Viewpoint: Truth and Reconciliation
by Parry Stelter
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada compiled 91 Calls to Action. This was a response to Canada, through the government and the church, implementing forms of genocide and colonialism over several hundred years. Indigenous peoples across this nation, have still been trying to recover from being placed on reservations and having to endure institutions such as residential schools and many other atrocities.
How do the current generations, and generations to come, recover from this wholesale hurt that has caused this intergenerational trauma? How does the church respond? How do non-Indigenous people respond? How do Indigenous people enter a state of recovery, and start to heal and move forward? How do my people start to thrive not just survive?
My own biological parents and aunts and uncles, went through the residential school system, and my wife and I are from what is called the Sixties Scoop generation. A generation known for being taken away from their biological parents and placed in non-Indigenous homes. My wife, Angeline, who is from Paul First Nation, and I, were adopted at an early age, and we both grew up in the church. Growing up in non-Indigenous homes and communities, we felt estranged from our biological family members. When we finally met them later in life we both have had issues with identity and not feeling totally connected with our families from these Indigenous communities. For us, we seem to be doing ok. I quit drinking 20 years ago, and now I work in a variety of roles in ministry. My wife has worked full time for the same company for the past 11 years, and we are happy with what is happening with our lives.
Unfortunately, the same is not true for some of our family members. The same is not true for many of our own people across this country. We find our strength in Jesus Christ, and the church, and ministry and work, but many of our people are stuck in a vicious cycle of addiction, abuse, and hurt. Many of our people hate the church and don’t want to hear about the “white man’s” religion. Yet, across this country, there are many Indigenous people who claim to be Christians, in either the Catholic or Protestant faiths.
Although I am Indigenous, and I feel that the government and other people are supposed to be reaching out to me, with a hand of friendship through reconciliation, I feel caught in the middle. I am a Sixties Scoop Survivor, but I also work in ministry. Call to Action #60 is a call to Action to the church and seminaries. I have taken it upon myself to adhere to this call to action, which says, “We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement, and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.”
In response to this, I have decided that, through my writing and speaking, I will always be sensitive to this specific call to action. I have decided to lead by example. As an Indigenous person and a believer in Jesus, I will not wait until the government starts a program for me or others. I will take it upon myself to do what I can with my own gifts, talents, and education. I will be like Jesus and lead by example.
There are so many other ethnic groups across this country that have been through atrocities too, and have their own stories to tell. Although my personal suffering and the suffering of my people should not be downplayed, other people have suffered too. If we go back to the first century, we will see Nero burning Christians alive, using them as candles to light the road leading to Rome. We will also see them torn apart by their limbs. If we go to Nazi Germany or Rwanda, we also see inhumane things happening.
Many of my people are angry and hurt, and are struggling with their belief in the church and what it stands for. So, as a member of the body of Christ, I want to be light in the world of darkness, and live by example, starting with myself. This is where the true road to Truth and Reconciliation starts and ends. Will you join me?
Parry Stelter is an Indigenous member of Alexander First Nation. Member of Hope Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton. Founder of Word of Hope Ministries and Doctoral Candidate in Contextual Leadership through Providence Seminary and University
Visit his website at wordofhopeministries.ca.