not worthy of human considerations

As a person of First Nations ancestry I cannot help but wonder if the failure of Caucasian Americans and Canadians to reveal and teach about the horrors their ancestors carried out against North American First Nations Peoples during and after colonial times is a deliberate cover-up or an indication that they hold within their minds a notion that the life of a First Nations person is valueless – not worthy of human considerations. The latter is probably the more plausible, because it is an unchallengeable fact that the crimes against humanity that were committed against our Peoples over the centuries by people of European descent are not viewed with the same abhorrence by Caucasians that such crimes against other races of people are viewed. If such were the case there would be unconditional condemnation of it, and the knowledge would be readily available and taught in schools.

  • Daniel N. Paul, We Were Not the Savages: Collision between European and Native American Civilizations (2006)

(These sobering words are a reminder of the changes that we are needing and wanting to make in terms of education. They come from a well-documented history of the treatment of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples in the Maritimes by European colonizers. This work, along with many others, is part of our library’s new Indigenous Studies Collection, which was in turn part of our Education for Reconciliation project made possible by a grant from Stronger Together.)

preventing spiritual violence

[This weekend, with the help of a grant from Stronger Together, SSU has been hosting a symposium called “Sacred Encounters.” Indigenous and church leaders from the Maritimes gathered in St. Andrews and listened to each other. Baby steps were made along the way toward these two items from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action]:

Action 59: We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.

Action 60: We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.

You can read more about this ongoing project of SSU here.

seeing hidden violence

[SSU alumnus, Matt Balcarras, recently completed a book on peacemaking with a special emphasis on revealing our complicity in hidden violence. In it he writes:]

There is violence hidden in all our stories. This is one of the uncomfortable truths that is necessary to acknowledge in the pursuit of peace. We live our lives in a context that has often been shaped by hidden violence….

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the actions others have taken in exploiting the lands and resources of First Nations people.

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the actions others have taken using military force against other nations and people, including civilians.

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the modern slavery created by the exploitation of people in the developing world who produce our cheap consumer products.

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the wanton destruction of the world created by God to be our home.

  • Matt Balcarras, from Peacemaking: A Community Workbook available here.

knowing in our gut

So I asked my mentor, “What do you mean white people don’t believe the Bible?”

He said, “Well, you don’t know those stories. You always have to check the book. They don’t live in your gut. I am Gix’an.* Stories that are important to me and to my people, we know them in our gut. We can take them with us anywhere. They inform the way we live. After you read one of your stories, you close the book and leave it on a shelf. The stories don’t touch your life at all.”

I began to slowly learn how we could let the stories of the Bible decolonize our community.

– Jodi Spargur, from “Decolonizing the Gospel” in Geez

*The Gix’an  (or Gitxsan) people are an Indigenous people that live in the interior of BC.

words of truth and reconciliation

[We’ve had some important insights here at SSU through the first public lectures in our First Nations Voices and Themes series. We’ve also been challenged to make ourselves aware of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action.” Here is one section relevant for us:]

We call upon leaders of the church parties to the
Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in
collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders,
Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other
religious training centres, to develop and teach
curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and
staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need
to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the
history and legacy of residential schools and the roles
of the church parties in that system, the history and
legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and
communities, and the responsibility that churches have
to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.

TRC’s “Calls to Action” – article 60