Page 4 - Presbyterian Connection
P. 4

Each One of Us Matters
4 FALL 2021
  By Yaxšiqimł (Natika Bock) on the Traditional and Unceded Tk’emlúps
te Secwe’ pemc Territory. The Secwe’ pemc maintain a spiritual and practical relationship to the land, water, air, animals, plants and all things
needed for life. Natika is a student
at Vancouver School of Theology/St. Andrew’s Hall and is a member of
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Kamloops, B.C.
The Sacred Fire at Tk’emlúps te Secwe’ pemc (TteS) burned for four days and was extinguished on May 31, 2021, after the last logs were placed by Fire Keepers at 5 p.m. Left to burn down carefully, the Keepers kept ceremonial watch as the coals embered to ash. Still today, several months later, visi- tors come daily to mourn, bring gifts and weep the lost 215 First Nations children that were recently found bur- ied in unmarked graves. By way of ground-penetrating radar, the stories of these burials were confirmed, but there is still so much more work to be done and it is predicted that many more graves will be located, as only two of the six hundred acres of land were investigated. On July 15, 2021, the public report of the findings at TteS were shared and it was stated clearly that we need to avoid regard- ing these “discoveries” as authenti- cated by science, but instead, realize these unmarked graves were remem- bered by Survivors and documented throughout the Truth and Reconcilia- tion Commission (TRC) Report.
The orchard where these children were detected is only a quick saunter from the Red Brick Building, previ- ously known as Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS). I work at ground zero on the girls’ side, in the basement of KIRS. KIRS and the previous Day School both remain standing and have been renovated to accommodate over 240 TteS Band Staff. During the work week, we occupy these spaces even while ceremonies of grief and healing are carried out. During one of these cere- monies, a shocking photo was taken of eerie figures standing in one of the windows. Social media carried this image exponentially through its viral interweb, but as it turned out, the picture was not of ghosts, but rather of TteS staff observing the gathering out their work window. It was shared with staff that these children are now in our care, and it is our duty to hon- our them in the best ways we can.
With that, several wooden crosses have been erected along the shoulder of the highway, pageanting weath- ered, sun-scorched orange articles of children’s clothing. As we arrive to work, the power of orange and crosses, pronounced on unceded, stolen land, is sobering.
Many of my co-workers are inter- generational Survivors of KIRS and hold stories too grim and triggering to share. All of us staff have had our own personal experiences of being “ghosted” in our offices and about a year ago I wrote one of my first semi- nary papers of various KIRS spirit en- counters. Be assured that whenever one of us gets spooked, with grace my co-worker gently reminds us to say a small prayer to the little ones who are trying to get home. This was the lesson her late mother, a KIRS Survivor, passed on to her.
I write this cautiously, aware of my own tender emotions and the re- sponsibilities that I carry as an active member of St. Andrew’s Presbyte- rian Church in Kamloops, as a semi- nary student of St. Andrew’s Hall and Vancouver School of Theology, as a mother and partner of intergenera- tional Residential School Survivors, and as an Indigenous guest work- ing at TteS. To maintain and respect these various duties in a good way sometimes feels more like a burden than a gift. Yes, remorse and apolo- gies are necessary, but don’t forget that Canadians are known worldwide to apologize a lot. Recently, I was in a meeting where a revered Elder asked, “Why would we trust an apology, es- pecially from a Canadian?”
I’m not sure whether we enter the Garden or the Wilderness when we are baptized, but I have observed that just when I think that we—a collec- tive of Reformed Christians—have a better sense of the direction we are heading in, the Spirit reveals another gouge of brokenness. By way of in- effable Indigenous truths and testi- mony, the urgency for reconciliation wails in all four directions. Speak- ing once and listening twice, here we meet again, six years after the completion of the Truth and Recon- ciliation Commission of Canada and this time we absolutely cannot deny that merciless soil is packed under some of our forefathers’ fingernails. More investigations for buried bod- ies will inevitably proceed, and trust that Presbyterians will need to be ac- countable to more buried children.
An orange T-shirt by artist Mike Alexander, an Anishinaabe from Swan Lake, Man.
This issue is personal to me, as both the Presbyterian and United Church controlled the operations of Alberni Indian Residential School, the institu- tion that bequeathed my girl into the legacy as a third-generation Survivor.
Extending ourselves only through thoughts and prayers to the hurt, traumatized, distant and dissimilar causes more harm than good and undermines our service to God. Ac- cording to the Medicine Wheel teach- ings, spirituality is only one quadrant of the round. A healthy expression of self—in this case, as part of the unified body of Christ—includes not only the spiritual, but also the emo- tional, mental and physical aspects of identity. As Christ-followers, we are aware that Jesus not only prayed, but also exercised and expressed his full-spectrum of humanness. Jesus showed up again and again. Though the Medicine Wheel is not a Christian ideology per se, it does bear weight to someone like me, as well as the established PCC Ministries with In- digenous People. Plus, the Medicine Wheel is a model that is appropriated often, even within our own Presby- terian tradition, and many Indigenous Christians use the teachings to ac- tivate their venerations, communi- ties and ministries. Many of us have known the Medicine Wheel our whole lives and as righteous children of God, each one of us matters.
Since the findings of the First Na-
tions children at TteS, so many more unmarked graves have been found across Turtle Island. I won’t include a number here, as I am sure this figure will be higher by the time this article is published. I also want to add that since these findings, both British Co- lumbia and the Chiefs of the Secwe’ pemc Nation have declared a State of Emergency due to the wildfires. TteS serves as a main evacuation site where staff and volunteers are work- ing around the clock to take care of evacuees. There has literally been no relief, no respite, not since the begin- ning of COVID-19. The community is exhausted as crises and trauma that follow continue to mount. Lord, have mercy. Lord, be with us.
Injustice never lays low and will continue to circle back each season, with more potency and fortitude, until justice prevails. These find- ings are serious and are our cue to knuckle down, quit chattering and start examining the long-detailed list of unfinished business and promises that we have made, but have not de- livered. The TRC Calls to Action were clear and there is no need to continue to unpack what reconciliation means to each of us personally, but rather we must follow the guidelines that were laid out six years ago by law- makers, professionals, Survivors, church leaders and decision makers. And rest assured that the better way forward for all of us will be guided by
the Creator’s radiance and light that reflects everyone, including the ones we have intentionally or unintention- ally sinned against. The time to live in true fellowship is now—after all, the lifelong dowry of God’s illumination is witness. For better or for worse, as Christians, our primary identity is in our baptism and, as intentional mem- bers of the Reformed tradition, we have a commitment to being reformed and reforming according to the Word of God.
I leave you to ponder these ques- tions:
1. Is your church working towards realizing the Calls to Action as vowed by the PCC? (These ac- tions are #s 46, 48, 49, 59, 60, 61, 73, 74, 75.) Visit presbyte-
2. Is your church ready to implement the relevant Calls to Action? Why or why not?
3. Has your church reached out to your Indigenous members and/or local Indigenous communities to offer support and resources?
4. Has your church and church community met and discussed these findings at TteS and across Turtle Island?
5. Is your church preparing for the time when unmarked graves are found in either your community and/or on a previous Residential School site that was operated by your Christian denomination?

   2   3   4   5   6