Day 3: Our “Take Aways” May 27

Wow. What a Day! by Beth McLean Wiest

As I reflect on it now, our day with Marcel was also a circle divided into quadrants- it was like, through his teaching, we experienced the “Life Stages Circle”. I had no idea what we were experiencing then, however, now I see the sheer brilliance of Marcel’s approach…

We began with “The Basics of Anishinabe Philosophy” (akin to the “Mental – Physical” stage of the Life Circle): we were more or less completely uninformed and Marcel gave us facts that connected us to the Anishinabe through our own physical experiences.

Our following session was “Canadian History” (Physical – Emotional): what were missing aboriginal parts of our history, the impact of residential schools and the Indian Act. Next came “Spiritual Worldview” (Emotional – Spiritual): we were experiencing many emotions and our empathy was leading us to explore another worldview. And finally, “Our Response” (Spiritual – Mental): how would we respond to Marcel’s invitation to continue to learn and the challenge to be part of the solution.

We concluded our day with a Q & A and then with each of us sharing our “take away” of the day.

Q: Considering what you have inherited in terms of pain and loss, when you look at me as a white guy, what do you feel towards me or us, and what would it be like to imagine us going down the same river without interference?

A: I have never hated any of that. Instead I have tried to find ways that make systems work for community. Somewhere down the line the pain and loss becomes secondary and the system becomes primary.

Necessity unites us.

Q: How do we convince government and corporations to respect the 7 Laws?

A: It goes back to the Treaty. We are both a part of the treaty. From the Anishinabe perspective, treaty was always about sharing the wealth of the land. The spirit and intent of those treaties was about the pipe (honesty, faith, prayer). We feel that the treaties need to be honored. Royalties should have been paid.

Our own people have become administrators of the treaties.  The administrator of the Treaty is part of the Indian Act and the department of Indian Affairs and that person is part of the government. The Indian Act is not fair.

If the agreement is mutual then there is mutual power. If there isn’t equal power, then the power is in the interpreter of the agreement.

Prior to the treaties / Indian Act, chief plus council that was our created system.

Q: Why bother with Treaty?

A: There is a belief that this Philosophy and this Anishinabe teaching will prevail.

Get back to the heart of what the treaty was for. Not exactly the treaty as is.

If the earth matters and sacred, then the Anishinabe are “in the way of progress” but they are right.

  • What does it mean to be Christian citizens of this country?
  • How we spend our time?
  • Are we committed to learning?
  • Are we committed to hearing?
  • Are we voting with our pocketbooks?

This will challenge every aspect of your living. How you spend your time, resources, how you relate to other people.

The good thing about the reserve allowed the people to remain together. Aboriginal people in the city come together for pow-wows, bingo, gambling, at the pub… but for real interaction there are few that do it (allow people to remain together). On the reserve or near by there are traditional sacred gathering places.

Q: Do you ever feel that the reserves are Canada’s Apartheid?

A: Yes. Hollow Water Reserve is 4000 square km by the government. But to the people the land area is much larger and includes 9 nations. The point of the residential schools was to assimilate just like in apartheid- to eliminate our culture, our language, our ways.

I was raised with a focus on 4 of the 7 laws: Respect, Humility, Kindness and Sharing.

Q: That means NOT Truth, Wisdom, Courage correct?

I didn’t go to a residential school but I was raised in the aftermath. Residential schools intentionally worked to destroy courage, truth, wisdom. Assimilation is easy if you have eliminated courage and truth and the oral tradition of sharing wisdom. In the residential schools, you learned how to work, how to read and write, but forgot how to show affection. Taking the children away- even siblings were not allowed to show affection to one another. There were families who were told of a child who died but never saw their remains. They are stuck in the loss that was never complete, they are stuck in addiction.

Q: How does a culture regain courage, truth and wisdom?

A by Steve Bell: That is our responsibility: to address the injustice of our forefathers and their sin, with courage, truth, wisdom.

The root word of Kindness is KIN. A deeply internalized sense of kinship. Kin is a strong word.

Satan is the dissector, the one who breaks connections.

Religion: means re-ligament, reconnect, repair. There is no need for religion if things are re-ligamented. When the ligaments are disconnected there is chaos.

We are to be the”re-ligament-ers”


Here are the “take aways” each of us shared as feedback on our day…

David: The most shocking thing for me was that I always thought that the Aboriginal philosophy was evil and that this was illegal 20 years ago is mind boggling to me. Three years ago I would have said this has nothing to do with what I believe and now I see this is exactly what I believe. The fact that this is not readily available elsewhere is astounding. Being here is such a privilege. This has to be told to everybody it is urgent that this be public knowledge. I am appalled that this has been taken away from us and from their culture.

Jon F: It is a real eye opening experience to start to understand what the other side of this issue looks like. Especially when you took out the drum and started to tell us what the song is about, it was like learning to read. I can see what you are doing in those songs, I can see how it correlates to this foundation, to see the transparencies of how I have grown up and how they overlay and how we can work together.

Ben: A lot of this isn’t new, some of it is. At one point my father had basically walked away from the church and the only thing that brought him back was spending a lot of time on the water and learning the native ways and relating to the water and the sky and stories about coyote and wolf. It is so neat to learn from someone who actually knows and not from a book or my grandfather or my father and to hear the truth from someone I can truly trust.

Shaun: I took a couple of things away here, I tried to get it all down. You can not divorce the spiritual from the physical. And the impact on the environment. I like the disconnect concept and the importance of re-ligament. Particularly about the government and the dealings, what makes me froth at the mouth was the abuse of power. I took some anger away from this.

Christina: I have 4 pages of notes, I won’t read them all. I believe we all know what I took away from Steve’s story about how you can take one way of looking at things and apply it to your own filter of looking at things. The one thing that really hit my heart was that drumming often makes us weep because it takes us back to the womb and our mother’s heart. Connecting through music.

