If you’re a Baha’i Blog reader in Canada, you might know about how the country is poised to reconcile its centuries-long fraught history with Indigenous peoples and to establish justice. In this part-memoir, part-scholarly work, Patricia Verge records her decades-long friendship with the Stoney Nakoda Nation in southern Alberta, Canada. She explores how her spiritual journey has been intimately entwined with service among Indigenous people and she wonders about the fundamental spiritual principles that should guide this challenging reconciliation process and bring together peoples who have been separated for so long. Her book, Equals and Partners: A Spiritual Journey Toward Reconciliation and Oneness, Wazin Îchinabi, is a story of love about commitment to the principle of the oneness of humanity.
Patricia, or Pat as she’s lovingly called, happily shared a little about her new book and the creative process behind it. Here’s what she shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Canadian of Croatian ancestry on my mother’s side, and Irish ancestry on my father’s. I encountered the Baha’i Faith while living in Germany and became a Baha’i in Halifax many moons ago. My husband and I have two children and four grandchildren.
For nearly four decades, I‘ve been connected to the Stoney Nakoda people who live just west of where I live now, in Cochrane, Alberta, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Baha’i Blog: For those who may not know, could you tell us a little bit about what Reconciliation means?
Reconciliation is a vast subject, with many aspects, as we move forward to create better, healthier and more just relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. As your readers may know, there has been a lot of separation and injustice that has occurred in our history, particularly with regard to residential schools. Much healing is required. For the book, I found two definitions to be helpful. One is a quote from Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He said: “Reconciliation turns on this concept: I want to be your friend and I want you to be mine. And if we are friends then I will have your back when you need it and you’ll have mine.” The second is from the submission of the Baha’i Community of Canada to the TRC in September 2013, which states: “When we speak of reconciliation we are referring to the movement towards peace and unity, and the individual and collective transformation that is required in order to achieve that goal. Reconciliation involves a process that contributes to the achievement of progressively greater degrees of unity and trust. Fundamentally, reconciliation is a spiritual process. It is the process of realizing the essential oneness of humanity in all dimensions of human life.”
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?
There have been Baha’is on Stoney Nakoda First Nation since the 50’s, and I was asked to write the Baha’i history. As I set out to do it, I realized that, despite being involved for so long, I was quite ignorant of the history of the settlement of Canada. I felt very inadequate. So I began to dig into it, broadly, and then specifically into some of the history of the signing of Treaty 7 in this area, and of the Nakoda people themselves. I was also able to attend three sessions of the TRC meetings. Finding out the history was quite devastating, but explained so many of the conditions I had encountered. I do feel also that we all need to do a learning journey about the history. This is happening much more now, thank goodness, even at the school level across Canada and will help a great deal, I believe, in fostering understanding and better relationships.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?
I had to struggle to figure out what form the book should take, and I finally settled on the memoir. It became a story of my own spiritual journey and how it has been entwined with Indigenous people, and what I have learned and am still learning. In many ways, it is a tribute and a love story to the Nakoda people, who have been so kind to me and my family. I realized I couldn’t tell their story, only mine, that it will be up to them to tell their own stories.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?
My story is very personal and there are also others involved with Baha’i processes on the reserve, both souls from the community, and a few youth and older folks from nearby who are learning to accompany them. In the book, there are reflections on how many Baha’i principles relate to this area of service, spiritual prerequisites for building strong bonds of friendship, and how the Institute Process empowers all people to take charge of their own intellectual, spiritual and social development.
Though the book is my journey of learning, I am hopeful it will be helpful to others. By the way, “Wazin Îchinabi” means “oneness” in the Stoney Nakoda language!
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Pat, for sharing this with us!