All this from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission National Events
The moderator offered a gesture of reconciliation at the Edmonton event. Learn more about how the final TRC event provided an opportunity to help survivors and their families move forward toward freedom from pain and suffering.
The national events provide a chance to celebrate diversity and honour those touched by residential schools. They engage the public and provide education about the history of the residential schools system, the experience of former students and their families, and the ongoing legacies.
For the past year, two ideas have been going around and around in my mind: “take the Indian out of the child” and “for the child taken, for the parent left behind.” The first was Canadian policy, underscoring the purpose of the residential schools system. The second is the theme for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) national events being held across Canada. By establishing a national memory about residential schools, the TRC is ensuring that no one can say “this never happened.”
Little did I know how attending two national TRC events would affect my life. I was one who would wonder, sometimes out loud, “why don’t Aboriginal peoples just let things go and get on with their lives?” Why did something that happened some generations ago have such a negative effect on their way of life?
I first attended a TRC national event in Saskatoon SK in June 2012 as a member of the Women’s Missionary Society’s delegation. We were there to hear the experiences and stories of survivors of residential schools and their families. After listening to these heart-rending stories, my attitude changed. I realized that we were there to grieve the past with them, ask for forgiveness and break down barriers. We often listened through tears, along with the survivors and others who attended. It was difficult to hear about the “take the Indian out of the child” policy. It was difficult to hear how they were referred to as savages and that their way of life was not considered human. It was difficult to hear how the children felt abandoned, and about the physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual abuse suffered by many. At the Saskatoon and Montreal TRC (which I also attended) events, we witnessed extraordinary courage by the survivors and their families as they spoke publicly about what they had suffered.
Many survivors spoke about not knowing how to love their own families after being deprived of love themselves. Some survivors said that if it had not been for supportive partners and families in later years, they would not have survived.
That some survivors continued in a Christian faith, after being told that their experiences at residential school were “God’s way,” amazes me. Many were told that the God they believed in was not the true God. It was amazing how some of them, in their statements before the Commission, expressed their love for God and how they were able to continue living with God’s help.
Attending the TRC national events changed my life and perspective while I witnessed the simple truths of the Sacred Fire and the resilience of survivors who carry on.
Building Relationships in Constance Lake
The congregation at Living Faith Community Presbyterian Church in Baxter, ON, has participated in a long-standing “back-pack” ministry with the Mamawmatawa Holistic Education Centre in Constance Lake First Nation, north of Hearst, ON, providing back-packs filled with school supplies, clothing and books.
Last year, at the invitation of the Education Centre, members of Living Faith’s AMPed senior youth group took an 11-hour bus ride north to Constance Lake to run an After School Club and Family Night in the hopes of providing a bit of fun in the midst of the difficult winter months. Last year’s friendships were strengthened and new friendships were formed when AMPed returned to Constance Lake First Nation this past March, again providing an After School Club, helping out in the classrooms and library, and leading a “Despicable Me”-themed Family Night. Plans are already being made to return to Constance Lake next year to continue building these important relationships.
The year 2014 commemorates the 20th anniversary of the church’s Confession to Aboriginal peoples.
Metanoia is Greek for the thoughts, feelings and actions that transform relationships—a change of heart. What does a new relationship with Aboriginal peoples look and feel like? Show us!
Why Truth and Reconciliation Matters to Presbyterians
In 1994, The Presbyterian Church in Canada confessed its role in the tragic legacy of the Indian residential schools. The church is committed to walking with Aboriginal people on a journey toward reconciliation, and living out the spirit of the confession.
This video contains messages from Presbyterians from across Canada about why truth and reconciliation is important to them. A copy was presented as an expression of reconciliation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the Moderator of the 138th General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. John Vissers, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s national event in Saskatoon (June 21-24, 2012). A shorter version of this video was shown at the 138th General Assembly (June 2012).
If you are a Presbyterian who believes that truth and reconciliation is important and wish to submit a short video clip that will be added to the Healing & Reconciliation webpage, email Katharine Masterton in Justice Ministries or call 1-800-619-7301 ext. 250.
Liturgical resources, including suggested orders of service, sermon illustrations, church school activities, bible study, and prayers are available in two liturgical resources.
- We are One in the Spirit (2010)
- Healing & Reconciliation Liturgical Kit (2007)
- Healing & Reconciliation Sermons for Study and Worship
Healing & Reconciliation Seed Fund
The Healing & Reconciliation program offers funding up to $5,000 for Presbyterians wishing to build relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The next Seed Fund Application deadline will be posted soon.
Funding is available to support activities in a number of ways, including but not limited to providing for refreshments or meals; purchasing supplies; and/or paying honoraria to Aboriginal speakers or workshop leaders.
