"What does it mean, or what has it meant, to live on this Indigenous territory?"
So for the last four years, Joshua and I have had the opportunity to live here at the Brubacher House, which is a Mennonite Museum at the University of Waterloo. And we've been responsible for taking care of the museum, and part of that is sharing it with the public, and helping to share the story of the first Mennonites that came to this region in the 19th century. They migrated here from Pennsylvania. And while I share that experience, actually having grown up in Pennsylvania and migrated here with my family in 2006, when I was in high school, neither of our family histories actually are tied to this region. I was born in the States in Iowa, and my family moved around quite a bit. My father is of Russian Mennonite ancestry, and my mom of Scots-Irish and English ancestry. But I did grow up always coming back to Southern Ontario to visit because this is where my grandparents lived. And so moving here, I guess, was a homecoming of sorts. And my family, I would say, felt an immediate sense of kinship when we came to this area because of the Mennonite presence here. And we were really quickly able to find a sense of belonging in the Mennonite community here. Joshua also has come moved here from from Winnipeg, and has lived on the West Coast as well. Both of us have had the privilege of traveling and living abroad quite a bit as well. So each time that we have moved back to this area, I think we've seen it with new eyes. And really, our appreciation for this region has deepened each time, as well as our awareness of the different cultures that are present here.
I think as Mennonites, so we're both like, I guess half Mennonite by birth. And we also attend to Mennonite Church and our faith practice is Mennonite as well. And it's interesting, because we have a lot of connections to the first settlers who came here, and would have interacted with lots of people who were here before them. And understanding that our Mennonite not directly related by blood, but by culture and faith ancestors came here and ended up with a lot of wealth, and a lot of land that worked really well, in terms of farming and high quality production and things like that. And the people that were here at the time, didn't. So in particular, like the Six Nations on Haldiman Tract here, ended up with a lot less of that land, and a lot of the parts that aren't as desirable financially, or not necessarily as, as lucrative in our capitalist society. So I think there's a lot of pain in some ways there. And then there's also stories that we've heard and seen of interactions, and a lot that we can learn, I think, from the people who have a longer history here, then, then we have. As Mennonite generally and both as Laura and me, and we're also, I think, being a Mennonite today in KW means trying to use some of that privilege that we have, and wealth that we have and gained from the generosity of the people that were here when we came. And to bring that back to those people, to the Six Nations and the Attawandaron Neutral and Anishinaabe and others who have merged with those groups over time in this place. I think it's really important that part of being Mennonite here is realizing that there's a complicated history of power and privilege and wealth and trying to work at unpacking it, especially with the Mennonite beliefs of peace, and justice, and restoration. So working towards finding ways to support people that were taken advantage of by colonial empire whether or not that was the intention of the individuals at the time.
And I would say to just to finish off that a practice of hospitality has been really important for Mennonites historically. Building inclusive communities, and especially welcoming newcomers and refugees. But I think that, more recently, there's been a recognition that we also, just as we need to be good hosts in our community, we actually need to learn how to be good guests as well. And so I think Mennonites and Joshua and I personally are looking for ways now to build a sense of kinship and build peace with the Indigenous peoples in this territory and with the land. I think that's also something that I didn't necessarily grow up with, but that's becoming more a part of Mennonite tradition now or Mennonite practice is reconnecting with the land, a sense of stewardship. And that's something that we hope to pass on to our son.