Mary Cooper (left)

Mary Cooper (left)

Bridging cultures at Knox

Knox Presbyterian Church in Vernon welcomes people of all ages to its Spring Potlatch on Saturday at the church

When Rev. Dr. Teresa Charlton asked members of her congregation for donations of First Nations artifacts to display at Knox Presbyterian Church, she was met with enthusiastic response.

Parishioners brought in a wide range of items that includes tiny, hand-crafted moccasins, parkas from the north and a beaded Métis talking stick.

Along with a canoe and teepee made by parishioner Henry Huizinga, the items will be displayed all weekend as part of the Spring Potlatch taking place Saturday at the church from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. It’s the culmination of the work the church has been doing with Hummingbird Ministries. Run by Rev. Mary Fontaine, Hummingbird is dedicated to the work of reconciliation and healing between Canada’s aboriginal people and the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The Vernon stop is part of Hummingbird’s North Okanagan tour, which also includes visits to Salmon Arm, Armstrong and Enderby, to promote awareness, education and good relationships between people.

Charlton was looking for a way of engaging her parishioners and members of the community in First Nations culture and traditions.

“We have been doing activities in some of the schools and tomorrow’s potlatch is a celebration for the whole community,” she said. “The congregation has been so supportive, so this is a way to bridge cultures and we want to be respectful.

“We have people coming from the First Nations Friendship Centre to do some children’s activities for us.”

The potlatch includes a variety of activities for kids. Admission is free, and when children arrive they will be given a map that guides them around the activities, which includes making a totem pole, re-enacting the voyageurs’ journey by having their photo taken in a canoe, making a bead necklace in a teepee, singing, dancing, drumming and food. Each map comes with a temporary tattoo and kids are welcome to come and go as they please.

With some of the displays, Charlton has taken reduce, recycle and reuse to heart. An Inukshuk has been built out of milk cartons and totem poles out of coffee cans, which will be painted and decorated with foam stickers.

“We do not want to diminish the hurt, but we wanted to provide a positive environment to learn new ways, to dialogue together.

“Everybody will leave with something and hopefully a little art and culture and full bellies.”

In the evening, Charlton will host a potluck dinner at her home for parishioners that she hopes will lead to some in-depth discussions, and Hummingbird Ministries will take part in Sunday’s regular church service.

Knox Presbyterian Church is at 3701-32nd Ave., corner of Alexis Park Drive. For more information, call 250-542-8613.