Please remember that funding is available to support a large range of projects:
- Small fellowship gatherings are very powerful means to begin forming relationships, and are therefore highly recommended.
- Groups who already have some connections with Aboriginal people or communities, or groups who are keen to begin with something on larger scale, may be draw to one of the more ambitious ideas listed below.
You may wish to:
- Invite an Aboriginal speaker or Aboriginal Elder to talk to members of your group, including youth groups, on any topic of interest such as Aboriginal history, culture, or modern day concerns. You may wish to have a discussion about the needs of your community with a local Aboriginal leader of a community group or service organization.
- If no potential speakers are known to your group, a local Native Friendship Centre, Native Women’s organization, or post-secondary campus Aboriginal association may be of assistance. If you are near a First Nation community, you may wish to try contacting a First Nation Band Administrator or, if available, a First Nation Education or Cultural Officer for assistance. A teacher from a First Nation school or an Aboriginal university professor or lecturer may work in or near your community and be available to speak or lead a workshop.
- Have an informal social or recreational gathering and invite representatives of a local Native Friendship Centre, Native Women’s organization, local First Nation or Métis community, or other Aboriginal group to join you. This includes sports or cultural activities for adults or youth groups.
- Talk to an Aboriginal service group in your community. Perhaps there is a joint project members of your group and the Aboriginal group can work on together, providing an opportunity for you to get to know each other better in the process. Funds could buy some supplies to assist with completing the project, and/or provide some refreshments while you work together to complete the project.
- Arrange a visit to a local Aboriginal community to learn about your neighbours first hand. This could include talking with leaders in the community (i.e. political, social, cultural, or educational leaders), taking a tour, and/or attending a pow wow or other cultural event or spiritual ceremony accompanied by Aboriginal people. Funds could be used to support modest travel costs. Remember that funding is designed to support relationship building, so it is important that any Aboriginal community visited be close enough geographically that relationships may be maintained and developed in the future between your group and the community.
- Work with a group of local churches to organize a workshop or even a conference.
- Funds could be used to pay a portion of event costs: venue rental (if necessary), food, honoraria for speakers/workshop leaders. Emphasis should be on building bridges at the local level.
Put your imagination to work to come up with something that’s just right for you and your group!
Commissioners of the 139th General Assembly (2013) were asked to suggest ideas to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Confession in 2014. This is a summary of their ideas.
In January 2013 several members of the congregation met to plan events for 2013. Idle No More was chosen as a theme because of its importance and interest to our community.
We organized a breakfast and panel discussion. Jennifer Henry, Executive Director of KAIROS was invited as a panelist. Andrew Wesley, another panelist, is a member of Omushkagowuk Nation and attended a residential school. He is a chaplain at Council Fire in Toronto and an Associate Priest at The Church of The Redeemer. Lori Ransom, Presbyterian elder and member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan of Eastern Ontario, moderated. We were delighted to have 92 people attend.
The event opened with an acknowledgement that the church is in the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Andrew offered a traditional greeting, including prayers of the Four Directions.
He told stories demonstrating the importance of the land and animals. He reflected on 1 Kings 1:3, Nabob’s vineyard, in which Nabob states, when asked by Ahab for his vineyard: “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.” Andrew challenged participants to consider: “What is your theology of land? What does Christian faith have to say about land management? Where is God in all of this?” He reminded us to acknowledge the Creator.
Jennifer Henry spoke about KAIROS’ Indigenous Rights program which emphasizes the need to establish right relationships, speak up against aggressive resource extraction, unsustainable land use, and to be in solidarity with Women in Spirit, a movement begun by Indigenous women calling for an inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Jennifer said that this is a process of the heart – with God’s help we can be transformed. Jennifer challenged participants to consider “What is God’s spirit asking us to do about the crisis faced by many Aboriginal communities?” She emphasized seeking justice. She believes that her ancestors, who settled on Turtle Island (North America), were welcomed and would not have survived without help from Indigenous people.
The Idle No More movement was begun by four women to protest legislation they feared would erode Aboriginal land rights. Indigenous people are bringing a prophetic message saying we are disconnected from the land. Jennifer challenged us to acknowledge the traditional Indigenous territories on which our church is built, on church signs and in bulletins. Fallingbrook Presbyterian Church ran KAIROS’ Blanket Exercise after the worship service on June 2. We encourage people to join KAIROS.
On January 26, 2013, 18 Presbyterians travelled to Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal to meet with members of the community. This visit was a part of a local leaders training initiative hosted at Maplewood PC in Chateauguay, QC. This was a local leaders training initiative organized for Presbyterians in Montreal. Local leaders’ training takes place several times per year. Participants learn about the history of the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, including Residential Schools, and cultural teachings and current affairs.
The Healing & Reconciliation program offers funding up to $5,000 for Presbyterians wishing to build relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. You may wish to invite an Aboriginal Elder to speak with a small group or organize a trip to a local Native Friendship Centre.
