Five Oaks, for one thing, established a tradition of meetings between Aboriginal peoples and others in 1954, just four years after opening. It currently runs Camp Wampum, which is now in its third year. Situated on 116 acres on the Grand River, in Six Nations Territory near Brantford, Ont., Five Oaks is characterized by wild grapes growing in the lane leading to it. Giant oaks, maples and birch shade the walking paths; wildflowers abound. It is idyllic, calm, beautiful. And Camp Wampum, which refers to a Treaty signed in 1613 and aptly describes the intention of the camp, takes full advantage of the location. Here, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth play, talk, paddle and discuss their lives, hopes and realities for a week. Leeanne Shimoda, Springwater Hester-Meawassige and Robin McGauley told a recent national meeting of United Church Right Relations folk all about the camp. I, for one, wish there could be Camp Wampums everywhere.
In the 1980s, Reverend Gerald Hutchison took great care to document life on the land at Rundle’s Mission in Alberta. Five Oaks has followed suit, and posted the story on their website. It's a model for churches, other centres and camps. This winter might offer you a chance to research the earliest history of your sacred space, too.
So please find out if your nearest centre is faring any better than Tatamagouche and Naramata, who are making critical decisions about their immediate futures. Another closure would be a great loss, indeed.
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