Forward by Victoria Utman
Full disclosure: When we set up this interview, I was frustrated. Tonight’s guest is our Talent Scout, my mother, Sheena Koops and it took three phone calls to hammer this out.
If you know Sheena, you know that she is a game changer, move maker, and earth shaker. I often describe her to people that don’t know her as a “high power woman” and with that comes her God-given energy for justice, education, and advocacy. Yes, sometimes it’s challenging to get a hold of her, I never know what kind of adventure she’s on, but when we do have the time to chat it is always life-giving.
I wouldn’t change a thing about her.
She shares her deep faith with many people and is my North Star as I walk in my own life. I am who I am because of her passion and heart. I want to invite you into a conversation between a mother and a daughter; sometimes that means the daughter is frustrated, but more often than not it means that it’s time to listen to what the mothers have to say, no matter how many phone calls are involved.
Victoria: This is the most crucial question, which is why it is first: What is on your bookshelf right now?
Sheena: I’m taking a class with Dr William Ermine and Dr Angelina Weenie right now, and we’re studying Indigenous Epistemology and land-based learning, so I’m reading articles about the land by Indigenous scholars. The last article I read was “Return to the House of Invention” by Norval Morrisseau.
When I was a little girl and we were growing up on the Farm, outside Macoun, I always wondered “Who were the people who used to live here?” I started to learn about the Treaties and that there had been sacred agreements made between my people and the First People. As I learned, I felt a deep calling to know who those people were.
So, I started blogging and writing on my Treaty Walks. That experience led me to want to do more scholarly work, which resulted in me pursuing my PhD in 2017. This class, with Dr Ermine and Dr Weenie, brings us back to where we started; you could say that my studies have introduced me to the people that I have been looking for since I was a little girl. I’m meeting the people who are still here. They are not past tense, as in “who were they”; they “are”.
Victoria: How long have you been with Sister Triangle and what is your role with the Magazine?
Sheena: I remember folding Sister Triangle Magazine when it was first printed; there was a lot of manual effort that went into those first editions, you know. But, I joined the team about ten years ago. At the time, I was invited by Sister Triangle to take on the role of Writing Coach. I found a lot of joy in helping people find their voice and tell their own stories.
Most recently, because of my busy academics and work life, I’ve been asked to be the Talent Scout with the magazine. So during our retreats, I try to get people to sign up to write with the Magazine and the rest of the year, I’m looking for fresh new voices to tell their story with Sister Triangle.
Victoria: Can you tell us a little about how you came to follow Jesus?
Sheena: Ever since I was little, I’ve loved to hear stories about Jesus. He thinks differently than how “respectable” people believe things should be done; he turns water into wine, he drew in the sand, and in his day, he turned Religious thinking on its head.
These stories still move me and they help me navigate my life in a context where the name of “Christianity” has brought pain and destruction to the First People of this land. The stories of Jesus remind me of the profound teachings that were already here in this land. The way he does things moves something in me.
Victoria: If a woman from scripture was to write for the Magazine, who would it be and what would she write about?
Sheena: Before I had kids and I was thinking about names that I would use for a daughter, I thought of Jael from the Old Testament who used her cunning and resourcefulness to defeat an enemy. I thought I would want my daughters to be that strong.
I didn’t end up naming any of my girls Jael, but if I had the chance to meet her, I would like to learn about what it was like to be a woman during the time she lived. I’d ask her how she found the courage to take action into her own hands.
Victoria: What does “Encourage One Another in Love” mean to you?
Sheena: I think that it is a teaching to help us build each other up; not “build each other up” in false compliments or shallow ways, it’s in something deeper, in courage and love.
So, what is love? Love is patient and kind; there are so many deep teachings about love. If we’re acting lovingly to each other, it is always encouraging. Even the most difficult conversations, if they are done in love, are encouraging.
Victoria: There’s a lot of meaningful conversations happening in our communities right now; equality, reconciliation, safe space etc. How do these conversations impact your faith?
Sheena: I am thankful for my daughters’ generation, who are not afraid to go into spaces that are new to me. I’m grateful that our youth are doing that but also for our Elders who are helping guide our young people, especially those Elders who are open hearted and open minded to support this younger generation.
Me? I’m somewhere in between. I’m not young, but I am not old yet, so I’m doing work somewhere in the middle. We’re called into different relationships, different spaces, and one of the things about being in the middle is being open to going wherever you are called.