The Salvation Army’s annual Celebration of Culture held in-person at Pine Lake Camp

by markm

It was wonderful to see so many people in attendance at the 5th annual Celebration of Culture: The Call of the Drum, from August 26-28 at The Salvation Army’s Pine Lake Camp in Alberta. Having to celebrate virtually last year and cancelled the year before – due to COVID-19, being back together for the first time in two years felt truly inspiring.

Around 200 people attended this annual event that is hosted by The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory, in partnership with Indigenous Pathways.

Commissioner Tracey Tidd addressed the opening session and worship, welcoming all attendees; Adrian Jacobs, an Elder and a senior leader for Indigenous Justice and Reconciliation in Canada, also welcomed all the participants.

Since last year’s event was held online, there were two feathers presented to Commissioner Tracey Tidd in an eagle feather ceremony in recognition of The Salvation Army’s commitment to the journey of reconciliation. One was presented from Casey Church, a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians of southwest Michigan, and the other from Anthony Moore, from Nisga’a Nation, B.C., both feathers were added to the Eagle Staff, making a total of five.

Three days of sharing and growing together enriched us tremendously. We learned about traditional Indigenous knowledge every day, observed various types of dances during the pow wow in the afternoon of the second day, and participated in numerous rounds of round dances. We also had a traditional stew that was prepared by chefs from Nisga’a Nation.

This year, we also saw more public participation. Teachers from nearby Olds Koinonia Christian School attended the Celebration of Culture as part of their professional development; Indigenous residents from Maskwacis, who witnessed The Salvation Army’s service during the Pope’s visit there, also came to experience the event with us.

Our Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) team, led by our Divisional EDS Director, Major Ben Lippers, was on-site to serve as well. They provided hot coffee, bottled water, and energy bars to participants during the pow wow session in the cold rainy weather.

By the end of the last day’s worship gathering, a talking stick was passed among those gathered in the circle, with each person choosing one word to express their feelings; Truth, love, family, connection, gratitude, change, action, uplifting… these words were the answers.

Major Margaret McLeod, the Divisional Commander of the Alberta and Northern Territories Division, participated in this year’s celebration as well.

“The Celebration of Culture was a great learning experience, many opportunities, both structured and unstructured occurred enhancing my understanding of traditions and teaching within Indigenous Cultures,” said Major McLeod. “On Sunday morning an element of worship was individual and interactive, an opportunity to spend time in prayer for family, for friends, for concerns, and in celebration, was meaningful.”

As Commissioner Tracey Tidd addressed in the closing ceremony, we thank all our indigenous guests for teaching and sharing, which helped us recognize where we are on this journey to Truth and Reconciliation. When we go back to our communities, we need to share what we have learned this weekend to pass on the lessons and bring about more changes.