Kaite: When I am looking at an issue, I need to hear about an issue I need to see both sides of the issue and then I need to research both sides of the issue. And then I form my own opinion. I grew up in the states and it is often hard for me to not see that I am right. I will be researching and processing for awhile. Even though you are the most treasured, you are the most dependent. Steve when you were singing the song “Good Friend”, I was looking at the lyrics and that was great. “Tend to these wounds. Honor God who formed our home.” You have to tend to these wounds. What are we going to do to fix this.

Comment from Steve: Fix and Tend are two different words. Tend is be tender. Being tender towards one another is likely a far closer way of learning to be together.

Kelly: It was helpful for my emotional, mental, spiritual self to make the connection to my physical self. Seeing it all put on one plane was really helpful in giving me a language to connect my physical self with the rest of myself and how I perceive myself as a physical being. I don’t always perceive myself as a physical creation. And my relationship with my creator. On a vocation level this has helped me have some language on how to talk to younger people about it. Really helpful in giving me language in how to break down these mental barriers that we have.

Peter: It was an incredibly informative day so thank you. The image I have is that of wealthy folks having speed boats at their cottage and your people not being able to fish because people want to go on their jet skis. Highlights the unfairness of it completely. The two arguments I took was the royalties argument. I can put it into place very easily.

Steve, your comment on re-ligament is what religion means.

Comment from Steve: Brian McLaren book of religion

John: For me, a bit take away was the descriptions of the Anishinabe clans and how each clan has a different role and function in the community. I am fascinated by personality types and how we fit into community. Both of you talked about systems that work against reconciliation at work. Systems being separate from people. I am different from the system. I choose to buy into it.

Comment from Steve: biblical language would be powers and principalities.

Vicki: Thank you for the truth that you shared over the course of the day. I think for me I felt very humbled by the very concept of how individualistic our mentality is. When you hear it and see “woah that is totally me” and what could our response be. God existing in community and us as his Church, what could that look like? We are so busy trying to get ahead instead of slowing down and doing it together. We all have a role to play and a part to play. You were made to exist in a community that cares for each other. I liked the idea of kids being raised in the home and taught that in the school. Often that isn’t the case. How will I shape my own home about who they are and their identity? How do I say it enough from me that the other sources don’t pull them away from their identity? When I think about my future kids, do I really want to raise them in this? Is there hope? To fight and step up to it to do it together.

Alanna: One thing that really struck home to me was the simplicity of it all. If we are really wanting these things, we need to value ourselves, our environment and others and the sacredness of those. We don’t need to make it complex. If we are living out those 7 laws, we can have wholeness in the communities and with God. I feel really encouraged to live out my faith in an authentic way.

Sebastian: It was really interesting to hear the basic philosophy especially the 7 words. If we started living and embracing those 7 words we would start living in harmony with each other and the earth and that translates into change.

Torri: The idea that there is no sacred and profane. Relationships are sacred. The earth isn’t quantity based. And the poetry.

Becky: All the information was great. Some of it was new, some of it was affirmation of what I knew already. As you were both talking I was thinking of the people I know. I have two cousins who are first nations who were adopted. The whole time I am thinking of them and wondering what would it have been different for them if they had been taught this and if they knew it. It is an in process thought. Applying this to the people I know and what could this mean. Thank you for challenging the thoughts.

Reid: There is so much congruency. Erwin McManus sermon series: “ The Truth Between Us”. There is likely a lot more that we have in common than what divides us. We tend to focus on what divides us rather than what brings us together. There is something about discovering the truth between us that re-informs our worldview, expands it in a more whole way. Today was a great example of that for me. One of the big take aways is that we need to reclaim this philosophy with our people because it has been lost / stolen/ taken away and it needs to be recovered.

My question is: What does that look like in the life of your community or in your life?

A: Marcel: Individuals, families, community are at different stages of healing. In the 1980s there was a vibe to help understand wholeness. Even in the 90s, government they allocated funds to help with healing $350 million for 5 years to undo the effects of colonization, Indian Act and Residential schools. Within the community with the new challenges, we’re probably worst off than they were in the 70s. Addictions: pills, gossip, internet… What suffers in the emotional connection with people. They can have a conversation for 30 minutes on facebook but can’t have a face-to-face conversation.

We are at various stages of healing and recovery. We were strongest when we had support- from government, justice department, Royal Commission report.

We need Restorative Justice. Healing through Justice. Wellness through Justice. Teaching in the community but then it stopped. Stopped because of the overwhelming challenges of turf wars. And how powerful the Indian Act is in creating division in the community.

If Chief and Council support what healthy people want in the community, they won’t get support from the dealers in the community. Democracy works if the majority are healthy, if the majority are unhealthy, you need a different system.

Beth: I really appreciate even before today started, both of your openness to making a connection and helping us to learn (Steve introducing us to Marcel and Marcel to drive 2.5hrs to share his philosophy with us) I hope that we have the heart capacity to do that for others who want to learn. For me personally, it is amazing to hear all the responses and know that it just scratches the surface of what is going on.

In 2009 we would not have been ready for this discussion. You have opened our eyes in a new way, looking at Canada, but it could be a critical moment in the HtH journey. A point we look back on and see that this was a “crucible moment” for us as a community and as individuals. Thank you for the challenge that both of you gave us today.

Steve had that same kind of moment when he visited Calcutta, he said “I don’t think I will ever be the same” and his friend said, “It is scary how quickly you do go back to the same”. So we only change if we water it…

Steve’s suggested books:

“Neither Wolf nor Dog”

“Aboriginal Handbook”

“Waiting for God” Simone Weil

Day 3: All Life is Connected, May 27

All Life Is Connected by Beth McLean Wiest

It was time for another circle. This was the Stages of Life Circle. Divided into? Yep. Quadrants. (Remember, when reading / describing a circle, you always start at the east where the sun rises.)


EmotionalSpiritual stage of life: birth – age 25

Spiritual – Mental stage of life: age 25 – 50

Mental – Physical stage of life: age 50 – 75

Physical – Emotional stage of life: age 75 – 100

We found the following perspectives on age very interesting:

  • Until age 6 or 7 you are very pure, connection to spirit world.
  • Once you get to age 75 your brain is at most powerful. You have a connection to everyone.
  • An “elder” is not age specific. Elders live by the 7 Laws. There is no official ceremony to become an elder. When something happens in the community, people know who to go to and that person becomes an elder as a result.

