On Sunday we commemorated Indigenous History Month in Canada with a reflection on where we have come and where society is guiding us as a church.
As we look at the history of the United Church in Canada, it is important to remember that the church is an integral member of the treaty relationship. For Treaty #7, the Reverend John McDougall served as an interpreter and advisor to the Stoney Nakoda people at those negotiations in 1877. It was also Rev. McDougall that warned the Stoney people of government plans to exterminate the buffalo in an effort to starve the Indigenous people into submission, which helped them to survive..
And while the church has done some good, they also became instruments of colonialism that abused, assimilated and disenfranchised many Indigenous people, including the Stoneys.
As we reflect upon the tumultuous nature of the relationship between Canadians and Indigenous people, we must remember that to be in relationship involves dialogue, participation and involvement.
This includes recognition of the recently released report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls entitled “Reclaiming Power and Place.” This report tells of the ongoing tragedy that Indigenous Women face in a world indifferent to the struggle of First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities and families. As we advocate for reconciliation it is important to remember that this means righting the wrongs of the past (and the wrongs of today) with concerted, positive action.
National Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed as part of the recommendations of the Elders’ Committee at the 1971 Indian Ecumenical Conference in Morley, Alberta. It was quickly supported and advocated by the United Church of Canada in that same year. It took 25 years before the day was eventually recognized by the Governor General of Canada (in 1996).
Reconciliation happens. Sometimes it takes decades. Sometimes it takes generations. Indigenous people have remained strong and patient with Canadians and groups like the United Church of Canada. May we, as a community of faith, take to heart our scriptural teachings and learn to reconcile with our Indigenous neighbors and partners on this land.