When I moved to Cochrane in 2013 I was eager to get to know my new community, its history and culture. It was exciting to learn of the history of the Stoney Nakoda nation, the early Methodist mission at Morley, the building of the CPR, and the early efforts at ranching in the area by Senator Cochrane. I started to feel like I belonged here, with the many other newcomers in a rapidly growing town.

One day I had an encounter with a man on the street who identified himself as a member of the Stoney nation. Making conversation, he asked me where I was from. When I told him I had recently moved from Camrose he burst out, “Well go back! This is our land!”

For me this encounter was deeply unsettling, raising a whole raft of questions. Part of me wanted to protest, “But this is my land! I purchased my house in this town fairly. What’s more, I was born and raised in this province too! Besides, what’s past is past. I can’t change it and I personally had nothing to do with it.” But another, more reflective part of me started to ask other questions. “But have you really got to know your Aboriginal neighbour yet? What, really, is the history of this area? How does it still affect our actions and reactions today? Instead of being a zero-sum game, is there a way this land can be respectfully shared by all peoples?”

What an opportunity it was when we developed, in harmony with the ABT Synod’s mission priorities, our series on “abiding in right relations” with our Aboriginal neighbours. Finally here was a chance to explore the inner conflicts and questions that had been bothering me for years. It has been so good to take part in these conversations, headed by Hope member Anne Harding. I’m looking forward to learning more in events to come.

Pastor Kristian