First Nations seeking new relation with church

“Maybe this day will signify that we can walk in peace for the generation to come,” said Harry Kelly, deputy chief of the Onegaming First Nation.
On Saturday (May 26), the Right Relations Circle—an initiative of United Church of Canada (UCC) congregations in the area—met for study and action regarding the affects of residential schools on First Nations people.
The meeting was animated by deeply-felt emotional statements from people who themselves, or whose ancestors, were among the victims of Canadian residential education policies.
Twenty-one years ago, the UCC leadership issued a statement of apology for its participation in the policy of residential schools. However, that initiative was little used until recently.
Of the more than 10 Onegaming residents who participated in the all-day discussion, none of them were aware of the national church apology.
“This is a start,” said one resident. “I will take this apology and read it at the grave of my parents.”
“Our people need to know about this,” said another community participant.
Others told stories of wagons and later buses coming to their communities and grabbing children to be taken off to boarding schools.
The Right Relations Circle was created as a way to get to heart of the fractured relationship between First Nations and the Canadian community.
The strategies of national assimilation expressed through residential schools, treatment of nature, and the view of the land were probed because they often led to internalized violence and disrespect for native culture, religious conviction, and law.
Rev. Peggy Mason asked participants to reflect on why they thought the churches entered into a program of residential schools.
Janice Boneham, administrative assistant at Knox United Church in Fort Frances, thanked First Nation participants that her destitute immigrant family had a place to live here in Canada when they arrived after World War II.
She acknowledged the land where her family settled in southern Ontario once belonged to native people and was acquired centuries ago by means that are now widely regarded to have been one-sided and unfair.
White participants placed their families on a timeline of the history of connection between the two communities.
The Rainy River and Kenora region had four residential schools—one in Fort Francis, two in Kenora, and the fourth in Pelican Falls. Many participants spoke of how the legacy of residential schools continues to negatively influence family life.
The healing from pain of so many years away from parents, together with abuse in the schools, has begun even though it may take seven generations, explained one First Nation participant.
The rebuilding of family and community life with the help of The Creator is a long-term task. The development of local First Nation-based schools over recent decades is another major step.
Now we need to modify the curriculum to incorporate more stories, practices, history, and traditional wisdom of First Nation people, reported Sandra Indian, Onegaming First Nation School principal.
The Right Relations Circle plans to continue its work and study in its second meeting at the Onegaming First Nation council offices on Tuesday, June 12 from 6-9 p.m.
Additional participants are welcome.
For more information, contact Rhoda Dickson (274-9139) or Janet Loney (482-2585).