By this point in the day, we had learned about a few circles and were starting to see how the circles overlapped. We had learned about the creation circles, the clan circle, the parts of a person circle and the stages of life circle. When Marcel drew them, he often overlapped the circles or connected them with arrows. Anishinabe Philosophy says that you belong to community and community belongs to you. A key teaching in the stories that First Nations tell their children is this: Do not get ahead of the community. Why? Because relationship is sacred. Since relationship is sacred, the Aboriginal perspective is that our ancestors are always with us. Heaven is not far- it’s just over here at arms’ reach.

This was a big a-ha for many of us. Honoring ancestors is not ancestral worship, it’s recognition of our emotion / mental / spiritual / physical whole self in interaction with creation, with community, with our past, with eternity, with Creator.


Steve Bell interjected. As Europeans, we have lost our stories. We have lost the understanding of sacred. We have lost our identity as a whole person. What the aboriginal people refer to as Ancestors, would be what Christians refer to as Saints. Consider this, those who are closer to God are more capable of being active in our lives. There is nothing distracting them from being everything that God designed them to be. We’ve lost touch with stories but children haven’t. And children are very connected to the spirit world.

It is important to teach how relationships reproduce. The Anishinabe believe that The Sacred Relationship is our spirituality and sexuality because that is what enhances and maintains life. Two sides of the same coin. Life comes from sexuality. Spirituality sustains life. When children learn early that sex is spiritual and therefore sacred, they are more responsible (they are in their Emotional – Spiritual stage of life). Consider the impact if we taught the 7 Laws in relationship to Spirituality / Sexuality (love, wisdom, courage, honesty, respect, humility, truth).

If you are weak emotionally and spiritually, diseases will affect you physically. In Marcel’s opinion, the reason it is difficult to find a cure for cancer and diabetes is because they are spiritual illnesses. He shared that 30 years ago when they embarked on the journey to health and prosperity, they had to learn about the traditional ways. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease are very concerning situation in our communities. Elders would say that cancer lives on foods that are not our traditional diet. (sugar, salt, flour, lard) For every ailment there is a medicine through plants, fish, birds, animals or a combo of them. In Western medicine, there are some things that work and some from our traditional medicines that work and some times it has to do with whether you believe or not. (Consider how many of our choices made in our Emotional – Spiritual stage of life and our Spiritual – Mental stage of life don’t show their consequences in our physical self until much later…)

Heresy is the separation of the sacred from the material.

When we don’t live by the 7 laws we are creating chaos, destruction, death. Whatever happens to the earth, happens to the people. Whatever happens to the wolf is what will happen to the Anishinabe. Wolf was almost exterminated because of fear. Anishinabe were almost exterminated by fear as well. The residential schools tried to exterminate the Anishinabe through the children (Emotional – Spiritual stage of life). Children were taken away from their families- even siblings weren’t allowed to show affection to one another. They were abused, they were forbidden to speak their languages, they were forbidden to do any of their spiritual ceremonies…

One of the spiritual ceremonies is the Sweat Lodge. Marcel began to explain it to us as well as the various ceremonial tools used in the sweat lodge. Little did we know at this time that the following afternoon Marcel would invite us out to his reserve, Hollow Water, to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony with him. Stay tuned for our accounts of that powerful experience for our community.

We were nearing the end of our day with Marcel. To say that our brains were full would be an understatement- it has taken multiple blogs to try and capture a snap shot of some of the learnings. Steve Bell captured the day and Marcel’s heart when he said, “If you stop receiving, you start to think it is yours and then you stop passing it on.”

May you receive some of what we learned, and may you pass it on. It only takes a spark to get a fire going…

Day 3: Steve Bell, May 27

Steve Bell – by John Vooys
Monday morning, we had the privilege of meeting Steve Bell and spending a day with him and an Aboriginal elder he’d met named Marcel Hardisty. So, who is Steve Bell? I knew he was a musician my mother listened to quite a bit, and who toured Calgary relatively frequently; I was quite fond of some of his songs, and not as fond of others. This was just about the sum total of my knowledge. The first thing I noticed when Steve showed up in the classroom with us, however, was how humble and friendly he was – chatting with us as though we’d met before, and bringing a large box of his CDs which he offered to us as a gift. (It was only later I learned that Steve’s connection to Harmony through Harmony was via Pat Nixon, although I’d imagined that that’s just the sort of person he was when meeting people.) He had the bearing of an artist or a craftsman, but there was nothing that suggested he was somehow above us. For instance, as a personality type aficionado, I found out his enneagram type over lunch (likely a 3, although he’s not certain about this).
Steve Bell - private concert!

Steve Bell – private concert!

The majority of that day was spent learning from Marcel about the heritage, religion, and spirituality of his people, the Anishinabe, and Steve made himself as much a student as the rest of us, mostly sitting and listening. However, he would interject at certain points, offering his thoughts on why certain pieces of Anishinabe belief were not only in agreement with Christianity, but could flesh out some of the aspects that were neglected in evangelical Western circles – the relationship of man to creation, for example, or the communal side of purpose in life. His perspective was consistently orthodox, and yet was neither critical nor judgmental; I found this very helpful in understanding and accepting what Marcel shared with us.
Storyteller extraordinaire

Storyteller extraordinaire

As musicians, we of course shared songs – Steve playing two of his, HtH singing a few (including a hastily learned arrangement of Steve’s “Peace Prayer”), and all of us singing “Wings of an Eagle,” as well as Marcel singing two Anishinabe songs for us. Steve and Torri spent some time talking shop afterwards, discussing the possibility of a collaboration in the future. In addition, two people who later attended one of our Winnipeg concerts found out about it because of a posting on Steve’s Facebook page. Again, it felt like all of this was just the sort of person Steve was – that he’s truly interested in promoting other musicians and causes, and that people matter to him. I, for one, was quite touched by him spending the day with us, and I hope HtH will cross paths with him again.

