Mni Wiconi Wacipi
Living Waters Family Camp
July 27-30, 2017
& Traditional Powwow July 29, 2017
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Registration for 2017 is now closed.
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What a ride!
It's hard to believe Wiconi's 2015 Family Camp has come and gone. For those of us who were there, it seems like just last week we were together having fun learning about and from each other, building community as followers in the Jesus Way.
Family Camp 2015 kicked off when Wiconi staff, volunteers and campers began arriving at Aldersgate Conference and Retreat Center in Turner, Oregon on July 23. Some came by car, others by bus, train, and plane. Things really got going when everyone gathered in the dining hall for the first time that Thursday evening. For some it was like homecoming or a class reunion. For others, it was their first time so there were introductions and getting to know one another. After a great dinner, campers and staff gathered in the auditorium with a sense of anticipation and excitement. It was almost like we could reach out and touch the excitement. It was kind of like the feeling a camper gets sitting around a campfire watching the sparks shoot up and the thrill that “this is what I’ve looked forward to all year” and maybe, for a first-timer, “my whole life.”
When the drumming began calling us all together, we knew that the weekend was going to be great as our hearts seemed to beat as one with anticipation. Our first drum group called us to gather and this was picked up by RainSong, the singing duo of Terry and Darlene Wildman, who led us in worship to Creator. RainSong opened each main session during the weekend.
Wiconi Director Casey Church welcomed everyone and invited us to envision how not only this year’s Family Camp but also the future was going to be like as he shared a dream he had in which our founder, the late Dr. Richard L. Twiss, spoke to him and shared his vision for Wiconi.
“I had a dream,” stated Casey. “It was January 2015 and I had just been asked by the Board to become the director of Wiconi. In my dream, I was sitting at a picnic table at the Wiconi Family Camp and talking with Richard. And in his way—the way we knew him—he gave me his full attention, as if I were the only one in the world.
“I had a question to ask him. ‘How can I honor your legacy with my life? You are no longer with us and I have been given the responsibility to carry on the ministry of Wiconi International.'
“In my dream, Richard turned to me, straight on, and looked me in the eye and said, ‘Case, this life is a journey and this ministry has been a journey. I want you to remember a couple things: enjoy this ride the Lord has given us with the Wiconi ministry; keep your family close because ministry can take so much of your time; and one more thing, make sure to have some fun along the way.'”
Short Talks and Group Discussions
Our camp theme was about preventing suicide and while we would normally find this topic depressingly sad, it was presented in a way that made it informative, eye-opening, and encouraging.
We had short talks, a great introductory video produced by Indigenous Pathways, a skit, and small interactive groups. While suicide is a very sad reality in our Native American and First Nations communities, we also learned that in the midst of pain and incredible loss, there is a sense of hope that we can offer to those who are either thinking about taking their own lives or they've experienced the loss of a loved one or more through suicide.
Lora Church and her family presented a skit showing how historical trauma has affected individual lives in our communities. In another session, Corey Greaves, Josephine Buck, and their youth group from the Yakama Nation illustrated how lives in a community are interwoven. When one life is lost, the entire community is affected.
Campers of all ages experienced fun and laughter through many different activities. The young children were taught and entertained by Marie Dancing Star and drummers Jerry Chapman and Gary Eastty who shared their talents and opened these young minds and hearts to our big world and all the wonderful things that Creator has given us. The youth were inspired and challenged by Corey and Gina Greaves in facing decisions and choices in life and preparing for the future as young adults.
Gary Eastty Talks about Dancing & Drumming
Jerry Chapman tells a story
Friday afternoon is always our “Fun Time” where campers can choose from a variety of activities and they can choose whatever they want to do. Many chose crafts so again this year, a large group of campers chose to make traditional Potawatomi copper bowls taught by Casey and Lora Church. Jan Uttley and Delvina Kejick facilitated a group of loom beaders—some were first-timers while others were pros.
Some of the teens chose to rock climb while others wanted to get wet and enjoy a fast ride down the waterslide. But the most popular was, of course, what has become Wiconi's famous “tubing down the creek!”
When the afternoon was over, most were exhausted in body but relaxed and ready for the annual “Native America's Got Talent Show”. This year we had an extra special treat as Jonathan Maracle, leader singer with Broken Walls, gave us a mini concert following the talent show.
Saturday afternoon is always our “main event” and an outreach to the community through our Dr. Richard L. Twiss Memorial Powwow. This year was our second year dedicated to Richard’s memory. As drummers and dancers were getting set up and vendors were laying out their wares, Creator sent a deluge that sent people scurrying for cover. But it only lasted a short while. In a way, it was like a sign of blessing on this year’s gathering. God knew we needed the rain!
Before long, drummers were drumming, dancers were dancing and people are making the rounds, not only in the powwow circle but also visiting the many vendors’ booths. Our powwow was topped off with a delicious Polynesian dinner of roasted pork and BBQ chicken served to everyone by our South Pacific friends who come every year to bless us in this way. It certainly was worth waiting in the long lines and no one went home hungry.
Wiconi Family Camp is a blend of the good aspects of our North American Indigenous culture and the rich heritage we have in following Jesus as Native people. It’s kind of like, as Richard once stated, “a living laboratory” where Native and non-Native people come and experience in an in-depth way the freedom Jesus gives in creating new approaches for ministries that are not restricted by the Native traditionalist or the strict religious traditions.
This year’s camp was well attended with 240 campers registered. With help from our Wiconi family, we were able to help 14 families and 17 youth come to camp through our scholarship fund.
Our 2015 camp was a success once again. All in all, it was quite a ride. And we did exactly as Richard had encouraged us to do. We had fun.
Creator has given Wiconi favor with what we have done and as we look to the future and begin planning for 2016. It won’t be long before we’ll be looking forward to Wiconi’s next Family Camp.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the last weekend of July 2016 – July 28-31.