Hymn for Right Relations between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Peoples

I share today a hymn freely offered by Read Sherman that honors Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat nation. First the hymn, then I share portions of the two letters in which it was imbedded for me the first from Matthew Stevens as he received the hymn and the second from Rev. Sherman. The tune, Kings Weston, is easily found in hymnals.

On a Cold Hushed Island

On a cold hushed island under falling snow,
stands a small encampment round a fire’s glow,
and the sweet grass cleanses all who come and go!
Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya-hey, hey-yo.

Here the welcome’s easy, though the burden’s great,
as a chief lies sleeping in her weakened state,
in a teepee dreaming of her people’s fate.
Ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey-ya, yo-hey.

To this humble circle have we come to pray;
in the sight of Parliament cross the Ott’wa bay,
that our mingled voices might the powers sway!
Ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey, ya-hey-ya, yo-hey.

To the Great Creator in this time of woe,
give your peoples courage, let our prayers o’er flow;
‘til all live in dignity and in friendship grow!
Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ya-hey, hey-yo.

Words:  Read Sherman © January 8, 2012
Tune: King’s Weston 11 11 11 11 (Ralph Vaughn Williams, 1925)
Dedication: To Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat nation, and all who work towards right relations and justice between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.

Churches visit Chief Spence

Churches visit Chief Spence

Selection from letter from Matthew Stevens “All My Relations:

My colleague John Bird, (Program Coordinator, Aboriginal Justice and Right Relations, for the United Church of Canada) has just made me aware of a new hymn composed by the Reverend Read Sherman, after joining with the KAIROS delegation to Chief Theresa Spence on Victoria Island last Sunday. Below you’ll find Reverend Sherman’s letter describing the visit.

As you know, even though Prime Minister Harper reluctantly agreed to meet on Friday, January 11th with a delegation of First Nations leaders, he continues the political gamesmanship by refusing to include the Governor-General in the meeting. Since the treaties were drafted between First Nations and the Crown, the inclusion of the Governor General as the Queen’s official representative is a primary condition to Chief Theresa Spence ending her hunger strike.
Miigwech & zhawendaagozi.”

Selection from a Letter from Read Sherman

On Sunday, Jan. 6, I was privileged along with other United Church clergy, lay people, and folk from other denominations … to attend a prayer vigil at Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s encampment on Victoria Island .  … I found myself very moved to be present with the people there, and those that gathered to pray. There were probably 40 of us who formed a circle about 20 feet away from the teepee in which she was sleeping.  Under a gentle snow, with the sacred fire not too far away, aboriginal and non-aboriginal individuals … lifted up their prayers of thanksgiving for the Creator’s gifts of the land, air, river and life all around us, for Chief Spence’s health, and that right relations between our peoples might become a reality.

I felt called to write a text that might give others a taste of what this experience was like.  I had gone with some fear about how I/we would be received, and found the welcome so genuine.  The camp is in a stunningly beautiful place with a view over the river to Parliament Hill and the city of Ottawa.  I know I share with you the prayer that Chief Spence will soon be able to end her fast and help usher in a new and more just relationship.  Please share this with others again as you think appropriate.
Blessings, and peace.

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One Response to Hymn for Right Relations between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Peoples

  1. rezrevres says:

    Thank you so much for your interest and support to the ongoing social justice struggle of Indigenous Peoples around the globe, and the Idle No More movement in Canada in particular.

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