Tag Archives: indigenous peoples

Mehc-ote-pesqin : I Am One (part 2)


In Luke 7:36-8:3 we read the story of Jesus’ dinner at the home of a Pharisee.  When he had arrived he was given none of the regular special treatment that would normally have been given to an honoured guest.  When the woman he considered to be a sinner bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment the host complained that the woman shouldn’t be touching him.  The host went even further, saying that the fact that he allowed it was sure proof that Jesus was not a prophet.  In response, Jesus told story about two men whose debts were forgiven and Pharisee agreed that the one forgiven more would be more grateful, he then showed how the woman had honoured him according to her great gratitude, while the Pharisee had not been very grateful at all.  Jesus told the woman her sins were forgiven.

 

My friend and colleague Ron has much to forgive, and I feel honoured that he has given me permission to share a little of his story with you…Ron is from the Tobique Nation and used to teach with me at the High School in Oromocto.  He is a keeper of the sweat.  Growing up was a real combination of family and culture on reserve and discrimination off.  He had friends who were taken to residential school. He went to day school with the nuns in his area for four years, and then to the regular local schools. His mother taught him to run home if he saw the RCMP and priest together. Ron tells of the culture shock of the school system and people assuming that he was stupid.  Any time anything went wrong at the school they would round up all the native kids and line them up in the gym and demand a confession.  They would leave them there for hours as there was most often nothing to confess.  Ron and the other kids from the First Nation were treated just as the woman in the Gospel reading.  And yet they had done nothing to deserve this.  They were born, as were we all, just as God had intended, loved by God just as much.

 

At the General Assembly in 2010 time was spent looking about  issues of the indigenous peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  One speaker was Chief Terry Paul of the Membertou First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Chief Paul offered a glimpse into his painful experience with the residential school program: “For me, the residential schools issue is very difficult to think about, let alone talk about, to go back to that five-year-old that I left behind. I blamed government, religions, even God for what happened. But it was people that did this. And here I am today, ready to forgive. I am not only a survivor; I am a witness to this horrible history.”

 

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Marie Wilson then shared with the Assembly some insight into the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “A huge part of the story of the Commission is about our failure in the past to see the universally sacred, and revisit that,” the commission “is not a national guilt trip, but Canada’s chance to breathe new life into what the Constitution says.”

 

Wilson stated that “the point of residential schools was to remove the Indian from the child, so within a few decades there would be no ‘Indian problem’,” with the result that “three and four-year-old children were removed from their families and put into isolated communities, going months and years without family contact.” She asked the Commissioners, “What would you do if they came to take your child, just learning to talk, barely out of diapers?”  One of the seven Truth and Reconciliation national events is coming up October 26-29th, 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We continue to need to promote healing and reconciliation.

 

gkisedtanamoogk  is a member of the Wampanoag Nation from Mashpee, “Massachusetts.”  He is married to a woman from the Mi’kmaq Nation and lives with his wife and children at Esgenoopotiitj.   Both the Wampanoag and Micmac Nations are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy of Nations. Gkisedtanamoogk works hard to educate and guide his people on the red path, and to open the eyes of non-aboriginal people to their unique way of viewing the world.  In his book co-authored by Frances Hancock, Ceremony is Life Itself, he expresses what it is to live your life spirituality better than I have found it almost anywhere else…

 

“We structure our life on a Ceremonial Cycle…Our whole way of Life, Ceremonially speaking, is one continuous Song, one continuous Ceremony.  The way we move is a Dance.  Ceremony is Life itself.  It is the way we do things.  Ceremony, to us, is the daily Life; everything we do, everything we think about is all part of that same expression.  From Planting the Corn to raising the Sacred Bundle, the Children, we are conscious that all Life is Sacred, that all Life is a Song; and we are thankful for it.”

 

“The construction of Giving Thanks is literally: I am exposing my enoughness, my fullness.  It expresses that my needs are met.  The condition of expressing that my needs are met, that the needs are met, is what we call Thanksgiving…I am up this morning.  I have Life.  I have risen/ I have come from the Sleep Time, the Dream Time…All that should govern us as Human Beings is our Honoring of the Creator, our honoring  of all our Relatives….That is the whole meaning of our Existence: becoming one with the Great Mother and All Our Relations.”

 

        The next time someone greets you with, “How are you?” or, “Donnegok?” I pray that you will be able to respond with,  “Mejedebesquin!”

Mehc-ote-pesqin : I Am One (part 1)


How do you greet people when you meet them?  At King’s Landing Historical Settlement we said “Good day,” at the high school some kids say hi by pushing each other into lockers, hi, hey, bonjour, beunos dias… When I wanted to learn some Korean I learned how to say their greeting, “anyong haseyo”, and one year during Native Awareness week at school they taught us a bunch of nouns, but I asked how to say hello in Maliseet. An informal greeting like “hey”  is “quay” but the main greeting is “Donnegok”, how are you?

At the end of this month, Halifax will be hosting the Truth And Reconciliation Commission hearings.  I am not an indigenous person and I make no pretense to even the slightest degree of expertise on the topic of Canada’s indigenous peoples.  But, I love to learn, and there is much to learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters, especially about our stewardship of creation, and how to live a truly spirit filled life.

I am going to use the two stories; 1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14) 15-21a, and Luke 7:36-8:3, and stories of three of my indigenous contacts to look at the answer to Donnegok… “Mejedebesquin”,     I am one.

In Psalm 5:1-8 we read,

“4For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
   evil will not sojourn with you.
5The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
   you hate all evildoers.
6You destroy those who speak lies;
   the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.”

 

All of those negative descriptions are what King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel represent. Ahab was spoiled. At his secondary palace in Jezreel, there was a neighbour, Naboth, who owned a vineyard which had been in his family for generations.  Ahab wanted to take this land away from the person who had it and turn it into a vegetable garden next door for his own convenience.  He offered either replacement land or the equivalent in cash.  The answer he received was, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.”  Ahab wasn’t used to hearing no and he became depressed.  He told his wife about it and she told him not to worry.  She set up a plot which resulted in the death of Naboth thus allowing Ahab to have his garden. While Ahab was in the middle of this garden he had taken through villainy, God sent the message that he was not pleased.

 

There are several underlying question here.  First of all was the land either of theirs to give?  And even if it was theirs, how could you put an appropriate price on the land of one’s ancestors?  In Turtle Island (the continent of North America) “fair deals” and cheating, lying, and trickery have long been used to deprive the indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands.  Deals were made but not honoured, diseased blankets were “given” out in a very successful gamut to kill off large populations, reservations were formed and the people restricted from using the land in the traditional manner.

My friend Hugh Akagi is the chief of the Passamaquoddy people whose land straddles the Canada-US border and includes St. Andrew’s New Brunswick.  This First Nation is recognized only on the US side of the border.  As Hugh says, when he is on this side of the border he fades in and out because according to the government of Canada, he doesn’t exist.  You may read his letter which was written to the United Nations in 2002 at http://www.sipayik.com/akagi’s_appeal_to_the_un.htm