Entering into Relationship with the Indigenous Community
Two fourth-year students reflect on their efforts to build relationships with the Indigenous community and on their hopes for the future of these connections.
2 min. read
March 10, 2020

How can the Redeemer community walk more closely with the Indigenous community?

This was the question posed to a group of fourth-year students for their capstone project. The core capstone experience is the final course in Redeemer’s core curriculum, a set of courses every student takes to help them develop a Kingdom vision in every discipline. The group began by researching the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Both have explored significant Indigenous issues by hearing from affected communities across Canada.

“For us, it’s been a lot about learning because we didn’t know much about it,” says Rheanna Rosenthal, a fourth-year double major in clinical psychology and English literature. “We wanted to be intentional about not trying to be the experts.”

The students organized a service of remembrance for the missing and murdered women at Redeemer on Oct. 3, 2019, that included prayers, information sharing and personal stories about the victims as well as symbols to add meaning. A red dress was hung for each woman’s story and their names written on stones. Attendees lit candles and were given time to reflect while music was played.

“We wanted it to be experiential for people,” says Rosenthal. “It’s important that we do feel things. It’s more than just what we learn in the classroom.” “The event was done, but we knew we couldn’t stop there. This is really important work,” says Ethan Deelstra, a fourth-year honours social work student.

The group continued to reach out to representatives of the Indigenous community. They made a key connection with Shelly Hill, senior project manager of the urban Indigenous strategy with the City of Hamilton.

“Just from sitting with her, I’ve learned more than I’ve learned in 21 years of my life,” says Deelstra. “If we can start by creating connections, we can learn so much more.” The students are pleased that Hill is willing to continue the relationship with Redeemer in the future.

They also met with Val Kerr, archdeacon of truth, reconciliation and Indigenous ministries and priest-in-charge of All Saints, Hagersville. Kerr shared information about the current water crisis, which sees only about nine per cent of residents on the Six Nations reserve with access to clean running water in their homes. Many more are left without running water at all. The students agree that this is a small step towards walking more closely with the Indigenous community.

“It’s been really humbling,” says Rosenthal. “In being humbled, we’re seeing things through the eyes of Jesus. It’s been hard at times to actually hear the stories; it’s been a really heavy topic. But I think it’s what we’re called to.”

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