Sept. 1. 2010
By Neil McKenzie-Sutter
One of my favourite parts of the Manitoba mission trip had to be working with the kids. On the first Sunday some
of us had the chance to work in the Anishinabi Sunday’s school. I ended up working with the youngest groups of kids,
drawing pictures and making puzzles. Jayna was silently scribbling and I asked her what she was drawing. When she didn’t
answer, I said that it looked like a tree and drew leaves on top of what could’ve been the trunk. Across the table Georgina
laughed at me. She said that I had drawn the tree wrong with the leaves coloured yellow and the trunk green. Even Jayna smiled
at that. I had drawn the tree wrong. A tree has many parts and this one needed roots.
Another image that sticks in my mind is mid-week on the reserve. We were asked to go out to Medicine Eagle Camp to
help the elders finish working on a new kitchen and gather herbs for medicine. On the first day I had asked the elders, Stella
and Audrey if they knew anyone who sold walking sticks. The first thing Stella did when she arrived at camp the next morning
was to show me the collection of sticks she had brought for me to look at. She told me that her partner was a woodworker,
so he happened to have plenty on hand. They weren’t finished yet, but all the leaves and bark had been stripped off.
When I found one that I liked, a sturdy diamond willow staff, Stella gave it to me without a fee even though I was ready and
willing to pay for it.
Later that day we went into the forest to dig for roots. Stella
said a prayer for everyone to be forgiven for the damage we were about to the forest and to be given understanding because
the roots were going to be used for medicine to help people heal.
the back yard of St. James Presbyterian Church, where we had been staying, was a little park with a tire swing, teeter-totter,
sand box and an enormous old aspen tree. I was grateful for a calm place to decompress and think over the day’s events
before I lost the daylight and memories. On our last day in Winnipeg I notice that a huge branch on the tree had cracked and
was hanging ominously over several cars in the parking lot. We left Winnipeg with more leaves on the ground in than when we
arrived. I brought back more.