schools) have done a lot of
work on the reserves, but
other churches seem to be
taking a watch and wait stance.
She is senior advisor for the
Truth and Reconciliation
Commission and a member of
the Algonquins of Pikwaka-
nagan First Nation. “Learn the
history and find out what
survivors are saying,” she ad-
vises. “There is a story of Ab-
original people and residential
schools that’s not widely
known. And it should be.”
History lessons might help
churches to understand the
trauma and injustices commit-
ted a century ago that have
never been reconciled.
Chris George is a former
chief from the Oneida First
Nation outside London, Ont.
The Oneida came as a group to
Southwestern Ontario after
joining with George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. After the war, the
settlers failed to distinguish
between the tribes who helped
or fought against the Americans. Some of the Oneida
people bought land in what
was Upper Canada, but the
British government reclaimed
the land and created a reserve
when the people were unable
to pay outstanding back taxes
they knew nothing of.
Lisa Hall-Wilson is a freelance writer
in London, Ont.
“My people remember,” says
George, tapping the table with
a stiff finger. “The local church
should know the history of
their church land, their community. Was it a burial ground?
A hunting ground? Was there
a battle there?” That history
has to be mended, says George.
When history heals
Jonathan Maracle is a Mohawk
Christian musician whose
band Broken Walls tours
North America and abroad,
building bridges between First
Nations reserves and white
Maracle recalls one Prairie
church trying to reach out to
their First Nations neighbours.
The congregation took the
time to learn their history and
discovered that more than a
century ago there was a land
dispute with the First Nations.
One night the non-Natives
conducted a raid and killed
most of the First Nations
people in the community. That
injustice was never addressed.
“The church leaders figured
this out and began to pray,” says
Maracle. “They raised the funds
to help the First Nations people
buy back the land that was
taken from them. It’s going to
take people who are willing to
step out and make a difference.”
Build a playground. Then
sit on the swing
Sixty percent of First Nations
people live off-reserve, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada
report. “Many churches
wouldn’t know what to do if a
First Nations person walked
in, and that’s got to change,”
says Maracle from his home on
the Akwasasne Mohawk Reserve in Ontario.
“The gospel has been
preached, we’ve heard it so
much, we’ve become numb.
People come in and whoop
them up rather than meet their
needs,” Maracle says. “People
need a sense of the need and
the urgency. Building a playground is great. Being there to
help build it and building a relationship with the kids who
will use it is even better.”
This is a story of hope and
Back at Oujé-Bougoumou,
Chief Neeposh’s office over-
looks the community’s elemen-
tary school and a storm-choppy
Lake Opemisca. An elaborate
feathered headdress hangs on
the wall next to a bookshelf
crammed with volumes on
economics and history.
Neeposh points to metal art
on the windowsill depicting
the Trail of Tears – it’s in the
shape of a First Nations warrior
barely upright on a weary
horse. Neeposh tells the story
of the eagle found by a farmer,
who took the bird home and
raised him with the chickens.
Everybody who came to the
farm knew he was an eagle. But
when the farmer tried to teach
the eagle to fly, he wouldn’t try.
Finally, the farmer took the
eagle to a cliff. The majestic
bird hesitated, but when he saw
other birds in the sky like him
he struggled at first, but then
he flew. “We can rise up again,”
Neeposh says. /FT
Ú Pioneers Canada ( www.pioneers.ca)
has two teams working with First Nations
communities in Ontario and New Brunswick
doing ministries such as faith circles, counselling,
restorative justice and youth work.
Ú SIM Canada ( www.sim.ca) has a new posting
in Saddle Lake Cree Nation. Current ministry focus
is youth engagement through music, arts, fitness,
employment training and church plant support.
Ú The Evangelical Mennonite Conference
( www.emconference.ca) has several workers with
agencies working in First Nations communities.
Two are with Northern Canada Evangelical
Mission, one with Native Evangelical Fellowship
of Canada, and one with Mid-Way Christian
Leadership. The Evangelical Mennonite Conference
has partnership agreements with these three
agencies. They are also involved with Inner City
Youth Alive in the north end of Winnipeg.
Ú Samaritan’s Purse Canada
( www.samaritanspurse.ca) has opened a
ministry centre in Dease Lake, B.C. The centre
features a drop-in facility where young
people find a welcoming, fun environment.
The centre also serves as a launching pad for
programs that engage local youth, develop
their potential, build mentoring relationships,
encourage good choices, and introduce them
to Jesus Christ.
MANY AFFILIATES OF THE EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP OF CANADA WORK WITH FIRST NATIONS
Jonathan Maracle (centre) and his band Broken Walls seek to build bridges
between First Nations and nearby white communities.