June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a special day for Pastor Marty McLean of Encounter Life Ministries. 

The downtown church has been around for almost six years and McLean says, "We've been doing outreaches for our Indigenous peoples in the City of Winnipeg."

McLean states that the primary focus is on the 77,000-plus Indigenous people that call Winnipeg home, to show them the love of God and help in any way. "Not only spiritually but in other ways that we can help them transition to have a better life."

Coming up to their sixth year he says, "It's a testimony to our church. You can search us online to see some of the work that we've done."

Not only is Encounter Life Ministries making an impact in Winnipeg, but also across Canada. "We've been doing outreaches that have been noticed on a national level. During the pandemic, we were able to do outreach and help our Indigenous relatives on the streets with warm blankets, food, and all the things that they needed during that time." 

While McLean says the church is small in size, about 40 people, they have a big heart for the city. 

"We've been encouraging other churches and believers to partake in it and be our allies, celebrate along with us."

McLean is originally from a community two hours north of Winnipeg called Pinaymootang, and he says National Indigenous Peoples Day has a special meaning for him. "For us as Indigenous people, it's a time to celebrate the culture, the history, and our ways of life. It's also a chance to highlight the strength of Indigenous people across the nation. There's so many nations that will celebrate on that day and it's great to see the resilience of our people and the duty of our culture. It's strong. People are embracing the beauty of who we are as Indigenous people in Canada."

Tying in his culture with his faith, McLean says, "We've been encouraging other churches and believers to partake in it and be our allies, celebrate along with us. As a nation, we're stronger working together, having that solidarity is important to walk together. You're making that voice even louder, more vibrant, and brighter when there's non-Indigenous people celebrating along with us."  

Reconciliation as people of God

He also stresses the importance of putting reconciliation into action. "As believers we know, as we read in the Word of God, we don't only want to be hearers of God's Word but doers. In that same principle, as we speak on reconciliation in our churches, find ways that you can take action in being a part of that. Either partner with or walk alongside another Indigenous ministry. Whether it's feeding our relatives on the street or standing with them.

"Some of the ministries that are here locally too, it's important for us to stand with them and help them in any way that we can. With our ministry, we've seen the larger churches in Winnipeg walk alongside us in that way and help and it really goes a long way," McLean says.

The pastor also wants to send a reminder to Canadians. "We celebrate Canada Day nationally, this is also a national day. Take that time, make that effort to go out and be a part of it."  

He says that Elijah Harper brought a lot of attention to Indigenous people's rights. "He articulated so clearly the vision for Canada and wanted to see us work together," McLean says of the Oji-Cree politician from Manitoba who was instrumental in the Meech Lake Accord. "For us to move forward as a nation, is for us to work together in unity and side by side. We need to put aside our differences and work together."

McLean also says that Harper mentioned not ignoring the spiritual side. "Elijah came from a Christian background and said that we have to pay attention to the spiritual aspect of our lives and prayer is important.

"We need to respect the land we live on and take care of it, don't take it for granted," McLean says. "We know that our Heavenly Father gave this earth to us, the beauty of it, but we also need to take care of it." 

To find more information, McLean says the best place to look is online. "There's celebrations going on. You can do a quick search for National Indigenous Peoples Day. The government website will provide information on where there are celebrations, also can look on social media."