Foreword by Sheena Koops
My 14 year old daughter, Arwen, and I are sitting in a giant circle, two rows deep, with large board-room-style wooden desks and plush, rolling chairs. We have joined many others, women and men, to consider this year’s Treaty Four Gathering theme, “Empowering Women” and to consider the legacy of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It is a Monday night in September.
Kete-ayah Alma Poitras has invited any who wish to smudge as we begin our gathering. Smudging is a practice, a quiet moment of prayer and cleansing. I join the line to accept the smudging, but Arwen chooses to stay at our table. When I return, I see she has my journal and is writing.
The next day I ask Arwen if I can read her thoughts. She lets me. I am so happy to hear her heart on the page. Now, it is months later; she and I are out for supper in Regina. My journal is full; I need to start another. I am looking for some notes, but then Arwen pages through the other half and she finds her writing. I start reading her thoughts aloud. She is a little embarrassed, but I ask if I can keep reading. She lets me. I ask her if I can share her words in our Sister Triangle Magazine. She says okay.
“I remember sitting in this spot as I watched the people line up in a circle as the Elder was holding a grey clay-looking bowl. Inside sat the sage; the room was filled with its scent as the people smudged with its smoke. I watched as the people I knew and didn’t know smudged. It was quiet. No one really spoke. I remember seeing the nod the elder gave when they had finished and the nod that the person smudging would give. I remember that my emotions were wild. I wanted to cry. I remember I was scared, scared that I was not worthy to see such a beautiful and spiritual setting.
Most of what was said, I could not picture. I would maybe never truly understand what had been said: the loss that had been shared. However, what I did understand hit every part, every fiber of my being. I am a sister, a daughter, and a white young woman. I have never heard of a member of my family being missing or murdered. There may be some people here who are the same as me, but who knows. In this room filled with hurt, loss, but also pride, I feel like an outsider. I don’t have a culture. I don’t have traditions. The way these people felt, their traditions had been ignored and stolen. I would never know their feelings.
However, I am a part of this. I, Arwen Dawn Koops, am a part of this movement. I, just by being here, have changed. The way I will see things, the way I will analyze things. I will be a person that my friends, peers, and future co-workers might see as a strong woman and who my future nieces, cousins, and maybe even daughters can view as a mentor. This is my wish for me and for my women friends. I have changed.”
There is a part of the Bible that is one of the stories in the Let’s Start Talking workbook I used in Estonia. It says that Jesus said that you must be born again. I always thought that it meant baptism, and I still do, but I also think it means that you must change the way you see things. You must be born again to get into God’s Kingdom, you must start as a babe and grow and mature in the new way you have been born. Even though I have not been baptized, I feel new. I feel as though I have a new set of eyes and ears. I am a child of God!”
– Arwen Koops