June 30, 2022
Reconciliation: what comes next?
by Jacky Bramma
I don’t imagine I am alone in feeling confused, angry and, above all, very sad when I think of the horrible legacy of the residential schools in Canada. Confused, because I don’t understand how such atrocities could have happened in the name of Christianity; angry because they went on for so long and the resulting trauma is still wreaking havoc on so many Indigenous people; sad because I dearly want Reconciliation to happen NOW, but there is still so much to learn before we can get there.
Over recent years I am encouraged by the desire and the efforts of the Anglican Church to tell the stories and the truths of those who suffered and are still suffering. There are many sources of information, both from within and outside the church. The writing and preaching of the late Ginny Doctor, for example, is both gentle and inspiring and really worth exploring online. During Lent this year, All Saints ran a course using the Anglican Church of Canada’s documentary Stolen Lands-Strong Hearts. This focused on the Doctrine of Discovery and the subsequent wiping out of so many Indigenous people and their culture. We were also encouraged to give our Lenten offerings to the Mishamikoweesh initiative to provide clean water in that community. The planting of the Three Sisters Garden in our community garden pays homage to traditional Indigenous planting methods.
Earlier in June a small group attended Mapping the Ground We Stand On in the church hall, which enabled us to visualize the huge number of Indigenous nations and see the disastrous results of colonialism, in addition to sharing our own families’ settler stories.
Collective education aside, however, it is important for each of us to continue our own individual journey of learning. For me it has been enhanced by reading books by Indigenous authors. Earlier this year I read Permanent Astonishment: A Memoir by Cree author and performer Tomson Highway. He was born in a snowbank on an island in the sub-Arctic, the eleventh of twelve children in a nomadic caribou-hunting family. Far from being a litany of their hardship and poverty, this book is joyful, funny and a delight to read. Much of the humour comes from the struggle the Cree people had in pronouncing English words, and so they would approximate with amusing results. (I recall that one of the priests was dubbed “Father Egg-Nog”, the closest they could get to his name!)
Recently I read the award-winning novel, Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, whose mother and grandmother, both Cree, were residential school survivors. It took nine years to write, and, as the title suggests, tells the story of five Indigenous children and their lives after residential school in a remote area of BC, beginning in the 1960s. Once released they had to make their own way without any skills, support, or families in the seedy foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, a world which did not welcome them. With compassion and insight and based on much of the truth she learned from her own mother and grandmother, Michelle Good chronicles the desperate quest of these five children to come to terms with their past and find a way forward. Although the content is difficult to face at times, the story is told with great tenderness and beautifully written. Spoiler alert: the book ends on a hopeful note! It takes time for what we learn to settle, and we each digest it at our own pace. So, the journey continues and there’s a long road ahead, but we have no choice but to move forward one step at a time.
In the words of Richard Wagamese: We are all one energy, one soul, one song and one drum. We are all one drum, and we need each other. Fly, and tell your story to all who will listen.
IRISH JESUIT PRAYER:
All we do our whole lives long is to go from one little piece of holy ground to the next. Lord, give me the strength to keep going in between. AMEN