Indigenous Mennonite Encounters: A Gathering of Body, Mind, and Spirit

Thursday, April 22, 2021

IME graphicFrom May 13-15, 2022, a group of international attendees will gather at Conrad Grebel University College for an education conference titled Indigenous-Mennonite Encounters in Time and Place. Next year may seem like a long way off, but right around the corner on May 13, 2021, a virtual preview (sampler) event will premiere on the Grebel YouTube channel at 7pm. This special video presentation will include messages of welcome and introductions from Indigenous and Mennonite scholars, collaborators, community members, and musicians.

“The conference was originally planned for May 2021,” said event organizer and archivist-librarian, Laureen Harder-Gissing. “When we decided to postpone until May 2022 due to covid restrictions, we didn't want to let the original date go unmarked. The sampler is meant to provide a taste of what the 2022 event might be, and to encourage responses to our call for proposals.”  

Both the conference and the sampler aim to advance reconciliation and bring justice to Indigenous-Mennonite relations by furthering understanding on the part of Mennonites and other settlers of their colonial histories. Participants will share stories and conversations, and artists will express their creativity.

“Mennonites have a long history of encounters with Indigenous peoples across the globe,” event organizer and director of Mennonite Studies Marlene Epp explained. “This includes positive relationships and also violation of justice and rights for Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous-Mennonite Encounters gathering is one small step on a journey that Mennonites need to travel in re-thinking their own historical narratives.”

One highlight of the in-person gathering will be a concert with a commissioned composition for choir and performance by internationally recognized cellist and composer Cris Derksen. Derksen is of Mennonite and Cree heritage, descending from a line of chiefs from the NorthTall Cree Reserve on their father’s side, and a line of Mennonite homesteaders on their mother’s side. “They are extremely talented and creative,” Karen Sunabacka, Associate Professor of Music, said. “I heard them perform a solo show—cello with electronics—a few years ago and it was fantastic!”

Other participants featured in the upcoming preview video include Amy Smoke, Reina Neufeldt, Steve Heinrichs, Clarence Cachagee, Seth Ratzlaff, Hannah Enns, Lori Campbell, Kelly Fran Davis, and Mim Harder.

Mark your calendars for May 13, 2021 and 2022, and prepare to learn, share, and experience stories of encounters and relationships between Indigenous peoples and Mennonite settlers throughout history in these interactive and informative events.

Indigenous-Mennonite Encounters: A Conference Preview premieres on May 13, 2021 at 7pm, and is a preview for Indigenous-Mennonite Encounter in Time and Place: A Gathering of Body, Mind, and Spirit which takes place in-person on May 13-15, 2022.

Written by Jace Jaeden Ellis

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