Thursday, September 30th, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation in Canada.  This date is set aside to honour the children and Survivors of Canada’s residential school system, as well as the families and communities who continue to be affected by the legacy of residential schools.
 
September 30th is also Orange Shirt Day – and Indigenous-led day to reflect on the experiences of residential schools based around the experience of Phyllis Webstad of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who on her first day of school had her new orange shirt taken from her. Today, her experience represents the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.¹
 
Canadians are encouraged to wear Orange Shirts to raise awareness about the tragic legacy of residential schools and to honour the children who attended. As a church, however, we’re inviting our congregations to move a step further in reflecting on truth and reconciliation. Below, you’ll find some options of events around Saskatoon you may wish to participate in, as well as some resources to help you reflect on the TRC Call to Action #49. It is our hope that we might spend some time reflecting on how we got to this place in our shared history and take responsibility for moving forward in a more honouring way.
Please note that whatever local events you participate in on September 30th it is good to approach with the posture of a guest. (If you are uncomfortable with the idea of a Smudge Walk, for example, you may wish to choose a different event to participate in, or attend only during speaking sessions.)
 
You may also wish to check in with event organizers of whatever you choose to attend. Sometimes event organizers would prefer to keep storytelling circles and grieving ceremonies private from non-Indigenous participants. In the spirit of reconciliation, please make sure you’re honouring the requests of Indigenous communities as their guests and do not attend events that are not open to Settlers.
 
At the time of this page’s publication, all listed events are open to all.
 
 
TRC Call to Action #49:
We call upon all religious denominations and faith groups who have not already done so to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.*
 
The Doctrine of Discovery and the concept of terra nullius was international law at the time of colonization on Turtle Island. You can read more about it here, but essentially, the Doctrine of Discovery provided a legal and moral framework that allowed European Christian explorers to dispossess and lay claim to land on the presumption of racial superiority over Indigenous Peoples. These laws were initially formed out of churches who used specific scriptures (Genesis 1:26, portions of Deuteronomy & Joshua, Matthew 28, and Paul’s letters among other sections) to justify the exploitation, subjugation, and dehumanization of Indigenous People. The atrocities of Residential Schools in Canada are part of the legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. Part of the work of Truth & Reconciliation for Christians today is to examine our understanding of scripture to understand how these words have been twisted to endorse the sins of colonization and to bring caution, repentance, and healing to our collective relationship with God and one another.³
 
In the sections below you will find several paraphrases and re-workings of familiar scriptures, as well as some prayers, questions, and additional resources to guide some personal or group reflection. The references are provided in case you would like to consider them alongside your usual translation. Our hope in presenting these passages as they are is to help us consider as a community how our understanding of scripture as shaped by the history and culture of the Christian church might be heard by those who have been oppressed by that history and culture. We hope that by asking God to help us see and acknowledge the attitudes and doctrines that have shaped our assumptions we can move forward in ways that love God and love our neighbours better.
 
*We acknowledge that while we have formally adopted UNDRIP, to date our denomination, the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, has not issued a formal statement repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius. However, requests from congregants are helpful in advancing that discussion. If you would like to contact the denomination about addressing Call to Action #49, please email office@cbwc.ca.
RECONCILED (Psalm 137) by Rarihokwats
By the shores of the Athabasca, there we sit down,
and there we weep when we remember the way it was
when Creator gave it to sustain our lives.
 
There we gave gratitude for our gifts,
the pure water we could drink from a cup,
the abundance of fish to sustain the lives of our children,
now only memories of who we were.
 
They ask us to be grateful for “progress,”
for “development,” for the “civilization” they have given us.
Now they ask us to dance in their parades,
to put on our feathers for their amusement,
while our children learn of Champlain, Cartier, Cabot
and are told, “Beat that drum and do your chants!”
 
We are on the same shores,
but it is no longer the same river.
How can we say, “Thank you, Creator?”
 
I will never forget you, Athabasca, as you were meant to be.
I will teach my children of the way you were
here in our Promised Land. We will restore you to health.
 
What good am I if I do not remember who you are?
 
If I do not remember who I am,
not what I have become,
if I do not make what you were a vision for my children?
 
I remember all those who took my language,
who took my culture, who took me from my parents and people.
 
“Kill the Indian in the child!” “Kill the Indian!”
And now I am all that is left.
 
