On Monday, May 28, a plaque was unveiled at the PCC National Office in Toronto in acknowledgement of the Indigenous territory that the office is located on. Staff participated in an event as a sign of respect and in recognition that Indigenous people have had a relationship with the land since time immemorial.
The national office of The Presbyterian Church in Canada is on the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, Petun, Seneca and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the New Credit Indigenous peoples. The Presbyterian Church in Canada recognizes the long and rich history that predates the establishment of European colonies and acknowledges the territory’s significance for the Indigenous peoples who lived, and continue to live, in this territory.
In addition to acknowledging the Indigenous peoples of this territory, the PCC also acknowledges that national office is located in the Dish with One Spoon treaty lands. Historian Rick Hill, a Tuscarora from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, has said that Indigenous elders have acknowledged this treaty of peace and friendship between different Indigenous nations since before the arrival of the earliest European settlers. Some elders have said it is the oldest treaty in North America.
The PCC and Residential Schools
Stephen Allen, Associate Secretary for Justice Ministries, spoke about the church’s involvement with Indigenous people and residential schools. “In our Confession to God and Indigenous peoples for our role in running residential schools, we acknowledge our complicity in a systemic effort to eliminate Indigenous culture, traditions and spirituality, and we covenant with God and with Indigenous people to ‘seek opportunities to walk with Aboriginal peoples to find healing and wholeness together as God’s people.’ This plaque is one small piece of that covenant.”
Through the PCC’s work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and because of the courage of residential school survivors to speak out about the pain they experienced, and the ongoing intergenerational impacts of residential schools, the PCC recognizes that our denomination acted in ways that would see the end of Indigenous culture and identity. As Stephen explained, “We are now working to turn the direction in that journey, and set a new course of right relationships, with God and with Indigenous peoples.”
Healing and Reconciliation
The Wampum belt is a visual symbol of our covenantal relationship. Wampum belts are visual reminders that our treaty promises include both the land and the people that share it. Our denomination’s Healing and Reconciliation Program logo is a wampum belt. It is a symbol of our covenant to live into right relationships with Indigenous people on the lands that we now share.
Since 2014, the General Assembly has included territorial acknowledgement in the first Sederunt of Assembly and includes it in Assembly records with Courtesies and Loyal Addresses. In 2016, the General Assembly approved a recommendation that invites congregations to acknowledge the Indigenous territory in which they meet and worship. These are small but important ways that different parts of the church are responding to the biblical call to reconciliation, and the covenantal call of our denomination to walk with Indigenous peoples into a new relationship.
To learn more about the PCC and efforts in healing and reconciliation, contact Justice Ministries at 1-800-619-7301.