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Native Assembly seeks justice, shalom


Emily Collins of Riverton, Manitoba (back left) and Neill von Gunten of MC Canada Native Ministry (back right) present a dream catcher crafted by Emily to Betty and Lawrence Hart, hosts of Native Assembly. Lawrence Hart is pastor of the Koinonia Mennonite Church in Clinton.

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Native Assembly Participants from Canada
Canadian participants in Native Assembly travelled via bus. (Click on the image for complete participant list.)

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September 25, 2008
-Deborah Froese with additional reporting by Mennonite Mission Network staff

CLINTON, Okla. — Today is a pivotal moment in Native American history, according to Adrian Jacobs, speaker at the July 28-31 Native Assembly in Clinton, Oklahoma. Jacobs, a Canadian Six Nations pastor invited to the event by Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministry, called native people to take action in God’s salvation narrative.

Assembly participants examined Philippians 2:1-11 and focused on unity and service during the four-day event hosted by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Mennonite churches.

Bringing justice and restoration to indigenous people will move all humanity toward the shalom that God intends - a realm where all will be at peace with God, with each other and with the earth, Jacobs said. He encouraged listeners to “live unafraid of their hearts and to also live in truth and graciousness with non-native people.”

He called for non-native peoples and governments to assume an attitude of humility and repentance, as they will never be able to repay all that is owed to native communities.

Jacobs spoke from experience. He works half-time for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario, relating to Mennonite churches and working in the Grand River Valley on the issues surrounding Six Nations land disputes with the Canadian government. He is also involved with the My People International organization.

Jacobs used a metaphor of "singing the stories of God in our native tongues”—the stories of all nations and peoples of the earth. During the assembly, several aboriginal languages were heard. Canadian First Nations people sang praises to God in Ojibway and Kwakuit.

Other speakers at the event included Zoughbi Zoughbi, a Palestinian peace activist and director of Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem; Anita Keith, a Mohawk educator and author and administrator for the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies; and Iris de León-Hartshorn, Mennonite Church USA minister of intercultural relations.

A Canadian group of thirty people let by MC Canada Native Ministry co-directors, Edith and Neill von Gunten, came from several communities in Manitoba, Edmonton, AB, Granisle, BC and southern Ontario. Harley Eagle from MCC Canada Aboriginal Neighbours and Norman Meade from MCC Manitoba Aboriginal Neighbours, both of Winnipeg, were among those who served as workshop leaders.

After the event drew to a close, Pastor Steve Heinrichs of Granisle wrote: “I loved my experience. Being in that diverse mix of people, worshipping, eating, praying, and listening together, brought peace to my heart.” Walter Wiebe of Morden, MB was also moved by the experience. “As one from a non-Aboriginal background, I was humbled by the gracious reception and hospitality I experienced at Native Assembly. I couldn’t help but wonder: what if the Aboriginal people treated me like they had been treated? Instead, I felt a sense of love, acceptance and a desire for unity.”

Native Assembly is held every other year and it is co-sponsored by MC Canada Native Ministry and Native Mennonite Ministries, a partnering organization of Mennonite Church USA. Event locations alternate between Canada and the US.

For more information about MC Canada Native Ministry, check out Intotemak, a quarterly newsletter featuring news items of interest to friends of Native Ministry, published by MC Canada Witness, at