Day 3: More learning with Marcel, May 27

A Lesson in History by Beth McLean Wiest

Part two of the day, after coffee break, began with music.

Marcel shared with us that his song was to honor the ancestors. It was called an “honour song”. He sang with his drum. It was sacred to hear him, watch him and imagine what the words were about. I love how music communicates messages at so many levels. We then sang one of our songs for him. And again, it was a sacred moment. When we rehearse, we always sing in a circle. The room was set up with desks like a square so it was really neat to become a circle with Marcel and Steve as we sang. They stood with us as we sang and it felt very respectful and honoring.


And then the next part of our education began. This time it was a history lesson.

The Anishinabe have been in the Winnipeg area for 15,000 years, in the Great Lakes area for 50,000 years. According to history books, the “visitors”, aka settlers and Europeans, arrived in 1492 and therefore have lived here only the last 500 years. “Our people knew ahead of time that Visitors were coming. Our people had seen it through ceremony, ways of communicating through Creator and Ancestors, through Smudging, birth of child (something we do with the placenta).”

Even though the Anishinabe knew the Visitors were coming, there has been struggle with the changes the Visitors brought. “Why if Creator loved us did he allow people to come over to our part of the world to destroy?”

Excellent question. With Visitors, came the European systems. Religion, education, justice and eventually systems like child family services. Throughout the 500 years, government policy has generally been Assimilation or Extermination.

Did you know that it was illegal to teach the teachings of the Anishinabe until 20 years ago? WHAT?!

Government systems work because they are based on authority. Consider this as one example: would hydro in Manitoba exist if government policy didn’t allow it? How does hydro transform a community? What environmental changes occur? What does “before hydro” and “after hydro” look like?

Eventually, hydro came into the Anishinabe territory and now there were freezers. Before hydro, if you had a moose, you had to share or it was wasted. Now with hydro, you can keep your extra moose in a freezer, you don’t need to share.

At this point, Steve Bell jumped in and shared some reflections on the idea of sharing. Sharing is lost in our culture. It changes your worldview and how we see God. It shifts community, theology. And when you don’t have to share anymore, it destroys much that is sacred. It destroys the heart of a community.


Marcel drew another circle. And then, once again, he divided it into four quadrants. This time the circle represented a person. We are Physical – Emotional – Spiritual – Mental beings.


Residential schools were meant to weaken the Emotional and Spiritual side. Do you know anything about residential schools? Most Canadians don’t. It is a part of our history that doesn’t seem to be taught much. It is part of our history that is having huge impact on Canada today.

Marcel was deeply respectful of the fact he was teaching a room full of non-aboriginals. I found his gentleness to us deeply moving. In sharing the ugliness of our history and the impact that our ancestors have had on his people and him, he could have been accusing and no one would have faulted him for it. But he wasn’t. He was gentle, tactful, humble.

There were 132 residential schools across the country. For more than a century, Indian Residential Schools separated 150,000 Aboriginal children from their families and communities.  Do you know when the last residential school was closed? Was it in the 1800s?

Nope. 1996. Yes, you read that right. 1996. Not even 20 years ago.

I don’t know about you, but most of us were pretty clueless about the Indian Act. I encourage you to Google it and do some reading. It is eye opening. And disturbing.

The Indian Act is a Canadian Federal law that governs in matters pertaining to Indian status, bands, and Indian reserves. It is aimed at assimilation. It was enacted in 1876. It is an oppressive piece of legislation that allows government to manipulate and have control over people.

Here are some examples of what the Indian Act resulted in:

  • Destroy canoes, paddles, dogsleds, harnesses, burn snowshoes.
  • Destroy means of transportation.
  • Take the Indian out of the child. ( aka force them to go to a residential school)
  • Isolate the child from everyone they know and love.
  • Do not allow them to learn the Philosophy before age 25.

What if every nation in Canada had an Act similar to the Indian Act?

What if your children were taken from you from age 5 – 16 or 20?

What if you no longer had any means of connecting with others in your community?

That is what the Indian Act allowed the government to do. Essentially, the Indian Act controls what goes on in community.

On June 11, 2008 The Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Harper) apologized to all Aboriginal children for the damage that had been done in residential schools. You can read the apology at

“Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country…”

“The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language…”

“The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation.  Therefore, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system…”

The Minister of Indian Affairs answers to Mr. Harper. Who tells the Minister of Indian Affairs what to do? Who does the Minister of Indian Affairs represent? The 5th anniversary of this apology was earlier this month. Has much changed?

Marcel works in addictions. He had some really interesting insights into how addictions destroy community. When the emotional and spiritual side are weakened, then you are prone to addictions: alcohol / drugs / gambling / pills / negative thinking / internet / gossip.

I have never heard someone refer to gossip as an addiction before. He called social media “Gossip Without Borders”… and as he shared how technology is destroying community… it was hard to argue his points.

Addictions in First Nations communities are a direct result of the residential schools because their objective was to weaken the emotional and spiritual side of the child.

Do you know anything about the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission? It also began in 2008 and is ongoing.  To learn about the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” is the “next step” learning Marcel has given us.  I encourage you to look it up too.

And it was time for lunch.

Day 3: Monday morning, May 27th, 2013.

Anishinabe Philosophy with Marcel Hardisty by Beth McLean Wiest.

Marcel Hardisty is a wise and humble man. He is a community leader in Hollow Water, an Ojibwa reservation north of Winnipeg. He is passionate about his people and their healing and a firm believer in restorative justice. He is an Aboriginal Community Sexual Abuse Intervention Specialist, and past president of Community Holistic Circle Healing – a comprehensive networking and healing system. According to Steve Bell, he is also a great teacher to us non-aboriginals and someone Harmony through Harmony should learn from. We were eager to spend a day learning from Marcel.

Our morning began with presenting Marcel with tobacco. He then explained why it is the ancient custom to give an offering of tobacco.

