Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. It is also National Aboriginal Day, a day when Aboriginal communities across the country will have special events.
For the church it is a day to reflect on our relationships with Aboriginal peoples. This relationship is difficult to say the least. Our Methodist and Presbyterian forebears came with the best of intentions and did some, by modern standards, damaging things. They came with a belief that they had the truth and that all other spiritualities were invalid. They came to bring people to God and later worked to assimilate people into mainline culture. Looking back, we no recognize that these things, while also bringing education and skills to live in new ways as the traditional ways were disappearing (largely due to European attitudes and actions) were acts of violence against a people and their culture. (click below for more thoughts)
20 years ago, in 1986, at a General Council Meeting in Sudbury the Moderator offered words of apology to the First Nations people. Since then we have tried to live out that apology. Over the last 20 years we have tried to come to grips with the reality of residential schools and tried to seek a way of helping to repair the damage done by that system. We have established a Healing Fund, monies set aside not for paying lawsuits but for funding projects to bring healing of wounded souls and spirits.
The United Church as a whole has put much effort into restoring Right Relationships with First nations people. As individuals some of us have done a lot and some still have trouble understanding why we keep apologizing for things that happened before we were born. But part of being the church is talking about our community responsibility. As a community we, unintentionally, were part of injury being done. As a community we will help to repair the damage. Sometimes it is up to the children to pay for the sins of the parents.
Other resources around the United Church and First Nations can be found here.