News Story

Gathering of Tribes Held in Cardston, Alberta

Cindy Quinney (“Mihko asinîy iskwew”/“Red Stone Woman”) of Onion Lake Cree Nation and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Calgary, Alberta, knows the importance of gathering. Quinney, an organizing committee member for the Cardston Gathering of Tribes, held September 15 and 16, 2023, explained that this gathering was “to strengthen our communities. To bring people together to celebrate the gospel and their Indigenous heritage.”

Since July 2018, Church President Russell M. Nelson has emphasized to Church members the importance of participating in the great work of gathering Israel. He has said, “This promise of the gathering, woven all through the fabric of the scriptures, will be fulfilled just as surely as were the prophecies of the scattering of Israel. … This doctrine of the gathering is one of the important teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” October 2006 general conference).

Quinney, inspired by President Nelson’s words, emphasized that she sees the Gathering of Tribes as part of the work of gathering Israel. “It’s all about creating unity,” she said.

Gathering of Tribes

Over 300 people from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Utah attended the Cardston Gathering of Tribes. Participants met with others, participated in temple worship, took part in traditional dances, listened to drumming, ate delicious food and attended workshops.

Shane Manning, another organizing committee member, noted, “These gathers are beautiful, as they show Indigenous members of the Church that they can have their [Indigenous] traditions and the gospel; they are not mutually exclusive. Both point to the Creator and show us how to live.”

Other organizing committee members include Doyle Anderson, Jerry Junior “JJ” First Charger, Brenda Fox, Devon Robinson, Laurie Spotted Bull, Anne Wildcat, President Randy Lonsdale (Calgary Alberta Confederation Park Stake president) and President Jim Ferguson (Cardston Alberta West Stake president). Ferguson, whose local congregations hosted the event, emphasized, “This was a faith-building event. It was a place for people to gather, to feel safe and to feel united.”

The gathering was a success due to its many volunteers, including those from the Cardston Alberta Stake and the Cardston Alberta West Stake, and others from Calgary, Fort Macleod, Raymond, Magrath, Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe), Siksika Nation, Mînî Thnî (formerly Morley) and Tsuut'ina Nation. Quinney said, “We worked together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.”

Invitation to Local Indigenous Leaders

Quinney and the organizing committee invited Cardston-area Indigenous communities to participate in the Cardston 2023 gathering. Floyd Big Head attended the event on behalf of the Kainai Nation and Council, Blackfoot Confederacy. He said, “We were honoured to be invited and to have a representative attend.”

Big Head added, “The committee did really well, and I felt welcomed. … We need to continue to work well together. … We need to be united. It is the only way we will be strong. We need to be an example and show our younger generations.”

We Need Many More of These Types of Celebrations’

Patricia Simmonds travelled from Calgary to participate in the event. She said, “I was honoured to attend and support my friend and her son as we all learned more about the culture of faith and resilience, the struggles inherent in their unique experience and the beauty and joy of the Indigenous peoples from other parts of the world and this region. We need many more of these types of celebrations and sharing.”

The Cardston event was the fourth such gathering. The first Gathering of Tribes took place in Calgary, Alberta, in September 2022. Since then, event organizers have hosted two additional events, including one in Mesa, Arizona, and another in West Jordan, Utah. The organizing committee hopes to help with more gatherings in the coming years.

Spirit of Unity

Verdun Hind Bull-Morning Owl of the Kainai Nation and a member of the Cardston 1st Ward, Cardston Alberta West Stake, said, “I like seeing old friends and meeting more people. Heavenly Father’s hand is in this to bring us together.”

The event began with the Grand Entry, a procession of flags carried to show the national and tribal affiliations of those participating. Quinney noted that the Grand Entry is a time “to honour those communities [that are participating] and their ancestors.”

Big Head carried the Kainai Nation, Blackfoot Confederacy flag, while other participants carried flags representing their Indigenous communities. Event organizers included a Tribe of Israel flag to emphasize the Latter-day Saint commitment to the literal gathering of the tribes of Israel.

Jerrhan First Charger performed the Hoop Dance while his father, JJ, drummed and his brother Cyrus sang. The Hoop Dance tells the story of the creation and the connection of all creation to each other and to the Creator. The First Charger family is from the Kainai Nation and members of the Raymond 8th Ward, Raymond Alberta Stake.

For Quinney, the Round Dance was particularly meaningful, as participants joined the circle and danced together. Quinney explained, “[The Round Dance] is a healing dance, one of bringing people together in unity, honouring our ancestors, and for everyone present to feel welcomed and united.”

Dale Smith of the Siksika Nation said he liked seeing all the people come together and support each other. “It’s important for people who might be going through hard times to see so many faithful Church members. We’ve all had hard times, and we’re here to support and encourage each other. With the light of Christ, we can get through anything and everything.”

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