Traditionally, the tobacco is used to open communication whether with an elder or the Creator. When making a request to an Elder/Traditional Teacher whether for information, advice and/ or to make a presentation it is respectful to offer tobacco first. Presenting tobacco demonstrates respect for how the land and the people will live together. In traditional tobacco there is a mix of cedar, sage, sweet grass and kinnikinnick. I don’t think our tobacco had any of that- I didn’t even know how to spell it (which Marcel teased me about)! I am a non-smoker so I had no idea what to look for in tobacco… For me, it was a classic moment of my non-aboriginal ignorance. I felt so out of my gift-giving league. Thankfully, one of our singers was able to help me out and we were able to honor Marcel with our symbolic presentation. I was very grateful for Marcel’s graciousness to us.

After the tobacco offering, we jumped right into our day of learning… The Anishinabe Philosophy.

Anishinabe means “First Man” or “Original Peoples”. The Anishinabe are the conglomerate tribe of the tribes of Odawa, Ojibwe and Algonquin peoples. They all speak closely related languages. These are the nations surrounding the Great Lakes.


from Wikipedia

from Wikipedia

Before the residential schools, all the Anishinabe people understood what it meant to be Anishinabe. Tragically, many no longer know this part of their identity. Those who do, like Marcel, are doing their part to take back control of their lives and find solutions to the problems of their people. Their hope is that one day soon the Anishinabe people will all understand what it means to be Anishinabe once more.

For me, the loss of identity was a sobering thought. What would it be like for me to lose my identity as a Canadian? I am proud to be Canadian and as I have traveled the world I am proud of how others view my country. The Anishinabe people have been here longer than any of us. What went so very wrong for them to lose their identity? The answer to that question is one that humbles me and brings me to my knees. Apparently I am not the only one troubled by the question of “What went wrong?”…

Marcel shared that in 1978-79, a little girl drowned in the outside toilet hole because everyone, her parents and grandparents, was drunk. At that time, almost every home had beer-drinking parties going on in the home on a regular basis. Following the tragedy, the grandparents came forward in their grief to the council members saying “What is wrong with this?”. Most of the council was women at the time. The council determined “We have to act on the request of these elders. No one from the outside is going to come and save you, you have to do it yourself.” And so, people like Marcel started to work in the community to teach the Anishinabe Philosophy.

So what is the Anishinabe Philosophy?

To be Anishinabe means to understand that we are all created and need each other. Creator will always provide all that you need for your life. All that we need in order to live comes from the raw material of mother earth. Take only what you need.


Marcel explaining how we are connected

Marcel explaining how we are connected

Creator made the first family:

–       Mother Earth

–       Grandmother Moon

–       Grandfather Sun

Creator then made the first children:

–       Plant life

–       Four leggeds,

–       Birds

–       Fish

Creator made it so that all this would live on forever with no need for us. Creator then made his most prized creation Woman.

Sounds a lot like the story of Creation I was raised with.

At birth, all Anishinabe people should be given a clan, named after an animal. This is because of the core belief that we are all connected to all aspects of creation including the animals. In order for a community to be healthy, all the clans need to be represented. We all need each other. We learned you can learn a lot about people by knowing what clan they are from and studying the animal’s behaviours and role in nature.


–       Loon – voice of the will of the people, storytellers

–       Crane – voice of the will of the people, storytellers

–       Martin –they are the Providers, strategists (Martin includes beaver, otter, wolves)

–       Hooves – singers, dancers, reconciliators (Deer is boss of the clan because he is kind and gentle. Hooves includes buffalo, moose, caribou, elk)

–       Fish – intellectuals, teachers, knowledge of the people (Turtles is boss of clan.)

–       Bird – spiritual leaders, spiritual teachers (Eagle is the boss because of his wisdom.)

–       Bear- medicine people, knowledgeable of the herbs, healing, ceremony (Polar bear is boss of the clan)

A funny moment was when I asked Marcel, “Are the roles of the voices of the will of the people (loon and crane) different?” He looked at me like I was nuts. “Have you ever heard a loon?” Fortunately, I have. “Yes.” “Well then…” Right. Good point. But all around the room, the other non-aboriginals (everyone) were asking the same question. So if they both have the role of  “voice of the will of the people”, then…? But no more was said. In his mind, of course they have different roles. I guess I will need to spend some time observing loons and cranes. We were moving on…

The earth is divided into quarters like a clock. The East is the yellow people, the South is the black people, the North is the white people and the West is the red people (and red is a sacred colour). You will often see drawings of circles in First Peoples art where the circle has four colours. Interestingly, when they go around the circle they always begin at the East point as that is where the Sun begins its journey.


It immediately made me think of the children’s song “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world… Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Because we are all a part of Mother Earth, there was no concept of property / land ownership because all of it was Creator’s. We all need each other and you only take what you need. We are all strands of the same web of life. There is kinship between all creation.

Marcel then went on to explain that the Anishinabe live by seven laws. The Laws teach  how to live with all of creation especially with other human beings:


–       Respect

–       Humility

–       Truth

–       Courage

–       Wisdom

–       Honesty

–       Sharing (love)

When we don’t live by these seven laws, we are creating chaos, destruction, death. Whatever happens to the earth, happens to the people.

Our minds and hearts were being opened. And we were only at morning coffee break.


Day 3: Monday May 27th, 2013

Intro to an AMAZING Day: Beth McLean Wiest

When I began traveling internationally on my own at 18, my mom was given a Scripture for me: Exodus 23:20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.”  Ever since then, that verse has come up at key points in my life- and generally through my mom.

In the early stages of planning this trip, one day she brought over her Bible to me and said, “Look what passage I opened to today when I was praying for you and this trip?” Sure enough… Exodus 23:20.

I have learned to anticipate that doors will open in incredible ways when I don’t lean on my own understanding but trust in God to direct my paths. Our Day 3 was a classic example of God arranging an incredible day for us. We were deeply humbled and so privileged to spend a day of learning with two inspiring men: a very wise aboriginal elder, Marcel Hardisty, and a brilliant Juno award winning musician, Steve Bell.

How on earth did this happen?

Great question. My only answer is Exodus 23:20. God paved the way and sent angels ahead of us.

