2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Henry Neufeld (video)

Henry Neufeld has spent more than six decades building positive relationships among Mennonite and Indigenous peoples.

Born in Moscow, Russia and raised in Leamington, ON, Neufeld studied theology at CMBC.

He and his late wife, Elna, began working as teachers in Indigenous communities in Manitoba in the early 1950s. From 1955 to 1970, they lived and taught 280 kms northeast of Winnipeg in Pauingassi First Nation.

Henry Neufeld
Henry Neufeld, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

After serving two years as pastor at Springstein Mennonite Church in Springstein, MB, Neufeld—who is fluent in Ojibway—began visiting northern communities as a travelling pastor. Since then, he has made more than 600 trips. After 65 years, Neufeld’s work still is not finished. This past spring, at the age of 87, he participated in Mennonite Church Canada’s Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. Participants walked 600 km. from Kitchener to Ottawa in support of the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I know our celebration on Canada Day was for 150 years, but if we look only at the past 150 years, then we are doing a real injustice to Indigenous peoples, because they have been here for 10,000 or more years,” Neufeld says.

“Even though our cultures are radically different, our backgrounds are radically different, we need to recognize and respect each other,” he adds. “If we respect each other for who we are and what we have to offer, then we can prosper.”

Neufeld has five children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He attends Springstein Mennonite Church.