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‘We’re building on a momentum that’s happening in Canada’

5 thinkers will bring Aboriginal spirituality and theology to the fore at Concordia
January 22, 2014
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By Tom Peacock

The Right Honourable Graydon Nicholas The Right Honourable Graydon Nicholas, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick and a member of the Tobique First Nation. Photo courtesy of Nicholas

A lieutenant governor from the Tobique First Nation, an Ojibwe nun, a Mohawk filmmaker and Canada’s first national indigenous Anglican bishop are among the speakers coming to Concordia for Beyond Dream-Catchers: Aboriginal Theology and Spirituality in the Canadian Context, a two-day conference on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1.

“Our department has had an interest in theology and spirituality for many years,” says Christine Jamieson, an associate professor of theology at the university. Beyond Dream-Catchers is being co-hosted by Concordia’s Department of Theology, the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability, the School of Community and Public Affairs, the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal.

According to Jamieson, a co-organizer, “One of our goals has been to bring together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities at Concordia, and this conference is the beginning of doing that.”

Beyond Dream-Catchers was also partly inspired by the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is investigating human rights abuses against native children in Canada’s residential school system. While attending the hearings in Vancouver last September, Jamieson was struck by the level of spiritual expression among the participants.

“There were religious ceremonies going on all the time,” she says. “For the First Nations people, spirituality is integral to the whole process of truth and reconciliation.”

With that in mind, Sister Eva Solomon — a member of the Henvey Inlet Ojibwe First Nation and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph — will kick off the conference with a lecture about Aboriginal spirituality and ceremony on Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. A sacred pipe carrier and sweat lodge conductor, Solomon has spent decades in Aboriginal ministry, faith development and social justice work.

On Saturday, February 1, the conference will feature four speakers:

  • The Right Honourable Graydon Nicholas, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick and a member of the Tobique First Nation, will deliver a lecture on theological encounters with Aboriginal spirituality. Nicholas has advocated on behalf of First Nations communities since the 1970s.
  • Mohawk film director and writer Sonia Bonspille Boileau, a graduate of Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, will talk about Aboriginal spirituality in the arts. Boileau won the Diversity Award at Le Gala des Prix Gémeaux for her 2010 documentary, Last Call Indian.
  • Maria Satya McDonough, visiting assistant professor at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, will discuss Aboriginal spirituality and literatures.
  • Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s first National Indigenous Anglican bishop and the World Council of Churches president for North America, will explore “Ways Forward for Aboriginal Theology in the Canadian Context.”
Sonia Bonspille Boileau Mohawk film director Sonia Bonspille Boileau. | Photo courtesy of Bonspille Boileau

Beyond Dream-Catchers will, Jamieson says, reflect the sense of spirituality highlighted at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “What we’re doing is building on a momentum that’s happening in Canada.”

“Beyond Dream-Catchers: Aboriginal Theology and Spirituality in the Canadian Context” runs from 6:30 p.m. on Friday, January 31 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 1. It will be open to the public; tickets cost $20 ($10 for students, seniors and the unemployed).

Sister Eva Solomon’s address on January 31will be followed by a wine-and-cheese reception. The lectures will run from 9:30 a.m. onwards on February 1. All events will take place in the Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre (7141 Sherbrooke St. W.) on the Loyola Campus. To register, email beyonddreamcatchers@gmail.com or telephone 514-848-2424 ext. 2475.

 

Learn more about “Beyond Dream-Catchers.”

 



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