Click the links below to read about relationship building initiatives:
- Local Leaders Training – Knox Presbyterian and Curve Lake First Nation Culture Centre
- Camp Christopher and Riverside Community School, Prince Albert, SK
- Healing & Reconciliation story from St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Bradford, ON. Read from “Schools share their cultures.”
- St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church reaches out to Native Canadian Centre (Bramalea, ON)
- The Confession of 1994 (English/French/Korean): presented to First Nations peoples at the Forks national site in Winnipeg on October 8, 1994. Download the confession with all translations included.
- One in the Spirit: Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Peoples Walking Together in Ministry and Toward Reconciliation
- A Brief Administrative History of the Residential Schools and The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Healing and Reconciliation Efforts
- The Presbyterian Church in Canada Implementing the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement
2014 Summer Reading
If you are looking for summer reading on Aboriginal issues, here are three books that may be of interest:
Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk
The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
Healing and Reconciliation Reading List
Prison of Grass, Howard Adams (Fifth House Publishers/1989)
Breaking the Silence, AFN (Assembly of First Nations/1994)
Reconstructing Native Womanhood, Kirk Anderson (Second Story Press/2000)
…And the Last Shall Be First, Murray Angus (NC Press/1991)
Native Poetry in Canada: A Contemporary Anthology, Armstrong and Grauer (Broadview Press/2001)
Whispering in Shadows, Jeanette Armstrong (Theytus Books/2000)
Out of Muskoka, James K. Bartlemann (Penumbra Press/2002)
First Nations Education in Canada, Battiste & Barman (UBC Press/1995)
Nation to Nation, Bird, Land, MacAdam (Irwin Publishing/2001)
Healing Spiritual Abuse, Ken Blue (Inter Varsity Press/1993)
Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden (Penguin Canada/2005)
Through Black Spruce, Joseph Boyden (Penguin Canada/2008)
Louis Riel & Gabriel Dumont, Joseph Boyden (Penguin Canada/2010)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown (Holt, Rinehart and Winston/1970)
Indian Legends of Vancouver Island, Alfred Carmichael (The Musson Book Company/1922)
The Circle Game, Chrisjohn and Young (Theytus Books/1995)
Stolen From Our Embrace, Crey & Fournier (Douglas and McIntyre/1998)
Clearing The Plains, James Daschuk (University of Regina Press/2013)
Waterlily, Ella Cara Deloria (Bison Books/1990)
God is Red, Vince Deloria (Fulcrum Publishing/1994)
Canada’s First Nations, O.P. Dickason (Oxford University Press/1997)
Collection of Life Stories of the survivors of the Quebec Residential School System, Marie-Therese Dumont (First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services)
Nation to Nation, Bird Engelstad (Anansi/1992)
We Are All Treaty People, Roger Epp (University of Alberta Press/2008)
Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools, Theodore Fontaine (Heritage House Publishing/2010)
Aboriginal Spirituality & Biblical Theology, John W. Friesen (Detseling Enterprises/2000)
Circleworks: Transforming Eurocentric Consciousness, Fyre Jean Graveline (Fernwood Publishing/1998)
Finding My Talk, Agnes Grant (Fifth House Books/2004)
Resistance and Renewal, Celia Haig-Brown (Arsenal Press/1998)
Native Peoples of the Northwest, Halliday and Chehak (Sasquatch Books/1996)
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, Drew Hayden-Taylor (Knopf Canada/2010)
The Night Wanderer, Drew Hayden-Taylor (Annick Pulp Press/ 2007)
Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice and Life Together, Steve (ed) Heinrichs (Herald Press/ 2013)
The No-Nonsense Guide to Indigenous People, Lotte Hughes (New Internationalist Publications/2003)
Voices from the Sound, Margaret Horsfield (Salal Books/ 2009)
Dream Catchers, Philip Jenkins (Oxford/ 2004)
Flint and Feather, E. Pauline Johnson (Hayes.Barton/1912)
The Moccasin Maker, E. Pauline Johnson (Kessinger Publishing/2010 Reprint)
Indian School Days, Basil H. Johnston (University of Oklahoma Press/1989)
A Stranger at Home, Christy Jordan-Fenton (Annick Press/2011)
Fatty Legs, Christy Jordan-Fenton (Annick Press/2010)
In Peace and Friendship, KAIROS (KAIROS/Second Edition)
Colonizing Bodies, Mary-Ellen Kelm (UBC Press/1999)
A Native American THEOLOGY, Clara Sue Kidwell; Homer Noley and Tinker “Tink” (Orbis Books/2001)
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in N.A., Thomas King (Doubleday Canada 2012)
The truth about stories: a native narrative, Thomas King (Dead Dog Café Productions/2003)
Truth and Bright Water, Thomas King (Grove Press/2001)
