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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 6 of 8: Easing the marriage of cultures

Lac St. Anne locator The complex relationship - priest and worshipper, teacher and student, liberator and liberated - is often portrayed these days as paternalism at best and oppression at worst. David Goa, curator of folklife at the Provincial Museum of Alberta, disagrees. "It needs to be seen in light of modernization and the enormous struggle of moving into the modern culture," he says.

After interviewing many elderly Oblates, including men who had met the first generation of missionaries, Goa has come to see them as "animators" rather than just an institution. They sought to ease the marriage of cultures, he says, and in many places, preserved native languages and traditions by recording them. They also tried to help natives to organize themselves in completely foreign ways.

“The traditional Cree way is not to hoard power. It's very European."
Rev. Garry LaBoucane

Ironically, Goa believes, those who promoted this as liberation theology may have caused harm. Just as the arrival of the horse and gun introduced notions of possession, he argues, the development ideals of the 1960s "belittled" native culture. They promoted Western values of individualism, hierarchy and progress with which many traditional communities are still struggling.

At the same time, the Oblates remained followers of Rome, whose conservatism is increasingly blamed for the order's failure to follow the lead of other churches and recruit aboriginal men.

Rev. Garry LaBoucane, a Métis Oblate working in Slave Lake, Alta., believes that Rome's rules, and its notions of power, are why so few natives have followed him into the priesthood. The Vatican's stance on celibacy is an obvious barrier in a culture that considers family to be the core of society. But even if this one central requirement were relaxed, LaBoucane sees his own church's power structure as being contradictory to native values.

"The traditional Cree way is not to hoard power," says the 53-year-old priest, who wears a fedora and gold earring. "It's very European. It's very, very hard for them [the church] to understand. It's something about institution; it does something to people. They get stuck by rules."

Despite his own calling, LaBoucane does not encourage many young natives to consider the priesthood. But he believes in the power of the pilgrimage, and has assumed a new role as a native spiritual adviser to draw more diverse elements of faith into the festival.

With so many aboriginal people involved, the event has already assumed the spirit of a modern native gathering. In the morning, once the rain has stopped, a lawn connecting the shrine to the campground fills with young people playing hackeysack and soccer. Farther away, across a gully, hawkers have set up souvenir stands, chip wagons, amusement rides and stalls packed with fireworks, which sell briskly.

Unlike the order that created it, the festival of Ste. Anne shows no sign of weakness. This, according to Charles Wood, should surprise no one. His people understand ordeal and decline, as they do renaissance. Natives, he believes, will save the Oblate spirit from itself.

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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