Occasionally in a dream I find myself in my childhood home. My family moved there before I was born, and my parents lived in that same house until well after I had moved out and bought my first house. My memories there are good ones, and in the dreams that take me back, my parents are still living. When I wake up I am momentarily confused, but glad to have had that visit back to a remembered happy time.
Earlier this year, at a gathering that was part of the follow up to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I sat next to a woman who told a very different story. She told of her mother waking up in the night, shouting in fear as her nightmares took her back to remembered times in the residential school dormitory. In that brief conversation I got a clear reminder of how I have taken for granted so many blessings in my own life.
I was thinking of this again recently as the Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls gave its report. A small group of us watched the coverage together in the lunchroom of the General Council Office. We watched as the attendees, many of them relatives of those who were murdered or who are missing, found their seats in the hall. I thought of friends and people I have known who had lost sisters, cousins, loved ones. So many sad sad stories, and stories that aren’t just about the details of each tragic event, but connect to the larger story of dislocation, exclusion, and disrespect for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis in Canada. The Commission’s report was a strong signal that the healing we all need, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, will only come through acknowledging and addressing hard realities.
The apologies that the United Church has made, the commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and our renunciation of the Doctrine of Discovery, are all significant. The words have been said, and much good work has been done. Much more also remains to be done.
Sometimes I get to do something that feels significant. In May I was honoured to be part of a signing ceremony in southwestern Ontario, where I committed on behalf of the United Church, to transfer certain property related to the Fairfield Museum to the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown. These are lands closely related to the history of this First Nation, a fascinating history, and at the lunch in the community hall after the ceremony, elders and young people alike spoke of how important it is to have their heritage remembered.
It is good to find opportunities to put our words into action. I am grateful to the many people in our church are actively engaged in Right Relations work, as United Church members, and as Canadians. As we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, I pray that we, all of us, will continue to journey together on a pathway of healing and respect.
— Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada.
This message was originally sent to subscribers to the General Secretary's letter, "Note from Nora." Subscribe here.