Briercrest hosted its fifth-annual Aboriginal Awareness Week (AAW) last month. Many Aboriginal guests joined staff and students to continue the conversation about reconciliation and move forward in meaningful relationship between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.
The week was full of sessions, traditional Aboriginal food, music, and events like tipi raising, beading, and the second annual Restoration Cup hockey game. These activities helped create a greater awareness and understanding of Aboriginal history and culture. The events also allowed space for conversation around issues that many Aboriginals face today.
Marc Levaasseur, one of AAW’s guests, is a Métis from First Nation (Anishnabe, Wendat, and Mi’kmaq) and French Canadian who works and ministers among First Nations people in Quebec. He works to reconcile the hurt and disrespect that the separation between western Christianity and First Nations has caused.
“A week like Aboriginal Awareness Week is essential to teach students— young women and men that will probably be involved in the work of God in the future—about these things and bring them to consciousness that our Christian ideas have been wrong sometimes,” Levassuer said.
“Not in order to judge them or condemn them, but in order for those things to stop. Because actually they are still present and this is what most of those people don’t understand. It’s not like the residential schools and all those things, because those things are in the past. But it’s still there today in our theology. It’s still there in our missiology, in the way we preach and spread the Good News; that’s not sometimes good news because it’s done in the wrong way,” he continued.
Terry LeBlanc is Mi’kmaq/Acadian who came primarily because of his friendship with Briercrest’s Aboriginal coordinator, Kallie Wood. But that wasn’t the only reason.
“I come secondly because I believe that institutions like Briercrest need to be more proactive in engaging First Nations people in the concerns they have, and I believe all of us as followers of the Jesus way need to be more active and engaged in bringing reconciliation into the lives of Canadians. And if Christians can’t do it, I’m not sure who can,” he said.
LeBlanc summarized the purpose of AAW and other weeks like it:
“To move us another step down the trail towards full and authentic reconciliation and meaningful relationship between First Peoples and the newcomers to Canada.”