The Red Indians, Peter Kulchyski (Arbeiter Ring Publishing/2007)
Last Standing Woman, Winona LaDuke (Voyageur Press/1997)
When the Other is Me: Native Resistance Discourse 1850-1990, Emma LaRocque (University of Manitoba Press/2010)
Tecumseh and Brock: The War of 1812, James Laxer (House of Anansi Press Inc./2012)
Goodbye Buffalo Bay, Larry Loyie (Theytus Books/2012)
Mamny Moons Ago, Fred McCue (iUniverse /2008)
Hanaway, Fred Metatawabin (Trafford Publishing/2004)
First Peoples in Canada, McMillan and Yellowhorn (Douglas & McIntyre Publishers/1988)
Citizens Plus, J.R. Miller (University of Toronto Press/2009)
Compact, Contract, Covenant, J.R. Miller (University of Toronto Press/2003)
A History of Native Residential Schools, J.R. Miller (University of Toronto Press/1996)
A National Crime, J.S. Milloy (University of Manitoba Press/1999)
Saik’uz Woman (Stoney Creek Woman), Bridget Moran (Arsenal Pulp Press/1998)
The Treaties of Canada with the Indians, Alexander Morris (Bedfords,Clarke & Company/1880)
Come Walk With Me: A Memoir, Beatrice Mosionier (High Water Press/2009)
In Search of April Raintree, Beatrice Mosionier (Portage and Main Press/1999)
The First Nations of British Columbia, Robert Muckle (UBC Press/2007)
Christ is a Native American, Achiel Peelman (Orbis Books/1995)
An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native People, Arthur J. Ray (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Aboriginal People in Canada, Kevin (ed) Reed (Pearson/2011)
Unsettling The Settler Within, Paulette Regan (UBC Press /2010)
Speaking My Truth: Reflections on Reconciliation and Residential Schools, Shelagh Rogers et al (Aboriginal Healing Foundation/2012)
From the Iron House: Imprisonment in First Nations Writing, Deena Rymhs (Wilfrid Laurier University Press/2008)
Feasting with Mine Enemy, Rosman and Rubel (Waveland Printing/1986)
Return To The Teachings, Rupert Ross (Penguin/2006)
A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul (Penguin Canada/2009)
A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory From a Prairie Landscape, Candace Savage (Greystone Books/2012)
The Legacy of School For Aboriginal People, Schissel & Wotherspoon (Oxford University Press/2003)
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back, Leanne Simpson (Arbeiter Ring Publishing)
Manitowapow, Sinclair & Cariou (Highwater Press/2011)
Sacred Feathers, Donald Smith (University of Toronto Press/1995 (reprint))
Anishnaabe World, Roger Spielman (Your Scrivener Press/ 2009)
Full Circle: Canada’s First Nations, Steckley and Cummins (Prentice Hall/2001)
Potlatch People: Indian Lives and Legends of British Columbia, Mildred Valley Thornton (Hancock House Publishers/2000)
They Came for the Children, TRC (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada)
One Church, Many Tribes, Richard Twiss (Regal Books/2000)
Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese (Douglas and McIntyre/2012)
Keeper’n Me, Richard Wagamese (Anchor Canada/2006)
One Native Life, Richard Wagamese (Douglas and McIntyre/2008)
The Next Sure Thing, Richard Wagamese (Raven Books/2011)
Native American Religious Identity, Jace Weaver (Orbis Books/1998)
Wawahte, Robert B. Wells (Trafford Publishing /2012)
Big Bear (Extraordinary Canadians), Rudy Wiebe (Penguin Canada/2008)
Stolen Continents: The “New World” Through Indian Eyes, Ronald Wright (Houghton Mifflin/1992)
Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry, Widdison & Howard (McGill/Queens University Press /2008)
The Gift is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories, Leanne Simpson (Highwater Press/2013)
Resources on Indian Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation:
Videos and Documentaries:
- Gently Whispering the Circle Back. The story of the emergence of Blue Quill College in St. Paul as a place of healing and reconciliation. Contact Beth Wishart MacKenzie (producer) to arrange a screening or obtain a copy.
- A 17-minute video by the Mennonite Church as to the importance of attending a TRC hearing
- Watch a five-minute video by the Mennonite Church as to what are the key elements at a TRC hearing:
- Project of Heart website full of resources for all ages to learn about residential school history using a variety of materials and strategies.
- United Church of Canada website is full of information and resources to use within congregations.
- The Children Remembered is a website that has all the photos and history summaries of United Church operated residential schools.
- The Aboriginal Healing Foundation website is where you can order the book, Speaking My Truth, for free.
- The website of KAIROS Canada has resources and workshop support for indigenous rights. Coordinating of and information sharing on events across Canada.