Monthly Archives: June 2017

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

I saw the play The Doctrine of Discovery on Wednesday night. It used drama to explain why those of us whose families immigrated to North America from other countries, must look at our history on this continent from the perspective of the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before we arrived.
I found two contrasting scenes in the play particularly powerful. One tells the story of a widowed Mennonite woman coming to North America as a refugee from Russia. During her harrowing march across Europe to freedom she loses three of her children. She is so relieved to finally arrive in her new home. Now she can begin again on her own land. What she doesn’t realize is the property she acquires in North America once belonged to indigenous people who have been forced to move to a reservation.
A subsequent scene tells the story of a First Nations woman evicted from her ancestral lands and forced to take up life on a reservation. On her trek to her new home the indigenous woman says over and over again, “and the children die.” There is sorrow and hardship awaiting her family as they are forced to adjust to a very different life governed by the harsh rules of colonizers.
Both women have made difficult journeys…  both have lost children… but one woman’s hopeful story comes at the expense of another’s tragic story.

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn. Indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg. 

The play prompted me to do more research on The Doctrine of Discovery. It was a 15th century edict that said Christians could lay claim to any lands they discovered that were not already inhabited by Christians. If that land was home to ‘pagan’ people, attempts could be made to convert them. If these conversion attempts failed the ‘pagans’ could be made slaves or killed. The impact of this horrific doctrine is still being felt today and has been cited in court cases within the last decade. 

The Doctrine of Discovery made slavery or death the only options for indigenous North Americans who didn’t convert to Christianity.

In July of 2016 the national body of Mennonite churches to which I belong, voted to officially and publicly repudiate or divorce itself from this doctrine.  The play The Doctrine of Discovery is one way to help church members think about our participation in the enactment of that doctrine and to consider what steps we can take towards repentance, truth, and reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours. 

Other posts……..

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

Story Sticks

A Different Perspective


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Filed under Canada, History

An Artist in the Family

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Winter Sun From the Ski Trail by Sharon Loeppky

More than a dozen people from our extended family got together for supper before attending the opening of a new show at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery. We were celebrating a family member, the very talented Sharon Loeppky, who is the featured artist in an exhibition called Re-creation. 

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Dark Bank with Aunt Glad’s Teapot by Sharon Loeppky

Sharon creates mosaics that honestly take your breath away with their beauty and intricate design. In a written description of her work she says she takes things like “a piece of a broken teapot, a tile from a rubbish heap, or a treasure found in a thrift store” and then makes a new creation from these old pieces.sharon at mennonite heritage gallery

As the show opened Sharon talked to us about how the area near her home is her inspiration, the trees, the grasses, the paths and creeks. ” I am a wanderer in my neighbourhood. Here I see a divine creation that never ends, a world that is constantly being made new.” 

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Winter Trees with Gold Trim by Sharon Loeppky

I was so intrigued by how interesting and detailed and lovely Sharon’s work was when you looked at it closely but then…….

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Ash Trees in the Late Afternoon by Sharon Loeppky

how the pieces took on a whole new beauty as you moved farther and farther away from them.mennonite heritage gallery

Sharon’s show will run at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery till September 15.  Following that it will be displayed at other Manitoba locations.  You can find out about these future shows on Sharon’s website .

ski trails with red fish by sharon loeppky

Ski Trails with Red Fish by Sharon Loeppky

Sharon’s  website also features more examples of her wonderful work. 

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Hills From the Deer Meadow in Bright Sun by Sharon Loeppky

Other posts……..

Maud, Mennonites and a New Movie

Two Artists Me and My Grandson

Stitching a Story

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Filed under Art, Family

Harry Potter and Eminem

This week people have been celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Harry Potter. It reminded me of an article I wrote about the Harry Potter books in 2000. It was by debut column as a regular writer for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press.

I wrote about two events in Toronto’s Skydome.  On October 23, 2000 J.K. Rowling read excerpts from her book Harry Potter to 20,000 school children in the Skydome and on October 25, 2000 singer Eminem played a show there to a packed house of enthusiastic teenagers.  Many religious groups had been criticizing both Rowling and Eminem. The year my column debuted, Eminem and JK Rowling were two of pop cultures most famous icons.  

Religious groups were accusing Rowling of championing witchcraft and Eminem was being taken to task because his songs often promoted violent acts towards women.  In my column I suggested the Rowling books should not cause concern for parents but they would do well to read the frightening and disturbing Eminem lyrics and then decide whether they might be suitable for their children. 

The main point of my article was that parents had a responsiblity to be informed about the books and recordings that engaged their children, and be willing to discuss the content of that literature and music with their kids.   That’s as true today in 2017 as it was when my column was written in 2000.

Other posts………

Why Are Adults Reading Teen Fiction?

A Little Inspiration From the James Taylor Concert

Lynch Family and Lead Belly

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Music

Go outside, go often…….

