Winnipeg, Man./Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. — Nine month old Junia has just become the youngest participant to join the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights, a 600 km walk through from Kitchener-Waterloo to Ottawa from April 23-May 14.
Her mother, Kandace Boos, 28, will be putting in the grunt work of carrying young Junia on her back, alongside her task of documenting the walk in art. Boos is an urban sketch artist, part of a global community of artists that practice drawing in cities, towns and villages they live in or travel to.
As a “core walker” in the Pilgrimage (those who plan to walk the entire distance), she will help to raise awareness of UNDRIP – the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – in churches, teach-ins, and conversation circles along the way.
The mother of two, Boos’ interest in peace and justice was piqued when she and her husband Mike began attending Sterling Mennonite Church about four years ago. Last year she participated in faith formation classes focusing on Indigenous relations, absorbing as much as she could and reading up on Indigenous land rights issues in her spare time. Recently she joined the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Working Group at her church. “Land rights apply to my church and my home,” she said in a Skype interview, adding that she lives right across the street from Sterling MC.
The graduate of BealART school in London, Ont., and Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener is an active leader of worship arts at Sterling. Recently she collaborated with Emma Smith, an Anishinaabe artist from Walpole Island, on a live art creation during a worship service at her church. “One of the TRC recommendations is for collaborative art between settlers and Indigenous peoples,” she said. The two have developed a growing friendship.
Boos wants to participate in the Pilgrimage because there is so much negativity in the news about minorities and women’s roles in society. “Part of why I am taking Junia on this pilgrimage is to show her that we can do very hard things, and that the voices and presence of women, even a baby girl and her mother, mean something… That we can take on this challenge that many men would never do, to use the white privilege in our presence in Ottawa to amplify the voices of those not as recognized in white, urban society.”
Boos has been struggling with severe post-partum depression, and is deeply grateful for all the supports – including her church – that are in place for those with mental health struggles. “If my brain had been in the body of an Aboriginal women, I would not have survived. I am walking for every aboriginal mother without access to solid prenatal care and post-partum support, every foster kid who doesn’t believe life will get better, and for every baby girl growing up with a depressed mother unable to get help.”
Her passion for peace and justice ministry has been growing since joining a Mennonite church. “I’m constantly surprised by the focus on peace and justice [at my church]. It’s a closer form of evangelism to what I understand Jesus would do. It’s a practice and a discipline that will make a difference. I expect to be a different person after the walk. That’s exhilarating!” she said. She hopes to create an art exhibition of her work and writings, as well as that of other artists she hopes to encounter on the pilgrimage.
Boos is clearly excited and looking forward to meeting others on the walk, and extends an invitation: “Anyone else that’s going on the pilgrimage and is artistically inclined, please bring your stuff!” she said.
Photo 1 cutline: Junia, 7 months, and her mother, Kandace Boos, plan to walk the 600 km Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. – photo supplied
Photo 2 cutline: A 30 min drawing of a male model. Boos said,”I was trying to capture a sense of peace, as well as the very technically demanding foreshortened angle. Its a style I hope to use in portraiture of each core walker over the course of the Pilgrimage. – photo supplied