Reports from ICP Executive Director Linda Crawford, who is attending the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) gathering in Canada, July 19-22.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Restoring Spirit Through Sacred Listening
Goodness, where to start. I said yesterday that I was looking forward to learning more about Canada’s First Nations, and I did.
Did you know that there is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada? The morning plenary session was presented by Dr. Marie Wilson, one of the commissioners who had also served on the same type of commission in South Africa. Why a TRC in Canada?
Like the U.S., Canada has its ugly history in how it has treated indigenous, aboriginal, First Nations people. (I never heard the word “Indian” or “Native Canadian.”) From 1831 to 1969, nearly 30% of Native Canadian (Wikipedia) children were ripped from their families to attend Residential (Boarding) Schools for the purposes of assimilation and Christian conversion, predominantly by the Roman Catholic Church in Canada (60%), but also the Anglican Church of Canada (30%), and the United Church of Canada (10%).
These children were not allowed to speak in their own language, visit their families, or participate in their culture. As Wikipedia reports, “(this was equivalent to) cultural genocide or ‘killing the Indian in the child’”. They were terribly abused – physically, sexually, emotionally and psychologically. It is believed that over 4,000 of them died – many never accounted for.
The first church to apologize to the First Nations, Inuit, and Meti peoples was the United Church of Canada in 1986. The Canadian government didn’t apologize until 2006, and that was mandated by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the result, I believe, of a lawsuit. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed out of that.
In the afternoon, I joined a tour of the Royal Canadian Mounted (Not Any More) Police Depot (Training Center for all of Canada) & Heritage Center. We visited the Chapel where the chaplain talked about his role in serving the needs of all diverse faiths in the RCMP. He has created a multi-cultural center where provisions are made for cadets of all faiths to have a sacred place to go.
It turns out that it was the RCMP who rounded up the indigenous children and took them away to the residential schools.
The day ended with my attending my first ever sweat lodge behind First Nations University. What a blessing. There were 4 half-hour sessions with the flaps thrown open for air and the ability to go outside. Each session had a focus, such as contacting the grandmothers and fathers, healing, and gratitude. One woman was so overcome with emotion within the first 20 minutes, that she had to leave. She sat outside and came back in later.
The elders prepared us well and were quite gracious and helpful, but it sure got hot.
Reflection: There’s a reason NAIN chose the word “Network” instead of “Council” or some other name. It really is about networking and building relationships. In each session, mealtime & tour, we got a chance to meet each other and connect. It’s been quite wonderful.
This is the archive for the Bay Area Interfaith Connect, the former newsletter for the Interfaith Center at the Presidio .