One of those angels is Pat Nixon. Pat Nixon is the founder of The Mustard Seed Street Ministry in Calgary and the co-founder and Executive Director of The Streetlevel Network ( His accomplishments are mighty impressive: he’s received the Order of Canada, the Alberta Order of Excellence and recently the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Before ever hearing Harmony through Harmony sing, Pat was promoting us in his circles of influence because he resonated so deeply with what we are about. How cool is that? He has invited Harmony through Harmony to join Streetlevel in sharing its messages in churches and communities across Canada. We consider this to be an immense privilege.

Pat is good friends with Steve Bell.

Steve is also an angel in our story. Steve Bell is a singer, songwriter and storyteller.  ( He’s released 17 CDS. He’s the winner of two Juno Awards for Best Gospel Album, and multiple Western Canadian Music Awards, Gospel Music Association of Canada Covenant Awards, Shai/Vibe awards, and Prairie Music Awards. He is also a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal!

Remarkably, Steve offered to help connect Harmony through Harmony to people in his circles of influence in Winnipeg. Like Pat, Steve had also never heard HtH perform nor met our group before endorsing us. His kindness resulted in two connections we could only have dreamt of without his help: a day with Marcel Hardisty from Hollow Waters reserve and Ovide Mercredi former National Chief to the Assembly of First Nations. He then joined us in learning from these two inspiring individuals sharing his insights and further stimulating our community on our learning journey.

Over the next couple of days I will attempt to share my understanding of what Marcel taught us. Before then, I encourage you to read Steve’s Blog “Glory in the Skies! WJ Flight 318 Seat 3D – An Anishinaabeg Tale and a Hebrew Psalm”  (




Day 2: Sunday evening, May 26th, 2013

BBQ by Becky Timmons

This evening we were blessed to be invited to the home of close friends of Beth and Reid’s. Mark and Michelle, along with their two children, welcomed the entire HtH clan over for a BBQ and hangout. This was a wonderful opportunity for us as a group to unwind from the busy day, to meet new friends and practice some of our performing skills.

Mark manned the BBQ while we learned a song (Peace Prayer) that we will sing for Steve Bell tomorrow. Having worked up an appetite through singing and trampolining (a few HtH’ers enjoyed a jump or two) we happily set out to consume the mountain of food provided!

Thank you Mark and Michelle for your generosity to us!

Thank you Mark and Michelle for your generosity to us!

After dinner we performed an impromptu concert in the living room for Mark, Michelle and their neighbors. It was a great chance for us to work through some musical moments for our upcoming awareness concert. We also enjoyed connecting with a small audience and between songs, people would ask questions about the songs or the group. We enjoyed this interaction because it gave us yet another opportunity to make new friends.


It was surprising how many connections we could make with our new Winnipeg friends, whether through people we all knew or experiences we all had, it truly felt like it is a small world! We are excited to see what other opportunities and experiences God has for us on this trip.

Day 2: Sunday afternoon, May 26th, 2013

“Love Winnipeg” by David Kang

I’ve been to a few big Christian gatherings around Canada. These have been typically characterized by a lot of loud rambunctious singing, a great band, an even greater speaker, and plenty of spectacle. In this manner, our visit to Love Winnipeg 2013 was not different. In fact, it fit the archetype quite accurately.

‘Love Winnipeg’ is a gathering of dozens of churches in the city on an overcast, mid-spring afternoon celebrating their city. The purpose of this event is to unite the different denominational and ethnic churches of the city in a celebration of the God at work in the city itself and then “love” on Winnipeg in the weeks that follow. This year’s “Love Winnipeg” is the first official event in the brand spankin’ new Investors Group Field, the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The speakers did not fail to constantly remind us, that this was a BIG moment for the city. You could say Love Winnipeg was a housewarming party of sorts.


My first impression, after the shock of the shining steel stadium standing before me, was warm. Maybe it was endorphins, exhaustion, or the Holy Spirit, but upon entering the stadium I felt comfortable and welcomed. In a behemoth of a stadium filled by the thousands wherein I look like an objectified statistic, feeling welcomed is an unexpected experience indeed.


I mentioned that “Love Winnipeg” was similar to other large Christian conferences and this has some truth. However, I quickly noticed a fundamental discrepancy between this conference and others. Most conferences that I have attended in the past were all about God, me and God+me with a healthy dose of singing worship. “Love Winnipeg” added a new variable that put a unique twist in the equation: the city. Having a conference that wasn’t about the ‘me’ was refreshing and bold because this was about the ‘we’. The speaker (I can’t remember his name for the life of me) gave some nifty sports stories and analogies (because Go Blue Bombers and their new stadium!) that revolved around the concept of team. It was a corny analogy but the attitude it promoted completely shifted my perception of the mass of people before me. I felt that I was no longer an individual who needed to compete against thousands of others to take home his piece of God, but a member of a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team who could receive and commune with God as one. By setting the mutual goal of bettering and loving Winnipeg, I felt camaraderie with people that, otherwise, I would have no other connection. The more I think about it now, maybe that is the reason I felt so welcome when I entered the stadium, there was a ‘we’ attitude, not a ‘me’ one.

Makes me think what this might look like in Calgary…


For those of you who like details… by Beth McLean Wiest

The tagline for “Love Winnipeg” is “Impacting Winnipeg with the amazing, life-transforming love of Jesus”. Amazingly, for the Love Winnipeg has been going on for more than 20 years. Churches are encouraged to be intentional about going into their communities. This evolved to the point where four years ago, the churches began kicking off the Love Winnipeg period with a joint service called “One Heart”.


The event we attended was the “One Heart” service. The idea behind One Heart is that the churches of Winnipeg give up their individual Sunday morning meetings to join together to declare One Lord, One Church, One Harvest in the their city. In past years the service has been held in the morning. This was the first year that the service was in the afternoon with the idea that denominations who wished to still have their morning service could continue to do so and still participate in the One Heart service. This worked really well for us as we were able to attend the church service at Winnipeg Center Vineyard and then quickly drive over to attend the One Heart service. The program was from 12:00 – 2:30 pm and an estimated 15,000 people from over 90 different churches were in attendance. This was the 4th annual One Heart Celebration.


