The 2023 National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering, with the theme “Our Strong Voices,” opened on July 28 and concluded July 30.
Strong voices were evident throughout the gathering. Perhaps the strongest was a panel presentation from the youth gathering, where three young people shared their experiences growing up and living in the North and in urban centres. They spoke of challenges, and also of their relationship with the land. They shared about their years of experience with the Indigenous Ministries and Justice youth program, and the plans they are making for the future. These are strong young people who will lead in their communities.
Moderator Carmen Lansdowne offered a keynote address, asking among other things, “What does a flourishing Indigenous church look like?” That question will continue to unfold as the Indigenous church moves towards its vision of self-determination.
Delegates to the gathering took part in the National Indigenous Council’s vote on the remit, which passed to sounds of great joy. In discussion prior to the vote, youth voices were once again a powerful influence, naming that the Indigenous church, and the United Church as a whole, now stand on a pivot point of history, where they must choose to move forward. Voting on the remit continues to take place across the church until March 21, 2024.
Members Named to National Indigenous Council
Members of a new National Indigenous Council were named to join continuing co-chair Leeann Shimoda in guiding the work of the Indigenous church. They are: Janet Root and Wayne Monague from Ontario-Quebec; Gloria Cook and David Fiddler from Keewatin; Delores Kenny and another yet to be named from Plains and Alberta; Billy Harasymow and Keetah Levac from Pacific Mountain; and the Rev. Kimberley Roy and RW Hoekstra from the Urban Circle. Kaileigh Dumont and Nathaniel Grieves are youth advisors to the Council, with Ashley Keeping serving as an alternate. Robert Patton and Grant Queskekapow are advisors from the National Indigenous Elders Council. Alma Ransom, the Rev. Deb Anderson-Pratt, and the Rev. John Thompson (who is retiring from 60 years of ministry!) join the Elders Council.
Ceremony and Celebration
In a powerful time of ceremony, the sacred bundle was opened again after four years. Passed on to Executive Minster Murray Pruden from the late Grafton Antone, it remained central in all the business and worship at the gathering. We also celebrated in stories, teachings, stories, and songs at the sacred fire.
The gathering recognized a large group of candidates for ministry, and celebrated the ordination of Carol Many Chief. There was also a lot of drumming and dancing, as well as time for the conversations that can only happen when we are able to meet together in person. Stay tuned to this website and our social media feeds for the highlight videos we will release over the coming weeks and months.
We give thanks for the opportunity to gather and to give room to these many strong voices.