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The Gifting

We listened to the elder drumming the heartbeat of his land, and felt moved to pray for him. In keeping with our tradition as Kwantlen First Peoples, we gathered around a blanket.

We stood in a circle, each one of us holding a corner or a hem of the blanket, and began to pray. Then we wrapped the blanket around the elder for whom we were praying, as a symbol of our unity. “Blanketing” someone in this way is powerful. The elder knew this, and it was very meaningful to him. Then, to our surprise, he then walked out of the building still wearing it. That was definitely not part of our tradition! 

Later, we realized that God was speaking to us through this event. From that day on, we decide we would gift a blanket to each visitor, as a way of honoring them. As we talked about this, some of those in our gathering who were of a Mennonite Brethren ethnic background had an idea.

“What if we gifted a quilt to the Kwantlen chief?” one person proposed. “Quilt-making is a part of our Church culture. Such a blanket could be a symbol of community and friendship between us and the Kwantlen people.” And so we made a quilt, incorporating First Nation symbols such as a wolf, rays of the sun, a feather and the word “friendship” in Halkomalem. There was also a white hand and a brown hand, clasped together in unity. 

We called to arrange a time to gift the blanket to Chief Marilyn Gabriel, and then received a return call from the band office. Would we be open to gifting the quilt during a Truth and Reconciliation ceremony? It felt perfect. 

The day of the ceremony found us in a canoe, waiting for them to drum us to shore. Once the chief and elders finished speaking, we were invited to explain the significance of the quilt and gift it to Chief Marilyn. I then folded the quilt and gave it to her. The quilt was not only received with thanks, it was put in a place of honor at the Kwantlen Cultural Center among other sacred artifacts and objects, where it remains to this day. God desires that his children all be ready to “blanket” one another in this way, with humility and respect.

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