From the program we received:

Jesus taught that we are all on the same team, with the same Coach, working toward the same goal: to love and bless and serve our city for the glory of God… We at One Heart want God’s love to be practical, so we are also joining together to launch Love Winnipeg. For the next two weeks, thousands of people of all ages will be mobilized into their communities and neighborhoods to share God’s love in practical acts of kindness and service. As well, we will be taking an offering today to cover any expenses not yet met and to bless some inner city ministries that work with the underprivileged. Last year we gave over $21,000 to three inner city causes…” – Ron MacLean Chairman.

I found it really powerful to be in a stadium full of Christians who had intentionally come together out of love and concern for their city. Singing together, praying together, was incredible- a glimpse of what heaven will look like. The event actually began with a Parade of Nations and as the various flags came into the stadium, the lump in my throat got bigger and bigger. And then we sang O Canada. I was teary and proud to be a Canadian and a citizen in a country where religious freedoms are protected.


The speaker line up was cool too partly because of the number of pastors they involved in it. There was a welcome by Blue Bomber V.P. Jim Bell, a welcome by Mayor Sam Katz, prayer for the city led by Pastor Bruce Martin, offering by Pastor Junie Josue, message by Pastor Mark Hughes, Benediction by Pastor Ron MacLean. And the most powerful message (according to HtH anyway) given by former Blue Bomber star player Milt Stegall. Worship was led by Derek Zeilstra and a big choir.

Milt Stegall

Milt Stegall

I was thankful for the big screens because I think the photos capture the power of the worship music and the moments. Imagine the sound!


I was glad we were in the city for this event. It was a great way to kick off our week in Winnipeg and our trip in Canada. I am thankful for the reminder of the immense privilege we have to meet freely and publicly about our faith, to pray together without fear of persecution or being imprisoned and to proclaim a bold message in a public venue. And the Winnipegers we prayed with thought it was pretty cool we were there to love their city too…

We were encouraged to pray with the people around us.

We were encouraged to pray with the people around us.

Please join us in praying for Winnipeg- in praise for events like this one and for the list they gave below.


Day 2: Sunday morning, May 26th, 2013

Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church Service by Vicki Ross

The Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church is not like any other church I have ever attended. It felt different, unique, refreshing, even…radical. From the outside you could barely tell that it even is a church- on the outside it looks like a bit of a run-down brick building, located in Winnipeg’s inner-city, right near the train tracks. In fact, if you didn’t see the small, un-imposing sign just above the door that states ‘Welcome to Vineyard’ you would likely think you had the wrong address! But from the moment we entered its doors the church lived up to its sign. You felt welcomed into a community, and I could sense that God was present. From the pictures hanging on the walls, to the smiles of the people who came and spoke to us, to the passion of those leading worship, to the hugs that people would give to each other- like they were greeting family members. It warmed my heart, inspired me…and humbled me.

Waiting for the service to begin.

Waiting for the service to begin.


The mission statement of the church is ‘to build a safe community that invites all people to worship Jesus as they embrace a kingdom lifestyle that extends God’s justice on the earth’. That can be summed up in three key words: Worship, Community and Justice. The location of the church might have something to do with the fact that many of the members are people who we might consider ‘the poor’ or ‘the needy’ (although if we all took a closer look at ourselves I think we could all find ourselves in those two categories). However, I think it is more likely a result of the church’s intentional choice to posture itself in such a way that people feel like they belong, regardless of where they come from or what they have done. We will be meeting up again with the church on Tuesday morning to be part of their outreach ministry, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their values are put into practice in that context too.


I felt the entire church service invited people to enter into God’s presence, and to see His heart and character more clearly, from the choice of songs played to the message that was preached. The message spoke about God as our Father, and identified how He provides us with our true identity, our value, and our sense of approval. One concept that stood out to me (a person who has struggled with perfectionism all her life) was that at the moment of Christ’s baptism, when the Voice came from heaven saying, ‘Here is my Son…with whom I am well pleased’, Christ’s ministry had not yet begun. Jesus had not yet done any miracles, had not yet faced Satan’s temptation in the desert, had not yet been through the crucifixion…and yet God was pleased with him. God approved of Jesus because of his identity as God’s son, just as God approves of us because we are His children. Nothing else is required- we cannot make Him love us any more or less by what we do. And I think that’s pretty cool!


Day 1: Saturday, May 25, 2013 Our Journey Begins

While one doesn’t have to leave home in order to go on a journey, travel seems to always result in a journey of some kind- both literal and figurative. Our blog entries over the next while will capture our journey. Sometimes the blogs will be more detailed in the travel activities and sometimes the blogs will be more about our inner journeys and lessons learned.

The writers of our blog will vary- we’re going to try to have everyone write something at some point. HtH exists for its participants. To that end, our blog entries of this trip are a written response to our travels and experiences. The trip has been so intense that we have intentionally chosen to NOT have this be a daily blog of the day’s events. We hope you will enjoy our stories and that you will enter into a journey of your own as a result of reading them.

Our journey begins at the Calgary Airport, early in the morning, on Saturday May 25th, 2013. It was a day that had two components: Travel and Intro to Winnipeg Tourism. Here are a few perspectives of this first day…


Beth McLean Wiest: Travel Logistics

There are so many details in planning a trip for 16 travelers. It is very exciting to have no issues. We were greeted and escorted by an agent in charge of group travel who was delightful and we were checked in much more quickly than any of us had anticipated. We were off to a relaxing start. There was no one else in line so we decided to sing for the check in agents. Arriving in Winnipeg, all luggage made it and so it was off to get the rental vehicles.


Winnipeg Airport

Winnipeg Airport

And there we encountered our first glitch: their computer system was down. So the wait was long. But memorable. A few from our group ended up outside playing Frisbee- not your normal activity at an airport terminal- others played games. And eventually… we got an upgrade on all three of our rental vehicles! We were now traveling in style in three SUVs- for the price of three standard cars! Hooray for!