Hug a tree.  A friend told me about a doctor who prescribed ‘hugging trees’ as a way to treat mental illness and anxiety. His patients really did feel better after going on walks and literally hugging trees.  In a recent article in The Atlantic called  How to Harness Nature’s Healing Power Florence Williams the author of a new book called The Nature Fix says there is a growing body of scientific research to show just how good spending time in nature is for your brain and your body. It comes at a time however when people are spending less and less time outside.

My sister and I having a tea party outside at our grandparents house

According to Williams children of my generation  spent 70% of our play time outdoors.  Now most children spend 70% of their play time indoors and most adults spend 87% of their waking hours indoors. Williams urges everyone to get outside into nature as often as we can.  An article in Business Insider gives scientific reasons why this is so important. 

Enjoying nature in Akaka Falls State Park Hawaii

Research shows being out in nature sharpens your short-term memory, improves your vision, reduces stress and restores mental energy. It can help you think more creatively. 

Hiking in Arizona

Spending time in nature will make you live longer, boost your immune system, reduce your chance of getting cancer and improve your mental health and powers of concentration.

Wilderness hiking with my Hong Kong students

Many cities are realizing the importance of people spending time in nature and are being deliberate about creating and maintaining green spaces in urban environments.  This is necessary because otherwise spending time in nature will only be available to people wealthy enough to leave the cities in which they live and get out into nature.  One of the things that really surprised us when we lived in Hong Kong was how much government protected green space there was for people to enjoy. 

Prairie grasses in the park at the end of my street

I live in the heart of downtown Winnipeg but there is a beautiful park right at the end of my street which runs along the river.  I have no excuse not to go outside and go often!

Other posts……..

The Blueberries Slowed Him Down


Flowers of Costa Rica


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Filed under Nature

Leaving Hong Kong

This year many people we worked with and spent so much time with in Hong Kong are leaving the school where we all taught and are moving on to other adventures in different places around the world. Seeing all their “farewell to Hong Kong” photos on Facebook reminds me of our own farewell to the city we grew to love so much.

at the top of mount batur biking in bali

Dave biking with our friend Kathy. She and her family are moving back to the USA.

ics orange

Two of the guys on Dave’s Hong Kong basketball team are leaving Hong Kong this year, Steve is moving to Kenya and Bryan to Colorado. 

book club hong kong

Sue at far left was a member of our Hong Kong book club and is leaving Hong Kong this year after many decades living there. The only person who is still in Hong Kong from this photo of our book club is Meena on the far right. 

cat marylou jazz club

Our friends Cath and Jon are moving back to the United States 

burnetts and wilsons mid autumn

Celebrating the Mid Autumn festival with the Wilsons  who are leaving Hong Kong 

We wish all our friends well as they make the transistion to new living and working situations.

Other posts………

Biking in Bali

Mid Autumn Festival

Jazz Club

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mom and sisters oct 1934

My mother and her sisters in 1934.

For there is no friend like a sister  in calm or stormy weather   – Christina Rossetti 

Easter 1957 – With my sister in dresses sewn by our mother

You can fool the world but not your sister. – Charlotte Gray

My father-in-law’s sisters around 1940

A woman without her sister is like a bird without her wings. – Moosa Rahat

My maternal grandmother and her sister in 1902

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.- Marion C. Garretty

My father’s sisters winners at a music festival early 1950s

Once sisters are grown their relationship becomes the strongest in the family.  – Margaret Mead

grandma peters

My paternal grandmother far left with her sisters and sisters in law.

A sister is both your mirror – and your opposite. ~ Elizabeth Fishel

My mother-in-law and her sisters  in 1931

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden- Author Unknown

Other posts……….



Birthday Books- A Hundred Years Old


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Filed under Family, Inspiration

Picasso’s Hidden Message

“Are there any hidden messages in the paintings?”  I was starting a tour with some elementary school students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  I told them we would be like detectives or explorers looking for interesting details in the art.  One girl put up her hand to ask if I knew of  any hidden or secret messages in the paintings.  Luckily I had an idea where we could find one.  

woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1944

Women in a Hat With Flowers by Picasso 1944

As we viewed this painting Picasso made of his lover Dora Maar I asked the children if they could find Dora’s name hidden in the painting. It didn’t take them long to pick out the four letters.  Check out the arrows. 

letter D woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1945

The upper case D

letter o woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1946

The letter o

letter rwoman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1947

The cursive r

letter a woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1948

The letter A two ways- a lower case backwards one to the right or an uppercase sideways one to the left

The children thought it was very cool Picasso hid Dora’s name in his painting of her.  It got them searching for hidden messages in every piece of art. The intense looking that inspired helped them discover lots of other interesting things about the artwork they viewed. 

Other posts……..

What in the World is That?

Plants That Talked to Me

Two Artists -Me and My Grandson

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Filed under Art, Education, winnipeg art gallery