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"Canada Belongs to All of Us" - Community prayer service held at Anglican cathedral for National Aboriginal Day

Aboriginal Day prayer service

Community gathers together in prayer to launch week of Aboriginal Day

Article by Myron Rogal; Photos by Sarah Donnelly

On a hot and muggy Father’s Day Sunday afternoon on June 18, 2017, people from many different communities came together in prayer at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in downtown Saskatoon to recognize the beginning of a week marking National Aboriginal Day.

The event included the unveiling of a plaque recognizing the physical place of the Anglican cathedral on Treaty 6 land. Such recognitions have now become a practice for several Christian churches.

Bishop David Irving of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon opened the time of prayer, which was then led by Walter and Maria Linklater. Participants were drawn into awe as they shared sacred teachings around the creation of the world, the uniqueness of men and women, as well as the gift and responsibility of children.

Aboriginal Day prayers, drum

A climactic moment came as Bluejay Linklater, a young man, drummed the “Opening Song.” Simultaneously a flash thunderstorm occurred outside bringing a fresh cool breeze into the worship space with the percussion of crashing thunder to add to this sacred song. The two simultaneous experiences were a reminder of the holy ground beneath our feet and the covenantal Treaty relationships that most Canadians are part of.

The core part of the event focused on praying for National Aboriginal Day which brought together a host of Elders, multi-faith, Christian, community and political leaders. As each leader offered brief greetings on behalf of their community a common thread was recognition of past and present harms, the current enthusiasm around the changing culture, and a willingness to work on this mission of building relationships together.

This section of the celebration commenced with rich words of welcome from Rev. Scott Pittendrigh, Dean of St. John’s Cathedral.  

 Executive Director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner Harry Lafond reminded the audience that “it is the Creator who created diversity.”

“We are called to acknowledge His role in each of our lives,” Lafond said, followed by the question of, “what is it that we need to let go of to live in the harmony that we are created for?”  

Lafond challenged all present about what kind of Canada we will shape in the next 150 years.

Rev. Kevin McGee, Diocesan Administrator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, spoke on behalf of the Christian community, and invited Christians to be “open to more fully receiving the gift that Reconciliation is offering.”

MLA Cathy Sproule highlighted the benefit of treaties, stating that because of this relationship her one grandfather was able to farm while it offered the other the opportunity to start a business. She stated that these Treaties are the “underlying source of sovereignty in Canada.”

Sproule added: “Each of us needs to accept our responsibility in this relationship.”  

Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky of the Congregation of Agudas Israel articulated this treaty responsibility by quoting Abraham Heschel in saying that, “in a free society some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Jodorkovsky stressed that this is nothing new in that “God created only one Adam so that no one could ever claim that my ancestors were more important than yours.”

Lyndon speaks

Lyndon Linklater offered an address of optimism in that, “who would have thought that 150 years ago a church would have put up a Treaty plaque?”

Lyndon Linklater applauded the diversity of religious traditions that are awakening to the harms caused by residential schools and working together to reconnect Indigenous Peoples with their roots. Linklater also brought some sobering moments to the event in describing the harm and trauma that still lives on.

Lyndon Linklater stressed that past harms were “not the fault of God, or the church, or anyone gathered, but of people who made mistakes.”

Emphasizing that it is up to all of us to engage in the healing of these mistakes, Lyndon Linklater compelled participants to live out the “Calls to Action” of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a passionate Canadian, Lyndon Linklater pleaded that this country belongs to all of us. To demonstrate this reality he spoke with a tone of patriotism about his grandfather who fought for Canada in World War II.

Grounding the greetings, prayers and address was a reading of Isaiah 40:21-31, simultaneously in both Plains Cree and English.

scripture read at Aboriginal Day service

Participants were then led into a prayerful reflection by a choir from that Al Bond, Saskatoon Bahá'í Community. A period of individual reflection was an opportunity for all present to write down prayers which were then collected onto a Star Blanket. Once the prayers were collected a sizable crowd of Elders and clergy gathered to bless the submitted intentions. As a sending forth, Bluejay Linklater led the assembly onward, drumming “Travelling Song.”

This annual event was one of several reconciliation events in the city of Saskatoon in June 2017, and was organized by Sarah Donnelly of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral.


bishop irving and faith leaders

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