On Tuesday, June 12th, twenty people gathered at St. John's to have a conversation about "Syiyaya" here at St. John's and on the Sunshine Coast.
"Syiyaya" translates as both family and friend, one in the same. On the Sunshine Coast, it also refers to a new educational and cultural movement begun by Nancy and John Denham, Shishalh hereditary chief, Garry Feschuk, and many others. We were honored to have Nancy and John in our circle.
We began our conversation with each of us saying our name, our place of birth, and naming an honoured ancestor. With that simple invitation, the richness of our individual stories began to emerge.
Bob Smith was invited to share his story about the moment when the United Church of Canada apologized to the First Nations people of Canada. Our United Church history is complicated; there are moments for pride, moments for apology, moments for moving forward with humility, curiosity and strength.
Then Nancy and John Denham shared their personal story of how they came to be able to work so closely with the Shishalh Nation and more about the Syiyaya project. Among the many stories that they shared, one was of an event here at St. John's United which had been organized by Rev. Janice Young that included band leaders from the Shishalh Nation. The circle of sharing then opened up to include eveyone who wanted to share their personal experiences, their questions, their shame and disbelief and their hope for family, for friendship, for syiyaya.
I was moved by the desire expressed for a deeper understanding of our histories, our cultures and how we might open our homes and places of ceremony for each other. Sometimes simple hospitality is the most powerful way to say we are friends, we are family.
We will gather in a circle again sometime in August to discern our next steps on the path of reconciliation. We have much to learn from one another and much to offer.
For all our relations.