Kenora is treaty 3 land and the traditional territory of the Ojibway and Chippewa.
As I think about our time there I want to frame my reflections with one of the devotionals that Reverend
Linda Paton Cowie, our chaplain led while we were there. Based on John 4 and Jesus meeting the
Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well, Linda introduced her comments on this Scripture with the words “
and once again Jesus was going through a land that wasn’t his”. And then as he met and spoke with the
woman there, his promise that someday we will worship in Spirit and Truth. A promise that I look to in a
new way now.
Our journey to Kenora, began with the road trip from Winnipeg to the (second) site of the Cecelia
Jeffrey Indian Residential School. This is one of the schools that was run by the Presbyterian Church in
Canada, and it was made famous recently by Gordon Downie’s re-awakening in the press, the story of
Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who ran away from there and died of exposure in doing so in 1966.
I was sitting with our chaplain for the trip, Reverend Linda as we got closer to the memorial and looking
out the window it was all rocks and trees, rough and rugged Northern Ontario. Beautiful in its own way
but just imagine Linda said, imagine the children who tried to run away through this. You cannot see
very far and the ground is so uneven…
Arriving at the site we were greeted by elders and residential school survivors and a ceremony around
the memorial. Tobacco was offered, smudging and survivors of the school shared their reflections. Time
passed slowly and quickly all at once as people took the time they needed to speak and suddenly we had
been there almost two hours. Lunch was an opportunity to mingle and share. To be shown around.
This is the memorial. Beneath it are buried toys that children played with at the school.
Little is left of the school, just a small piece of foundation, some steps. It was torn down but this is the
view from where it was located.
It was a good day and a hard day. When we left the site of the school it was to travel into Kenora and
settled down for the night.
Dr. Rev Karen Dimock