News
A Reflection by Raj Vijayakumar, SJ

February 21, 2017  Last summer, five Jesuit scholastics went to Regina for a six-week First Nation’s immersion experience that proved to be a very enriching one for all those involved.

As one of its fundamental goals, the experience stressed learning about First Nation’s culture from First Nation’s people.  The idea seems relatively mundane, but people would be surprised at how often this principle is violated. 

We attended two courses taught by top rate Indigenous studies scholars including Randy Lundy, Christian Thompson, and Blair Stonechild. We learned about the history of First Nation’s people on Turtle Island, to their contact with western society, to the present-day.

Immersion at Turtle Island

We also learned about the tragic history of Residential Schools. This tragic stain is a part of the history of Canada and the Christian churches, one that can never be forgotten. Our learning of this part of Canadian history, was not limited to the classroom.  Noel StarBlanket, a prominent First Nation’s leader, took us to the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School and showed us first-hand the experiences many students had while attending the institution. 

We were also very fortunate to experience a ‘sweat’ on a reserve.  A small group of about 14, huddled in a dark confined space, praying, meditating, and “feeling the heat.”  For my companions and myself, this gem of Indigenous spirituality was a priceless experience.

I enjoyed two moving experiences during this time with First Nation’s people.  The first involved questioning my assumptions on what First Nation’s people value.  I remember once speaking to an Indigenous woman about the difficulty of the Canadian government and the churches apologize for Residential schools.  The woman, pointed out, “[They] always think that we want your money.  We just want to hear sorry.” 

In the western legal system, saying you are sorry in the public forum is construed as an admission of guilt, and therefore entitles the aggrieved to some type of compensation.  But the Western legal system, and its form of thinking, doesn’t automatically apply to First Nation’s law and way of thinking. This experience helped me to shift gears, and be aware that there is another perspective that sees an expression of regret as an apology.

Another experience was with a young man, when we were speaking about the right of self government for First Nation’s people.  A bit skeptical of his argument, I asked about headlines relating to corruption among some chiefs.  The clever man responded with, “What happens when you have been living politically in a certain way for thousands of years, and then all of a sudden a foreign power imposes another form of government on you.  Where do you think the corruption really comes from?”  The young man was making the point that a certain political structure creates the division and tension that we see in First Nation’s politics.  The point suggests a deeper underlying reasoning for some of the headlines that have been making news.  I was grateful to him for the opportunity of being challenged, and going deeper in my understanding of Indigenous people’s relationship to western society.

The experience was a deeply enriching and moving one.  One can only hope that this six-week program will continue, and many others will have the opportunity to discover the riches in culture and spirituality that First Nation’s peoples of Canada have to offer us all.


Recent News

April 20, 2017 – More than 30 people, comprised of Indigenous, Jesuit, English and French Canadian paddlers, will embark on a month-long, 850-kilometre canoe trip July 21 in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

April 27, 2017 – Father Michael Czerny, whom Pope Francis chose as one of two undersecretaries of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development talks, about Pope Francis’ emphasis on real help for those in need.

April 18, 2017 — Fr. Kesicki's remarks, on behalf of the U.S. Jesuits, at the Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope.

April 14, 2017 — The new laundromat in Rome represents the latest gift from the pope to the city’s poor and homeless people.

April 9, 2017 — Jesuit Juan Ruiz suggests that as we reflect this week upon the suffering that Jesus endured for our sakes, we can ask for the grace to show his mercy to others who hurt us.

April 4, 2017 — Jesuit Father Michael Czerny told a conference organized by the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons, that each year, millions of children are subjected to the horrors of trafficking as leaders across the world still attempt to come up with an effective solution.

April 4, 2017 — For more than 170 years, the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network has invited people across the globe to pray with the bishop of Rome.

view all news

Search news

Publications

Jesuit (Winter 2017)

CJI Mission News

OpenSpace (Jan 2017)



Loyola House / Ignatius Jesuit Centre
Built in 1964, Loyola House in Guelph, ON has welcomed over 60,000 people of all faiths to deepen ...