Indigenous Justice

Reconciliation Sunday, April 26th, 2015, Easter III at St Hilda's Sechelt

St Hilda’s Truth & Reconciliation Sunday      

God of our Ancestors,

who holds the spirits of our grandmothers and grandfathers

and the spirits of our grandchildren,

Remembering the Children,

we now pledge ourselves to speak the Truth,

and with our hearts and our souls

to act upon the Truth we have heard

of the injustices lived,

of the sufferings inflicted,

of the tears cried,

of the misguided intentions imposed,

and of the power of prejudice and racism

which were allowed to smother the sounds and laughter of the forgotten children.

Hear our cries of lament

for what was allowed to happen,

and for what will never be.

In speaking and hearing and acting upon the Truth may we as individuals and as a nation meet the hope of a new beginning. (Rev. Lillian Roberts, part 1)

We acknowledge the shíshálh people on whose territory we gather this morning.  This acknowledgement is not a simple or superficial statement but is one that points to the heart of reconciliation.  It acknowledges the unceded rights and title of the shíshálh people and their culture and protocols of this land.

We have been asked to share a bit of our journey of understanding and relationship with our shíshálh neighbours. The story of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada is a story of children and so we offer this Reflection with a sense of gratitude and honour for the sake of all our children, grandchildren and their children.

Five years ago, we attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first National Event in Winnipeg. Although we had lived on the Sunshine Coast for 32 years, in the shadow of the Sechelt Residential School, we understood very little about the impact of that School on the lives of the people in our community. So, at the Project of Heart display, it was with a certain amount of humility, shame, and reverence that we decorated tiles to commemorate the lives of children who had not survived the Residential School System.  We could not have imagined then the profound influence this seemingly simple act of decorating a small wooden tile would have on our lives.

We returned home and together with some friends from the shíshálh  Nation, the ministers from our Anglican and United Churches, and a local student in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria, we formed a small group committed to learning more about Colonization and the Residential School System. 

We started with a 6 week study program put together by the United Church. We showed a couple of films: “The Fallen Feather” and “Muffins for Granny”, shared books, and held 3 Dialogue Circles on the history and legacy of Residential Schools. These day and a half long Circles were facilitated by an aboriginal couple, Allen Gabriel and Sharon Thira, who spent many years working with survivors of residential schools.  We organized a Panel Discussion here at St Hilda’s with Sharon along with Wendy Fletcher from Vancouver School of Theology, Wendy preached at our Sunday services the next day. We took an adult version of the Grade 12 Native Studies Curriculum called Braiding Understandings with Kerry Mahlman, Principal of our School District’s Aboriginal Programs and Services.  We participated in Shelagh Rogers’ book club challenge based on the book “Speaking My Truth – Reflections on Reconciliation & Residential School”

We helped organize drumming circles to build community and to celebrate specific issues such as  Canada’s signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. And we participated in cultural awareness days at the shíshálh Longhouse and Idle No More Rallies facilitated by the Sechelt Indian Band.

We organized a showing of the film “We Were Children” at the Raven’s Cry Theatre, with a panel discussion comprised of shíshálh  residential school survivors.  We recently held a Conversation on Racism at the Arts Centre. We were asked to sit as witness as the shíshálh  Nation held a gathering, sharing, and feast with Pender Harbour Residents. And two weeks ago, we were invited to sit as witness to the Court proceedings for the certification of the joint Sechelt and Kamloops Day Scholars Class Action Suit. Currently, we are doing research for the tems swiya Museum and continuing to help organize and promote cultural events and opportunities for dialogue.

Members of the shíshálh Nation and other Sunshine Coast First Nation and Metis people have attended all the events. Survivors and Inter-Generational Survivors generously share teachings from their experiences.

Two years ago we attended the Truth and Reconciliation National Event in Vancouver and Nancy went on to the Event in Edmonton later the next spring.  We are honoured to be accompanying Terry and Christine to the final TRC Event in Ottawa at the end of May along with Bishop Skelton, Indigenous Justice Ministries Coordinator for the Diocese of New Westminster, Brander McDonald and the BC Anglican Archivist, Melanie Delva.  The Diocese of New Westminster has rightly and generously acknowledged Terry’s important role in the development of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement which included the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ultimately, the apology by Prime Minister Harper for the damage done to aboriginal children in the  Residential Schools system.