My mind wants retribution, repayment, restitution,
for what you have done to us.
I struggle with thoughts of hate.
Of violence. Even violence against my own self.
 
But what little remains of my culture tells me
those were not Creator’s instructions for me
when I was given life.
We must restore our lives, our values,
our Elder’s teachings.
We must embrace and
see what lives we might make for our children
who have a right to their own Promised Land
on the shores of our Athabasca
restored to health.
 
Great Comforter, 
we know that we are surrounded by a legacy of pain. 
 
We acknowledge the pain, grief, and sorrow 
caused by not living respectfully with all people, 
and we are sorry for the ways that we have dishonoured the depths of this pain. 

 

Open us, Creator, to the power of interconnectedness: 
 
Help us to receive the painful stories as well as the inspiring stories; 
 
Grant us the courage to own any feelings 
of vulnerability, shame, fear, and guilt 
that may come from our interactions with each other; 
And with your healing grace,
lead us through our aching
toward your dream of wholeness. 
 
Transform us and our community
so that we may continually work toward reconciliation and new life. 
 
Amen.
 
 
 
How often to do you think about a legacy of faith and cultural understanding in regard to your own spirituality?
 
If you are a Settler, have you ever considered yourself or the history of your ancestors as correlating with Israel’s oppressors in the Psalms? In what ways?
 
Does identifying Indigenous People with the history of Israel unlock any new understanding for you? Is there anything this passage makes you consider that you hadn’t thought of before? What stories do you need to make an effort to hear?
 
In what ways to do you see the Doctrine of Discovery showing up in your life? (Land, Education, Consumer Habits)
 
This passage moves from current pain into places of hope for future generations. What hopes do you carry for future generations with regard to Truth & Reconciliation?
 

 

Ephesians 3:14-21

This is the reason I bow down on my knees and humble myself before the father above, from whom all families, clans, and tribes, and this world and in the spirit-world above, are named.
 
My prayer for you is that from the great treasures of his beauty, Creator will gift you with the Spirit’s mighty power and strengthen you in your inner being. In this way, the Chosen One will make his home in your heart.
 
I pray that as you trust in him, your roots will go deep into the soil of his great love, and that from these roots you will draw the strength and courage needed to walk the sacred path together with all his holy people. This path of love is higher than the stars, deeper than the great waters, wider than the sky. Yes, this love comes from and reaches to all directions.
 

I pray that you would feel how deep the Chosen One’s great love is. It is a love that goes beyond our small and weak ways of thinking. This love fills us with the Great Spirit, the one who fills all things. I am praying to the Maker of Life who, by his great power working in us, can do far more than what we ask for, more than our small minds can imagine.

May his sacred family and the Chosen One bring honour to him across all generations, to the time beyond the end of all days. Aho! May it be so!
 
Holy One, 
Creator of all that is, seen and unseen, 
of story and of song, 
of heartbeat and of tears 
of bodies, souls, voices and all relations: 
you are the God of all truth and the way of all reconciliation. 
 
Uphold with your love and compassion 
all who open their lives 
in the sacred sharing of their stories 
breathe in us the grace 
to trust in your loving forgiveness, 
that we may face our histories with courage; 
touch us through the holy gift of story 
that those who speak and those who listen 
may behold your own redeeming presence; 
guide us with holy wisdom
to enter through the gates of remorse 
that our feet may walk gently and firmly 
on the way of justice and healing.
 
Amen.
 
 
 
 
This map from the National Centre on Truth and Reconciliation shows 3 categories that help to create a picture of the impact of residential schools across Canada. The purple icons show the locations of the 140 residential schools in the country. The red icons demonstrate the locations of 55 medical facilities that worked with children under the Indian Residential School Agreement. Finally, the green icons show the locations of communities whose children never returned home.
 
Consider the communities shown here and consider the ways they might share commonalities with your own community. If you don’t know what to pray, you might choose to pray “I don’t know what to pray, but this needs your help, God. If it helps you to linger with God in those places of uncertainty, you may wish to float your fingers over different communities on the map and consider the tenderness of God toward these people and this legacy of tragedy.
 
Matthew 28:18-20
 

“All the authority of the spirit-world above and the earth below has been given to me,” he told them. “So now I am sending you into all nations to teach them how to walk the road with me. You will represent me as you perform the purification ceremony (baptism), with them, initiating them into the life of beauty and harmony represented in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You will then teach them all the ways that I have instructed you to walk in.”

