Author, Rudy Wiebe
and Annual General Meeting - 2012
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS) is only a small part of a fuller weekend event that is the highlight of our year. The theme was Building Bridges of Reconciliation for March 2 -3, 2012., Author, Rudy Wiebe, had been brought in as a guest speaker for Friday evening and Saturday morning.
Wiebe was preceeded on the Friday evening with some entertaining songs by the Joy Singers, a male quartet from Osler that is well-known in the area.
Then Jake Buhler, president of MHSS introduced Rudy Wiebe, who grew up in a pioneering family at Speedwell, also known as Fairholme, Saskatchewan. Rudy was born 105 years after, and from the area of Chief Big Bear, who played a key historical role in Saskatchewan and in Canada. He gained a keen interest in this First Nations figure, and wrote two books about the man, Big Bear, who was featured in a CBC series as a Great Canadian.
Wiebe spoke in his first talk on An Anabaptist Tracking Big Bear: A Great and Sad Life, telling how he began to discover and then research and write in earnest about this chief, whom he respected more all the time. This included a review of the chief's life story, and his stand for dialogue and friendly agreements, as opposed to the more militant leaders.
Annual Business Meeting
The Annual Business meeting of the MHSS took place at 9:30 Saturday morning. It included a devotional by Eileen Klassen Hamm about building bridges in reconciliation, the theme for the weekend, Jake Buhler, president, introduced the current Board members and gave his review of the past year. Vera Falk, secretary, presented the minutes of the previous AGM in 2011, and Elmer Regier, treasurer, presented the financial report.
Victor Wiebe, retiring archivist and Board member, reviewed advances and the main acquistions of the archives, and how much has been placed onthe website. Then he explained the solution now confirmed between Bethany Manor and the MHSS, whereby our archives gives up its 900 square feet space to get 2100 square feet of better space. Volunteers will be needed to set up the rolling shelving when it arrives, and to transfer the files from the old shelves to the new ones.
Victoria Neufeldt reported briefly on the Mennonite Historian and her need for fresh articles.
Erna Neufeld, Board member, reported that current membership stands at 350.
Jake Buhler opened the floor for some discusssion on how to fund-raise for the cost of the expansion. Dick Braun summed up the consensus that people wanted a variety of ways to give, and various time frames. Obviously, it cannot all be raised in one year.
Election of Board members brought back encumbents whose terms were up, Kathy Boldt, Vera Falk, and Leonard Doell. With Victor Wiebe retiring another Board member was needed. Leonard Doell nominated Dick Braun, who accepted and was brought in by acclaimation.
Jake Buhler thanked Victor for his many years of service, and mentioned that he will be more formally thanked in the near future.
The proposed budget was adopted, and the meeting was adjorned for a coffee break before the next talk by Rudy Wiebe.
Rudy Wiebe: An Anabaptist Tracking Big Bear - A continuing Legacy
Wiebe's 11 am lecture was on the continuing legacy of Big Bear, and began with a video produced by CBC as part of a series on Great Canadians. In this episode, Rudy narrated the story of Big Bear on-camera, while standing or walking on the grassy hills where Big Bear had lived and led his people. He read from a letter he received from Yvonne, a woman prisoner who had read his book. It turned out that she was Big Bear's great-great granddaughter.
Wiebe visited Yvonne in prison and urged her to write out all she knew - this filled 19 notebooks, and with this resource and more
visits with her when transfered to southern Saskatchewan's minimum security prison for women, Wiebe was able to write another book about Big Bear.
When the floor was opened for questions, some very thoughtful, intelligent questions were asked, showing that the audience understood the underlying issues to a large degree.
The afternoon session after lunch was opened by Leonard Doell, who gave some background information about the Stony Knoll reserve 107. Then he introduced the panelists; Chief Ben Weenie from the Sweet Grass Reserve, Pastor Jason Johnson, a counsellor in the Saskatoon school system, and Ray Funk, well-known Mennonite leader.
Chief Ben Weenie was brought before the microphone in a wheelchair, and spoke, glad of the opportunity to share his own history and some stories about relationships between native bands and the Mennonites, who, he said were bi-cultural and understood wanderings, so were quite sympathetic to them.
Ray Funk told the Mennonite story or the history leading up to the 100th Anniversary of Treaty 6 at Fort Carlton last summer.
Jason Johnson, pastor of the Lutheran church in that area, shared how he was invited to take part, and how their participation built trust in the other people groups, the Treaty 6 people and the Mennonites. They discovered that land ownership was not as important to all the parties as justice. "We are called as a community of faith to share their story."
Leonard Doell interviewed Rudy Wiebe briefly, before he hurried off to the airport, about these treaty issues. Wiebe told of being in the Ukraine and asked there about the Quebec problem in Canada. His reply was to keep talking. Don't send armies. We must talk.
Henry Patkau was asked to close the meeting and event with prayer. Then Leonard urged everyone to "keep talking!"
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