During one of the dialogue circles, the facilitator Allen Gabriel known to us as kanatiio, a Haudenosaunee man (otherwise known as Mohawk), introduced us to the Two Row Wampum Treaty.  It captured my imagination.  I wanted to know more but not just by reading about it or googling it.  Like the experience of decorating the tiles for Project of Heart, I wanted to experience the making of a wampum belt.  So far I have made and gifted four, this is the fifth…

The wisdom of the Two Row Wampum was expressed 400 years ago as a covenant or treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch settlers of 1613.  It was also one of three wampum belts exchanged at the Treaty of Niagara in 1764 and is, I believe, still a valid template for our relationship today. Based on the practice of non-interference, the two dark blue rows represent two vessels traveling the river of life together. One row represents the canoe of the first people of this land – their values, culture and spirituality.  The other row represents the ship of the newcomers – their values, culture, and spirituality.  The three rows of white beads between them represent the principles that form the basis of the relationship between the two peoples – peace, friendship and respect. 

A single strand of the Two Row represents each one of us, as individuals.  In our shared community of Sechelt, some of us are healing the pain suffered through forced attendance at Residential Schools. Others of us are trying to heal our ignorance, our arrogance and our capacity for colonialism that created the Residential School system and allows present injustices to continue.

If we put 100 individual strands together, a distinct pattern emerges, the pattern of the Two Row - a pattern of mutual respect and non-interference. Together we can work at healing our dark past in order to create a much brighter and shared future.  Together we are weaving a new pattern of life together in a renewed relationship of peace, friendship and mutual respect.

Sechelt’s new mayor, Bruce Milne, echoes this in his New Year’s message for 2015:

“Another element of our future will be a full and genuine reconciliation with shíshálh Nation. In the past there has been a deep boundary between the first inhabitants of this land and the second wave of inhabitants, the settler society. This boundary or line of distrust and separation has been kept in place, for many reasons, by people on both sides. It will now take great efforts by many reaching across the divide to erase it.  The only eraser that will work is trust.  Trust will only come from working together building a world that shíshálh and second wave settlers both imagine for future generations.” 

Our journey over the last five years has been a rich and rewarding experience.  Who we are and who we want to be as Canadians and as neighbours in Sechelt are inexorably tied up with our understanding of the truth of our past and being informed and aware of what is happening now in present time. 

A District of Sechelt Council Resolution – October 22, 2014

“An Act of Recognition” (LINKED BELOW)

Reconciliation and Restorative Solidarity shall provide the direction  and content for our future – a future of mutual respect, caring and sharing.  We, each one of us, are the faces of reconciliation.   We don’t need to feel shame and guilt about the wrongs of the past, but we are responsible for the injustices of the present. 

The commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission write: “It is painful to discover that, as a nation, we have not always lived up to our ideals or the image we seek to project on the international stage. That does not mean we should abandon our ideals. We cannot change the past, but the future is in our hands. We are called to undertake the ongoing work of reconciliation: to right the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canada. This is no easy or straightforward task. We need to revive old visions in which these communities came together in a spirit of sharing and mutual exchange. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be seeking to guide this process throughout the rest of its mandate. We encourage Canadians to read this history, participate in Commission events, and, in the coming years, to join in the ongoing task of coming to grips with our nation’s past and charting a future in which we can all take pride.”

We can, each one of us, orient our lives in a direction of reconciliation.  Our presence at upcoming events will be noticed and will have significant meaning for our shíshálh neighbours even if initially that only means small gestures like going to the tems swiya Museum’s Residential School and Resiliency Exhibit, a Longhouse Potluck Celebration we are all invited to on May 21st,  or reading a book by a survivor of Residential School, or contributing to the Sechelt Residential School Monument fund, or participating in Primate Hiltz’s call to “22 Days” of prayer and renewal…  Anything each one of us does to help pave this path of reconciliation contributes to the whole process; a process that is active across Canada.

A year ago Archbishop Hiltz created the Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice and charged it with “helping our Church embrace more fully the work of reconciliation entrusted to us through the Gospel of Christ.  It is charged with helping our Church in its work of advocacy in the long struggle for justice for First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples in Canada.”

In this spirit of healing and reconciliation we pray,

Great Creator God

who desires that all creation live in harmony and peace,

Remembering the Children

we dare to dream of a Path of Reconciliation

where apology from the heart leads to healing of the heart

and the chance of restoring the circle,

where justice walks with all,

where respect leads to true partnership, and

where the power to change comes from each heart.

Hear our prayer of hope,

and guide this country of Canada

on a new and different path.

(Rev. Lillian Roberts, part 2)

 

?ul nu msh chalap   amen

 

 Click the link to view the Reconciliation Worship, April 26th, 2015 Facebook Photo Album

 

 


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