 

Creator Sets Free (Jesus) then looked into their faces with love and great affection. He lifted his hands toward them and spoke these final blessing words over them.


“Never forget,” he said as he began to rise up into the spirit-world above. “I will always be with you, your invisible guide, walking beside you, until the new age has fully come.”

 

 

God forgive us for our arrogance wherever we confuse our embedded racism with “what is best”.

Watch over the children who have been removed from the homes and families they were born into.

Bring your healing to family systems that have been subject to generations of trauma and violence.

Bring your justice to the systems of violence that have been called systems of care.

Teach us all to love in ways that are self-giving rather than self-justifying.

Free us from assumptions that run deep and divide us.
 
Amen.
To Cede and Surrender by Steve Heinrichs
 
In land shaped by mothering Manitou
In place scarred through power and passion
We come before you, our common Creator
And ponder
     Sacred space,
          a millennia’s elder, yet new to most
     Welcoming nations,
          hosting stranger, orphan, and migrant.
     Resilient peoples,
          struck by benevolence, arms, and industrial sin
     Long-suffering peoples,
          turning cheek to the glutton of greed
 
Forget, we try, but we know well
     It is the circle of respect that will remain alone
     It is the gifting of rivers and earth that can sustain
 
The covenant memories are alive
Even today
 
So with fragile words
     imagined from heart
          we Settlers
               and covenant peoples
               and split relatives
               and unwitting bystanders
     We all of us
          some of us
     Express a dream
          a small opening
          a stumbling
               out of iniquitous indifference
               cheap talk and hypothetical realities
                    to friendships of peace; arm-in-arm
                    to truth with justice; one-bowl-with-spoon
                    to hope in laughter; braided love
 
 
 
 
We know well, we are far off
     The rejected cry out; the land too
     Treaties broken; circle too
 
Some are committed
     To lament and learn
Some have readied
     To repair and renew
 
But o how we need your hand
Come and gift us with your cruciform ways
 
     God of the damned and the despised
     Christ of the poor and Christ-against power
     Spirit of newness, breathe in this place
          – Manitowapow – 
     You are here!
 
     Give us this day
          courage beyond calculation
          risk beyond anxiety
          generosity beyond extraction
          action beyond apologies … all those apologies
 
     That we Settlers
          May cede
          And release
          And surrender ourselves
               to you
               and to all our relations
                    The Cree and Ojibway
                    The Dakota and Métis
                    The muddy rivers
                    The concrete prairie
 
          Of what we have
          We can share
          Pray God, we will
          Even now. 
Heritage, C. (2021, September 21). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html.
 

Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2012. (2015). Reports. NCTR. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://nctr.ca/records/reports/.

 
Assembly of First Nations. (2018, January 22). Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.afn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/18-01-22-Dismantling-the-Doctrine-of-Discovery-EN.pdf.
 
Rarihokwats. (2018). In Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization (pp. 112–113). essay, Mennonite Church of Canada.
 

United Church of Canada (Ed.). (2016, June 22). National Aboriginal Day. Kamloops United Church | Kamloops United Church. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://kamloopsunited.ca/2016/06/today-is-national-aboriginal-day/.

 

Bear, C. (2021, June 3). words spoken on a tear-soaked day. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://vimeo.com/558686744.

 
IVP, an imprint of InterVarsity Press. (2021). Ephesians 3:14-21. In First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament.
 

KAIROS Canada. (2012, May 27). Prayer for Reconciliation. KAIROS Canada. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.kairoscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/DR-IR-May27Insert.pdf.

 
IVP, an imprint of InterVarsity Press. (2021). Matthew 28:18-20. In First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament.
 

Spargur, J. (2017, March 15). Lenten Practice: Praying UNDRIP. Healing at the Wounding Place. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.redclover.ca/blog/2017/3/15/lenten-practice-praying-undrip.

 

Heinrichs, Steve. (2016). To Cede and Surrender. In Yours, Mine, Ours: Unravelling the doctrine of discovery. poem, Intotemak.

As a church community, Emmanuel Baptist Church gratefully acknowledges that we are beneficiaries of Treaty 6 and that we gather and live on the traditional lands of diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Dene and Saulteaux, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. We are committed to being in honouring relationship with one another.

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