Pimicikamak (pim ih chik uh mak) [Cree]: [the place] where a lake lies across the river, the land surrounding that place, the people that has inhabited that land since time immemorial, the nation comprised of that people inhabiting that land (adj. of or about that place or that land or that people).
Pimicikamak is a self-determined indigenous nation of Cree-speaking people whose traditional territory lies in Cross Lake Manitoba, north of Lake Winnipeg. On May 13-15 2016, staff from MBCM and members of Westside Community Church (in Morden, Manitoba) were honoured to visit Matthew and Hilda Garrick and their circle of elders to share time together and discuss the development of a new church in the area.
Matthew Garrick’s passion for sharing the gospel stretches far beyond Cross Lake. “I am not only to minister here in Manitoba, but across Canada – that’s my calling.” says Garrick, “But it begins in Cross Lake. Here we will create a church of excellence, a church without walls or prejudice.”
Strong family values permeate Indigenous culture. The Garrick’s extended family – nearly 500 strong – is spread across the province. Proud grandparents Matthew and Hilda visit Winnipeg frequently to watch their granddaughter play hockey.
Matthew Garrick: “If we started a Sunday school today we’d have over a hundred children attending. If we don’t start soon then we will lose them to the world.”
Twenty-two year old Joseph has unsuccessfully applied for post-secondary education multiple times since graduating in 2012. Most recently, he has been writing and playing music with his band, Salvation.
MBCM/C2C Network director of First Nations ministry Paul Winter sits with elder Elvis. During our time of sharing, Elvis expresses concern over the exclusion of Indigenous forms of worship in Indigenous churches. “When I was in the war, I never saw a drum played at the bar, only the electric guitar. So why is the drum not allowed in the church?” Elvis preaches inclusiveness and camaraderie in the body of Christ: “It doesn’t matter that our skin is not the same colour, we are brothers, all made in his image. Each one of us is part of the body. I may be a small part of it, but I’m needed.”
There’s more to this casual camaraderie than meets the eye. As Matthew Garrick describes: “What is happening here – your church gathered here in this room with us – feels like a miracle. We are so grateful for your presence, your support and encouragement.”
The MBCM/Westside team encircles the Garricks and elders to pray a blessing over them and their ministry in Cross Lake.
Elder Jefferson Monias surveys the land across from the Garrick home, indicating where original settlers had built bridges and schools. Today that land stands barren and desolate.
On the edge of Pimicikamak is an area reserved for sweat lodges. A covering material is fastened over saplings to form the structure. Treated wood such as lumber is not permitted in the construction of a sweat lodge. The large stones used to heat the lodge are referred to as a grandfathers. When not in use, they are covered by a tarp to protect them from the elements.
Friends aren’t hard to make in Pimicikamak. Here Karen pals around with a friendly pup.
Traditionally an offering is left behind following a healing ceremony. It may not always be an elaborate or ornate gift: sometimes simple offerings such as this a shred of cloth and a butter knife are tied to a nearby tree to mark the event.
Written by Carson Samson
Carson Samson (CGD) is the Director of Church Relations for Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba. He has been a creative communications professional since 1999. Carson is married to Donna Lee, who works in healthcare management. They have two fun-loving kids (a boy and a girl) and an English Mastiff.