I am thankful for this gracious move among Indigenous Peoples as of late. My wife and I attended a recent truth and reconciliation ceremony, many others shared in the experience with us. It was a straightforward heartfelt and informative ceremony. There were words and songs of openness, shared by those leading the time of fellowship. The needful perspective changes for Indigenous peoples to live a life of dignity and equality, amidst the rest of North America's (Turtle Island's) peoples were represented, graciously. Stories, such as the origin of the orange shirt and it's significance was shared.
The perspective I get, when I talk to some out there, is there is a demand being made and a pressure to comply being forced, around Truth and Reconciliation. They feel this pressure and are getting resentful. Even if there are some who are actually feeling a surge of control over a society which they as a people and as individuals felt powerless within, this is understandable. Don't all of us feel the same sometimes, albeit, still, to a lesser degree, around other issues and government? Yet this does not mean this is the nature of what is occurring in the hearts of Indigenous People here, by majority. So it must be seen for what it is intended, an honest effort to bring a blessing and harmony to our common home.
Think of it, this resentful attitude mirrors the one harboured by disgruntled individuals toward “caretakers” over the children in the Residential School System (RSS). So where does cursing our brothers and sisters stop?
Let's examine the possible flow of this history and where it could go, if truth and reconciliation are not understood and adopted as a conviction.
Here's the scenario, the understanding is, some in the 'RSS' harmed others directly and the system harmed Indigenous identity, so those harmed, or related to them, harm back. This would be natural, if they were retaliating against the same ones who did the harm. However, since the last of the residential schools were finally shut down in the 1990's, what remains is, the sad neglect of a wounded people and the kneejerk reaction on both sides left unaddressed, and a new response needed to be taught.
Physics says “Nature abhors a vacuum” and without guidance and cooperation, it will rush, in an emotional sense, to fill the void with what is easiest, what is base and what is already practised in undeveloped disciplines. This always leads to harm again. It's interesting how the mirror itself is not observed in the tit for tat response of history. So then, harmed people harm the ones who were not the ones who committed the original acts. Those in the neglectful void of history, get defensive or impatient and can act defensively, with a kind of preemptive strike, from an emotional trigger. This is what prejudice comes from. All it takes is some, not even a majority, to be perceived as expressing a group conviction, and it's on the roll again. We must stop, stop, stop!!!
Instead of from an approach of injustice, the focus in this Truth and Reconciliation Time was on honouring the sense of a young woman's family connection. Her desire to simply express her love for her own grandmother was the focus. A comment on the importance for all of us to value our grandmothers was expressed here. I couldn't help but notice there was a concern for the hearts of all of us, since we all deal with the need of facing and embracing the truth about life.
Next, a story was shared about stones on the shore of Lake Ontario. In the story these stones were anthropomorphized, so as to be conscious entities which had waited patiently for eons for an appointed time. In this, a vivid illustration was brought forth of patience and purpose, preordained by our creative God. The idea was to instill in each of us an awareness, one of purpose and timing in all things. Not our own inventions of purpose but acceptance of God's purposes, the very reasons our lives are shaped the way they are. Even though we have difficultly understanding the way God does things, we must continue to allow Him to navigate from His higher purposes. It is this mistake of letting go of God which causes the drift into despair, grief, bitterness and even the impatience which often cultivates violence. This is not His way, and so not the design of life.
This movement, if embraced in the spirit in which it is intended, is an effort to return our focus and lives to the one who created us. After-all, His very nature is the impartation of Life, of peace, of Love and inner and relational harmony.
In the past, under a repressive religious structure, there were those who outrageously misrepresented the heart of Christ (Who is God our Creator, who came in the from of humanity). They acted out in unthinkable ways bringing harm to the lives of so many entrusted to them.
Yet as one of the leaders in the Truth and Reconciliation gathering said, “Patience is a function of trust, trusting our God the Creator for His right time and right way of things.” We must remember, there were some good experiences in the residential schools, but those were few, mutually among people of dignity. My own grandmother shared with me of her experiences at residential school. She said, she had an amazing experience, part of the time, as she was taught and cared for by a certain wonderful christian woman. She did admit there were those who named that name and others who did not who were not safe, as she put it. When a system gets too big and rejects oversight, particularly that of “God's Great Spirit,” evil and ill will flourish.
Additionally, an emphasis was placed, deliberately, upon the need for truth to be a way of life, it is a mechanism of reconciliation and a must for all relationships. It was held out as a dimension for everyone to consider, if we are to flourish in any society in our life with anyone. I could not help but recognize the need for this to exist as a tenet to govern our inner life, our spiritual life, as well.
The bible says, in 2 Co 5:18 -19, “And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation." (NET)
In the gathering it was clear, an intention to live forward, in the best of lights, was the paramount desire. Young and old people milled about, asking questions, sharing stories and reconnecting with those not seen in a while. Some even discovered relatives they never knew they had. My own aunt, whom I had not seen for a few decades, was there. No shot intended, life just gets away from you sometimes. We had a warm time of reconnecting and catching up.
Another person shared about a piece of property, which at one time had been a special hunting place for the Ojibwa. It was a place where, by the use of encircling with controlled fire, they would drive their quarry and cull them for food. It became a place of reverence as did the fire in this respect. Yet over time, westerners, known as colonizers, built Boyd Mansion and eventually a school. This was intended to help, but was without the sensibilities to what the Indigenous peoples would want. Eventually this mansion burned down, ultimately everything was destroyed. Interesting, fire in a destructive way. Huh... Yet today there is a proposal to build an Indigenous Cultural Centre there. One which can educate everyone of Indigenous history, these events, and the hopes of the future.
In James chapter 3 verses 5-16 (too long to write out here, so I recommend you look in your own Bible or borrow one and read it for yourself) it talks about fires unruly character. It is similar to our own attitudes if not checked by God's help. It also addresses how water with impurity's cannot bring health but purity and singleness of purpose, only found in God's spirit, like flowing clean clear water, gives life to all who will drink of it.
In the Residential School System there were many who operated entirely opposite to God's design and so against the good for life, wounding the heart of a people. They also did not see how they wounded everyone else's heart in the process.
There will be a time when we can say, there are no victims left, only those who are getting stronger, healthier and more forgiving in the process. This is truth and reconciliation.
It is amazing to see the response from lives who have waited, in patient endurance, like those stones being buffeted and shaped by the work of time, to rise and assert the wise purpose of healing, and forgiveness as the nature of that, in this time.
I am thankful for this correction in our society, the patient way Indigenous cultural leaders are leading the next generations into peace and for those who embrace them.
In it all, I am thankful for God our creator who gave of Himself, for not only reconciliation to each other but to Himself, for all who will accept the gift of His Son.
Happy Thanksgiving Seasoning