October 25, 2020

Salt & Light Online

A current connection to each week's session


“I Have Yearningly Yearned”
Luke 22:14-20

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In our worship services, we tend to be more familiar with the “remembrance” aspect than the “covenant” aspect of communion. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” is harder to grasp than “Do this in remembrance of me.” In these sessions, we have compared covenants with contracts, but another worthy comparison might be between covenants and treaties, especially Indigenous people’s understanding of treaty. Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s website describes this year’s virtual “We are All Treaty People Celebration,” sponsored in part by MCC Manitoba in late September.

Treaty Commissioner Loretta Ross gave a fascinating interview about what it means to be “treaty people.” Ross describes ways in which the understanding of what a treaty is differs for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. According to Ross,

[The word treaty], here in Manitoba, refers to that relationship that was brought together through treaties between First Nations people and non-First Nations people in a number of treaties from 1871. It was really an agreement of how we were going to share these lands. The First Nations perspective about those treaties is an oral history passed down through their songs, through their dances and through their languages, that embeds what actually happened at that time period. The Crown’s understanding of treaty was reduced to a piece of paper that was to record some of the understandings and agreements. Not everything made it into the written part of the treaty.

The First Nation perspective was how do we coexist? We hear our elders talk about it. There was no ‘surrender,’ there was no ‘conquering.' There was none of that. It was an agreement to share the land so that people could coexist and continue to be who they were. Both sides.[1]

The term length of the treaty is “as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and the water flows.” According to Ross, “The challenge is for the parties to get back to that original understanding, what was agreed to beyond those written pieces of paper.”[2]

The website offers videos that demonstrate how treaty is best conveyed in song, dance, and ritual. The Walking Wolf Singers and Dancers perform traditional dances and Henry Neufeld sings “Ehane he’ama (Father God, You Are Holy).”

  • How is the new covenant that Jesus made with his people, as celebrated in communion, similar to the First Nation understanding of treaty? How is it different?

1. Rebecca Janzen, “Being Treaty: Recording and Videos from This Year’s We Are All Treaty People Celebration,” October 2, 2020.
2. Janzen, “Being Treaty.”

—Gwen Groff, bethanym@vermontel.net

© 2020

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Gwen Groff is pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. She lives in Plymouth, Vermont, with her husband and intermittently with her adult children.

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