivia, and has worked with Indigenous youth in Winnipeg. Kathleen, who carries a Métis and a Mennonite spiritual heritage, will take a week of her holidays to join the walk.
You can listen to an interview with Kathleen and Henry at Church Matters.
We’re excited to tell you that 25 walkers have already registered for the Pilgrimage! Most are full time ‘core-walkers’ ranging in age from 9 months to 87 years old – thank you – you make our hearts sing! Twenty-five is a great number, but we are ready to welcome more friends to this community building and healing experience. March 31 is the registration deadline!
We’re all in this together, but if you are unable to join the Pilgrimage, fear not! There are other ways you can participate. If there are walkers who could not otherwise afford to join, we want to help them financially. We are also planning to produce a short documentary film for teaching and learning at events to bring awareness of UNDRIP to folks who are unaware of the history of denial and oppression of Indigenous folks. Also welcome are your prayers and fasting. Pray that that there would be a great healing of relationships among Indigenous and settler peoples on the land called Turtle Island (Canada).