What would normally be a five day clean up at the Tsuut’ina Nation only took four hours with 120 missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Canada Calgary Mission and approximately 40 to 50 volunteers made up of Calgary Young Single Adults (YSA), other area stake members, and friends.
“Our missionaries are the first non Tsuut’ina to be invited to this First Nation to help clean up after the four-day annual powwow,” said Mission President, Stephen A. Keung.
“We have about 10,000 people who camp on the grounds during the powwow,” said Aroha Crowchild, a long-time Tsut’ina Nation resident and Coordinator of the clean up. Aroha explained to the missionaries that the powwow was a time when the Tsuut’ina First Nation would come together with many friends to celebrate their culture through dance, music, and socializing together.
Come and Help
Aroha organized the missionaries, YSA, stake members, and friends into groups and assigned them to various areas on the Tsuut’ina Nation to pick up garbage, carry unused fire logs to a central location, help families break camp, load their gear on to their trucks, and sort garbage at the recycling station.
Come and See
For Elders Hansen and Urling, working at the recycling station gave them the opportunity to meet Phoenix, who was supervising the recycling activities. Elder Urling stated, “As everyone left for lunch, we felt impressed to go back and talk to Phoenix.” He told us he was not religious but was open to learning more. This encouraged the missionaries to extend a “Come and See” (John 1:46) invitation (see: Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Missionary Work: Sharing What Is in Your Heart,” Ensign, May 2019).
Elder Urling explained, “We were able to set up a time to do a church tour a few days later. Phoenix really enjoyed it. He has since attended two sacrament meetings with us. We found out that he has a friend who is a member of the Church, so we have reached out to her to help fellowship him. The clean up after the powwow was an amazing opportunity to serve and to meet and talk to so many people.”
Gratitude for Service
Brother Ralph Crane, a Tsuut’ina First Nation member and high councillor in the Calgary Alberta Foothills Stake, expressed his gratitude to the missionaries for coming. He shared with President Keung, “This is the first time that missionaries have come to the Tsuut’ina Nation, but to come in such numbers, well, that made me happy.” Brother Crane noted that based on the success of this service activity, it is very possible that missionaries and members will be invited to come back next year.
The Importance of Cultural Exchanges
“In our Polynesian culture we always honour and acknowledge the people of the land,” noted President Keung. He added, “Our missionaries were able to do that in a cultural exchange following lunch. Sister Fesolai from Samoa danced a Samoan Siva, which was followed by a haka performed by the elders and sisters.
Aroha, who is from New Zealand and married into the tribe forty years ago, danced and sang with her children. Her son in-law also sang a beautiful Tsuut’ina hymn.
The exchange concluded with the missionaries singing “How Great thou Art” (Hymns, no. 86) in Maori. This was especially emotional for Aroha because it was her father—Reverend Wi Huata (a prominent Anglican Minister in New Zealand)—who wrote the Maori words for this hymn.
President Keung concluded, “This is how we connect with the people. We serve, eat, sing, and dance with and for each other.”
President Keung continued, “It’s our way of showing gratitude and honour to the people. For most of my missionaries, this is the first time they have been to the Tsuut’ina Nation, so this was a unique experience for them. Our missionaries did a great job cleaning. They were happy and helpful, and I know people were watching and were impressed by them. It was a great day. We were thankful that we were invited to come and help.”