Spirit Quest

Some thoughts inspired by an encounter with a Métis sash
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

I noticed him at the bus stop. It was winter and he was.wearing an old parka but around his middle he wore a brightly coloured sash. It was this colourful cummerbund that drew my attention.

“It's a Metis sash,” he volunteered as he saw the question forming on my face. “I am Metis and this is what my forbears used to wear as they trekked the woods and lakes of this country. We have adopted it as the symbol of our nation.”
I was attracted by the bright beauty of his apparell. And then it occurred to me that it could lend itself as a stole to enhance my liturgical haberdashery. It contained all the colours of the liturgical year.
For those unschooled in ecclesiastic liturgics, let me explain that each season of the Christian year is designated by a colour: Christmas and Easter are white, Lent and Advent are purple. When some protestant churches adopted liturgical reforms it added much needed colour to their black/white dour monotony. I now have a rack of coloured stoles to enhance my clerical attire.
When I saw the Metis stole I craved to own one. I know it is considered a sin to covet another’s wife or ox or ass, did this also apply to a Metis sash? I asked him how I might acquire a sash in an unsinful way. He pointed out to me that I should visit the Metis Nation Centre here in Ottawa and would undoubtedly be able to purchase such a stole without questions asked.
With any luck next time I lead in worship I shall pop the eyes of the worshippers with my Metis sash turned stole. It has occurred to me that I might be usurping the Metis’ right to this symbol inasmuch as I am not a Metis. However, John Ralston Saul, “one of our nation's most lucid, commanding and progressive thinkers,” according to Joseph Boyden, author of Through Black Spruce, came to my rescue. 
He begins his excellent book on Canada A Fair Country with the surprising announcement: “We are a Metis civilization. What we are today has been inspired as much by four centuries of life with the indigenous civilizations as by four centuries of immigration. Perhaps more.... This shaping is deep within us.”
I cannot claim to be a Metis and, indeed, was not even born in this country, but I like to believe myself to belong to this Metis civilization.
As I look at my granddaughter I am reminded that she carries within her genes her Irish, Scottish, English, German and Slavic ancestors. She is growing up and deeply influenced by this hybrid civilization. She will undoubtedly be at least bilingual.
For me this sash/stole carries the message that the human family is a rich mixture of cultures and races, colours and tongues. The Metis fiddler’s tunes and rhythm  has much in common with the Scots, Irish and French music. As well the stream of immigrants from every part of the world that I recently wrote about in my Spirit Quest have impacted fundamentally on this True North.
There are of course those like Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right wing fanatic and Christian fundamentalist who has confessed to bombing and massacre to send a message about racial and religious purity. Hopefully there are none as violent as he lurking in our midst. In his 1,500 page manifesto he points out that he is not alone, that there are others ready to embark on a modern day Crusade to seize military and political control in order to save our western civilization from “cultural Marxism” and “enablers of Islamization.” Adolf Hitler was “hell-bound” to purify the Arian race and his ideology seems to have found an ear in our time.  
“In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to declare multiculturalism as official state policy. Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 and Section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet the roots of multiculturalism in Canada can be seen in the country's earliest beginnings, as three founding cultures — aboriginal, British and French — were soon joined by many more from around the globe. Today, multiculturalism is a touchstone of Canadian national identity and a point of pride for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.” CBC News.
Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, confessed that multiculturalism has not worked in her country. She is not alone in Europe and elsewhere. Israel from its beginning  declared itself a Jewish state and welcomes Jews from all parts of the world. 
God’s family is more than Christian, it consists of those  three monotheistic faiths: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. And I would add those other even more ancient faiths and those of no religious persuasion at all. We are the human family. “Pur laine ain’t laine no more.” And never was.
Our prerogative is to live together in peace dedicated to protecting Gaia, our mutual home as it is under severe attack.. 
I believe that there is a spirit that draws us together although there are also forces that divide, that try to unravel the weave, or bleach out the colours, even in our own country. We can recognize that spirit by its character as it opts for peace, justice and the integrity of all creation. 
Hanns F Skoutajan
SQ  13/08/011  

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