Knox Presbyterian Church and Curve Lake First Nation Cultural Centre
A local leaders’ training workshop was held November 1-2, 2012, at Knox Presbyterian Church in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, and Curve Lake First Nation Reserve. Seven Presbyterians from Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec participated. The first day consisted of workshops, hands on activities that explored the history of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The second day, the local leaders went to the Curve Lake Cultural Centre for a time of interaction with representatives from the Curve Lake community.
Reflections from Participants
The participants were asked to share some thoughts about the experience. These notes summarize participant discussions.
What did we learn and what do we do now?
The context of the issue of residential schools is important. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is part of this history and we need to cover the story and be sure it does not happen again. We need to be on the journey with our Aboriginal neighbours — we are not “fixers” — we want to be companions on the journey. Churches committed moral and ethical wrongdoings by removing and abusing Aboriginal children in some instances. We cannot undo the past but we must acknowledge the past.
Local leader frequently encounter the question, “why don’t Aboriginal people just get over it?” We do not set timelines for healing. Our role is to be with Aboriginal friends and neighbours as they heal; to listen to their stories. The history broken relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is an important part of the legacy that continues today. Treaties have been singed as far back as 1763, and too many have not been honoured.
It is important that we educate ourselves about our history. It can start with reading books, articles, watching a television show or online programs. Speaking to an Aboriginal person is even better. Start a conversation in your congregation. Increase awareness about our history, the richness of Aboriginal culture and some of the challenges Aboriginal people face today. Start small and build up to bigger events.
One suggestion was: “Listen. Listen. Respect. Acknowledge.”
Curve Lake Cultural Centre
On Friday we went bright and early to the Curve Lake Cultural Centre, about a 30-minute drive from Bobcaygeon. We were by led the archivist, Anne Taylor, who was a wonderful liaison at Curve Lake. An elder at Curve Lake, Eleanor Taylor, shared wonderful stories about her life and life at Curve Lake. Story sharing is a form of teaching and learning. One participant said, “now I know that much of what I thought I knew was incorrect.” We learned about the importance of oral history and how that story telling paints a beautiful picture while sharing important lessons and learnings. Our vision for the future involves grace, friendship and learning. Our journey is one of hope—as we met new friends, deepening mutual understanding and respect, and come to understand that we are companions travelling together toward reconciliation. Anne and Eleanor were calm, wise and patient as they spoke with us.
Anne shared this thought as we ended our time at Curve Lake: “I feel I am leaving today with new friends. It’s a good feeling.”
Justice Ministries would like to express appreciation to the minister and the Knox Presbyterian Women’s group at Knox Presbyterian Church in Bobcaygeon for their hospitality, helpfulness and delicious lunch. This training was greatly enriched by Anne Taylor’s willingness to host our group at Curve Lake First Nation Cultural Centre. Justice Ministries is grateful for her cooperation, graciousness, leadership and offer of friendship.