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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)


Praying for a miracle

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower.
The Globe and Mail, November 10, 2001

Part 3 of 8: 'This place is for all people'

Lac St. Anne locator Natives were congregating by this five-kilometre-long lake well before 1889 when an Oblate missionary returning from a visit home to Brittany, where Ste. Anne is revered, declared it to be a place of Catholic importance. Hunters first came during the buffalo migrations, to trade, celebrate and give thanks for nature's bounty.

Now, having gone through uprisings, world wars, the Great Depression and decades of church decline, aboriginal people continue to come every year to worship their new Lord. They arrive by chartered bus, camper van and car from almost every native community in the Prairies and Far North. One group wheels in from northern Saskatchewan, having raised money through a parish bike-a-thon.

"According to our prophecies, aboriginal people have a responsibility to lead all mankind to harmony, between humanity and nature.”
Charles Wood

A 37-year-old Dene mother of 10 approaches on foot, having walked and cycled all the way from Yellowknife. Violet Frank says the two-month journey is a tribute to her father, a devout pilgrim claimed by cancer after last year's gathering.

As she approaches the shrine, Frank is joined by five generations of family members, with her grandmother in moccasins and baby grandson clad in Gap. As she reaches out to them, with the festival cross high above, she weeps.

Such emotion may seem more suited to a Southern Baptist revival meeting, but it also speaks to a deep Catholic faith among native people that has survived decades of trial in Northern Canada, as well as to a native spirituality that enjoys growing respect among the non-native priests.

In its early days, the pilgrimage was segregated. Indian and Métis came by horse cart and on foot one day, with many more "European" worshippers arriving the next day on a special train from Edmonton. But slowly, as the missionaries expanded their work northward, the racial makeup changed and, by the end of the Second World War, native pilgrims outnumbered others two to one.

The pilgrimage is now almost all native. Of the estimated 40,000 people who came this year, the only exceptions were a Filipino congregation from Edmonton, a few aging Eastern European immigrants and two dozen Eritrean-Canadian Catholics who somehow stumbled on the event.

But Wood would like to extend the lakeside festival to all communities that feel a need to heal them-selves, with a grandmother's blessing, and to share in common worship. It is not only his hope for expanding the pilgrimage; he feels it is his born duty.

"This place is for all people," he says. "According to our prophecies, aboriginal people have a responsibility to lead all mankind to harmony, between humanity and nature."

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 8):

Photo Essay
Cross purposes

1. 'There has to be a reason this is happening'
Begging forgiveness from the pilgrims rather than preaching to them

2. Taking charge of the Pilgrimage
'We want to return to what has been here for hundreds of years and protect this site as a sacred site, a healing site'

3. 'This place is for all people'
Expanding the congregation

4. The healing waters
'I feel the power here. I feel the spirituality. You can't deny something that has helped people find goodness'

5. Begging forgiveness
Seeing the positive side of residential schools

6. Easing the marriage of cultures
Oblates preserve native languages and traditions by recording them

7. 'Our belief is there's no such thing as hell'
Battle of faith in residential schools
8. 'People use it [the festival] as a big social gathering'
Making the pilgrimage pious again



photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay

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