Theology from the Tipi: Nĕstooāāk Part 2/3

Part 2 of 3

For Ray, the essence of Native spirituality understands the creation story and how we are related to creation. “I'm related to the land...if the land is damaged we will forget who we are. The residential school destroyed all our connections to the land. It was the annihilation of the connections of children with their parents and with the land. Even Settlers struggled with identity. When they arrived, they had no homeland and no connection to the new land."

A major part of the process the kids went through in residential schools was repentance, but not repentance from what we would think of as sin; it was more like... "Repenting for being First Nations." The result was that kids ended up hating who they were as First Nations. After that form of “repentance” they then went thru "conversion" to be Christians. Yikes!!! Is that what is meant in Acts 3.19 where it says: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins” (GNT)?? I think not. And we wonder why there is such resistance to the Good News of Jesus.

Briefly, reconciliation means us Settlers taking responsibility. No, not all of us were around when this happened…but our ancestors were. We can take on the responsibility for what our people did, maintained and, in many cases, continued to benefit from in our lifetimes. Repentance and reconciliation for the Settler community would mean re-embracing the treaties made with First Peoples – some of them very long ago.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave the opportunity to people to tell the truth...hearts were broken in the process. That was absolutely necessary to the healing process for all of us, Indigenous and Settlers alike. For newcomers to Canada it is important for them to learn about the treaties they are now party to now that they reside in Canada. Newcomers need to recognize that Indigenous people are a people who have something to offer, not a problem to be solved.

When the treaties were signed Indigenous leaders braided three blades of sweet grass together symbolizing the covenant between First Peoples, Settlers and the Creator. Repentance and reconciliation on our part (as Settlers) would mean taking that part of our history seriously, renewing our commitment to the treaties, to the covenant our people made with the Creator and First Peoples.

Go back to Part One…

Theology from the Tipi: Nĕstooāāk Part 1/3

Part 1 of 3

Edmonton, October 2015 - Glowing faces around the tipi fire belie the mean temperature of the late October evening. We are out on the land (Treaty 6) west of Edmonton. The sweet grass smudge is lit as the late comers grab a blanket at the entrance and are pointed to their place, circling sun-wise around the fire to the men’s side (west) or the women’s (east). As Harold Rocher (Treaty 6 First Nation) and Nora Yellowknee (Treaty 8) welcome everyone and explain the significance of the smudge, Harold carries the gently smoking smudge around to all desiring to participate. We ask Creator to purify our hearts and minds to think clearly, listen well, speak thoughtfully.

Nora describes in detail what life was like for her and her Cree people, Wabasca-Bigstone First Nation, of Northern Alberta. She speaks of Cree understandings of the universe, the ways Cree people raise their kids, the great respect her people have for Creator and all of creation…ones that walk the earth, fly the skies, swim the seas, or grow from the land. When they witness damage being done to the earth, it’s associated closely to damage done to another person. We are all related, earth, creatures, people. When they take something from the earth (harvest) there is much thought given to that act, since there are always consequences for our actions. They only take what they need. Tobacco is left as a thank-you to the plant and to Creator. Cree people think way down the road, like 7 generations down the road.

What if we Settlers started to follow that train of thought? How might our daily walk look differently than it does today? We sat around the fire, most with blankets wrapped tightly to keep that cool October air at bay, for nearly 2 hours, enthralled and challenged by Nora’s story telling, as we considered life around here as it once was….and how things could be with a deeply converted worldview. One of the participants, Rusty Foerger, summed up the Friday evening session: “The setting was perfect, the tipi experience was integral to the learning. The way we were in a circle and the free flow of discussion is part of the message.”

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