- Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
We are in a period of history in Canada where relations with Indigenous people has become a priority. Within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report there are specific Calls to Action addressed to the churches. In response, one of the initiatives coming from the Archdiocese has been the creation of an ‘Archdiocesan Commission for Truth and Reconciliation’ (ACTR), that I help facilitate, made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who have met to listen to one another, build relationships and discern together what steps and initiatives the Archdiocese can take in responding to the TRC Calls to Action.
Through a series of gatherings where we listened to one another, we heard the range of concerns that must be our foundation including support for and engagement with Indigenous spirituality, culture and language; education about Indigenous Peoples, their history on this land (including the impact of colonization and Indian Residential Schools), and Treaties; dialogue and relationship building; working together for justice for and with Indigenous Peoples.
We learned that all engagement responding to the TRC and the pastoral needs of Indigenous people needs to flow from relationship with them, including the survivors of residential schools, intergenerational survivors, and all who have been affected by the legacy of colonialism. The saying ‘nothing about us without us’ is shaping our path forward.
We identified 4 circles of activity and engagement wherein we can strive to strengthen relations, respond to the TRC Calls to Action, and engage pastorally with our Indigenous brothers and sisters: 1) in schools and academic institutions; 2) in parishes; 3) through formation for those in leadership (priests, seminarians, diaconal candidates, in lay formation; and 4) working with ecumenical and interfaith partners and other agencies in the wider community in the pursuit of justice for Indigenous Peoples.
While there have been many wonderful initiatives happening in each of these circles I’d like to highlight “Formation for those in leadership”. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #60 encourages churches to educate clergy about Indigenous spirituality, the history and legacy of residential schools, and our shared responsibility to build respectful connections with Indigenous families and communities. Engaging with that Call to Action was the inspiration for the decision to set up a program in August of 2018, for those in leadership or en route to a leadership role in the church, as well as it being the focus for the Clergy Study Days in October.
8 of our seminarians, along with a few priests ministering on some of the reserves, sisters, deacons and laypeople, spent 15 days over a 3-week period connecting with and learning from Indigenous Elders and leaders. Archbishop Don Bolen and myself, collaborated with Indigenous Elders and leaders to plan and organize the program. With the additional involvement of 20+ Indigenous community members as well as Non-Indigenous leaders and friends, the team put together activities and opportunities for friendship and connection, focusing on “education, experiences, and encounters”.