Alanna Watton: Initial Discoveries

Today was a grand adventure that started with us gathering at the YYC airport. This went smoothly and we even got to share some music with the lady who helped check us all in. After a brief stint in the air we landed in balmy Winnipeg. Wearing our newly acquired HtH swag, we looked highly presentable and ready to rock. After getting vehicles and settling into our room, we headed off to The Forks…which is a super cool historical area location right next to downtown. We were then let loose to explore the area and discover what Winnipeg has to offer. Some of our highlights of the afternoon were exploring Union Station and the train museum there found. We proudly represented HtH as we explored the inner workings of fine locomotives and the history that went along with it all. It was cool to see the different architecture that exists downtown as well as to learn about a bit of the history. It was also really neat to see the cultural diversity, the vibrancy of the area, and the First Nations influence on public art. All in all today was relaxing start to our adventures. We’re looking forward to all the learning and adventures these next weeks will hold!


Inside the Forks

Inside the Forks


John Vooys: Ultimate Frisbee

Our time spent at The Forks included a lot of moseying around, but the musicality of this part of Winnipeg stood out. There were a lot of “busk stations” set up, which allowed performers to stay in a designated area for 30 minutes, and many folks took advantage of them while we were there. I was impressed by how much music went on here – far more than in Calgary. Two guys we met while walking commented that The Forks required a special busking license, and you didn’t need one to busk at random around town; more musical than Calgary indeed! Later, we gathered near The Forks’ skate park, and played a game of Ultimate Frisbee with a random stranger named Tyler. The soundtrack to the game was a live punk rock band, and later a hardcore metal band, all gathered to entertain the skateboarders and bikers and raise money for cancer. As a finish to our time there, we watched Peter and Shaun headbang with the other audience members and join the mosh pit.


Peter Vooys: A Metal Concert at the Skate Park!

I had a lovely, pensive afternoon of walking through St.Boniface, a francophone borough that is part of Winnipeg, on the other side of the Red River, where I visited a Cathedral and the grave of Louis Riel, and stared over the vastness of the Red River at buildings that bore the tang of Quebec. After a little wading in the Red River, I headed back to take in the sweet sounds that beckoned me across the bridge back to Forks. The sweet resonant smacks of a bass drum, and little snatches of electric guitar and high-pitched, nasal tones of melodic punk rock. That we could happen upon a punk rock concert on the day we ended up at the The Forks was a blessing!


I was distracted repeatedly on my way back to the concert area at The Forks. There were more places in the general area to see, more interesting local colour to observe and absorb before I had to meet back with the group at 6:45. I went into the Market and had an empanada (don’t if you’re here, they’re not that great). I was tempted to browse in the stores upstairs in the market before I was reminded of who I am. Am I a shopper? Definitely not. Am I a rocker? Yep.

I went back outside, hoping to hear the next band onstage. It seems like some sort of festival had been going on, as there’d been an assortment of sounds coming from the stage; ska, rockabilly, melodic punk rock, etc. I noticed a lot of buskers in the area as well, many of them quite good. This is what the Eau Claire Market area should be like!! After affirming my affection for Winnipeg’s public art culture, I started to walk toward the stage again. And what I heard made my heart beat faster. My eyes started to widen and I started to smile. This sound wasn’t punk rock. This was better. This was Metal…


The closer I got, the more I realized that this wasn’t screamo, this wasn’t metal-inflected melodic emo-punk. This was just straight up Metal. And it was amazing! I saw that a bunch of kids were gathered around the stage and that the stage was, in fact, in the middle of a skate park. There were even kids moshing. Sick! I saw the HtH group playing Frisbee. Beth and Shaun were sitting by the group. I was glad to see Shaun. He’s the one guy in HtH who is more into metal than I. I asked if he wanted to go mosh. He said “yeah, I kinda do”. We went up to the stage and had our faces melted off by a band called Waster. Their music was immediately enjoyable, reminiscent of 90’s thrash kingpins Pantera. They had energy to burn, and we showed our appreciation through some moderate headbanging. The moshing had stopped, though, before we got there.

At two key points, the band took it to another level, and their groove-heavy power-thrash, and some exhortation from the singer convinced us to get a circle pit going. It was time to mosh! A circle pit is a mosh pit where concert-goers mob around in a circle, flailing elbows and pushing each other. If you don’t know, moshing is a fixture at good heavy music concerts. The participants flail at each other, slamming into each other good-naturedly. At times it can be violent, depending on the crowd and the band, but today’s crowd were fun skater kids, and most metal fans are quite decent folks, and take care of each other in the pit.

As the band prepared for their second last song, the singer commanded the crowd to move to the front of the stage. A few of us rose to the instruction, and we were hit with a blistering groove. Our head-banging now was more profound and had some full-body involvement. Neither Shaun nor I had enough hair to whip around, but at this point it didn’t matter. It was ON!


The moshing started again. I got smoked in the face by another dude’s head and we smiled at each other. As was well. If you’re reading this choir blog, I’m going to go with the odds and guess that you aren’t a metal fan. I could try to explain it to you, but that must wait for another day down the road. Shaun and I had a wonderful time in the pit.

If you walked by the stage, you might have thought, “what’s that horrible racket?” It turns out the whole rock/punk/metal concert was called Skate 4 Cancer, and was a fundraiser for a local cancer society, put on by a local skate shop. Their t-shirts might scare you, and the tattoos, or hair might put you off. The lyrics are sometimes brutal, the music can be pummeling, and you might want to write off metalheads when you see them. But despite the rough edges, they are decent, lovin’ people, and I was happy to be slamming into them bodily, incurring some bruises, and feeling blessed and surprised that Day One of our choir trip involved a metal concert! And the moshing was made all the better by the involvement of my friend and fellow tenor Shaun Paulson.


One of the kids at the park... supporting the cause...

One of the kids at the park… supporting the cause…

Thinking back to when the band tore into its last song, I say to myself “There’s something I love about Winnipeg”, and pray “Thanks God, for such a day that brought me to a Cathedral, to Louis Riel’s grave, and to a metal concert. It was a wonderful day. Thank you Lord!!”