Alastair McCollum
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Reconciliation is a big, important, deal in Canada - it's a word used to describe the hope for rebuilding relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people following the systematic attempts at 'assimiliation' which went hand in hand with a world view that white culture was an aspiration to which all 'native' peoples should aim. It left a legacy tied up with the colonail mindset of racism, the superiority of Western (white, eurocentric) philosophy and culture, and the inherent inferiority of any indigenous worldview, spirituality, practise, and lifestyle. In the course of this attempt at assimiliation we saw the importing of European disease, a series of unjust and/or broken treaties, the coralling of Indigenous people on Reserves, Residential Schools, the outlawing of traditional rites and ceremonies, the control of movement, the sixties scoop, and so many more injustices against the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples of these lands.

There have been steps towards restoring positive relationships between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples - formal, heartfelt, apologies have been made for the injustices of the past, the effects of which carry on to this day, including a moving apology from the Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada in 1993. , our own Bishop Logan of the Diocese of Islands and Inlets (British Columbia) embarked and continues upon a 'Sacred Journey' of re-entering the land. Reparations have been made, and attempts to rebuild the cultures of the native peoples of Canada - support for language revitalisation, attempts to learn more of Indigenous culture, the celebration of Indigenous Art and Culture, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which presented Canada with 94 Calls to Action, the adoption (long overdue) of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), attempts to include a fuller history of the Indigenous People of Canada in School Curriculae, a National Indigenous People's Day, as well as other actions by many and various groups - government and non-government related, charities and not for profit groups, educators, churches and other religious organisations, and others.

But there is much to be done, the legacy of what has been rightly described as 'cultural genocide' and the trauma inflicted by the Residential School System will take many generations to begin to heal.  Indigenous peoples are slowly recovering their language and culture, and rediscovering a pride in spiritual and social systems condemned in previous generations. Yet there is still systemic and individual racism, still a vast disproporition of indigenous peoples amongst the homeless, incarcarated, mentally ill, substance users, those in poverty, or without clean water to their homes.  Myths persist about the wastefulness, uncleanness, inferiority, of indgenous peoples.  Racism abounds and injustice is ever present.

We are, as people of faith, called to stand against injustice and to love and serve all people.  We are called to embrace and stand up for the oppressed.  We are called to act for justice.

But at this time we have another important task - to listen, to hear the stories of the indigenous peoples of these lands, to learn from them, to recognise and celebrate the wisdom that has been passed down through many generations and to be open to new ways of seeing and being in relation to the original peoples of these lands.  May we have the grace to do so and to allow ourselves to be led in this painful journey of truth-telling, healing and reconciliation.

 

Matthew 5:23-26


So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.