June marks National Indigenous History Month in Canada. As an organisation whose staff are all settlers and uninvited guests on the lands we live, work and serve on, we engage in intentional learning and reflection. Together, we explore and ask - how we can be part of the story of shalom, healing and reconciliation that Creator is writing on these lands?
We seek to journey with our Indigenous neighbours in our urban contexts from a posture of honour, learning and mutual transformation.
Today we are sharing five ideas for you as you explore how to learn and engage meaningfully this National Indigenous History Month!
1. What Indigenous territories are you on?
Servant Partners Canada are guests on and our work takes places on the following Indigenous lands:
Unceded Coast Salish Territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), the Stó:lō, and Shíshálh (Sechelt) peoples (aka Vancouver, BC)
Treaty 6 Territory and Homeland of the Métis (Saskatoon, SK)
In the practice of land acknowledgements, we join ourselves to the rich Scriptural tradition of recognizing that the places, contexts, and peoples with whom our stories unfold with important and sacred recognition.
As Servant Partners staff, we embody our values of incarnation and justice by acknowledging whose land we are on, giving thanks to the First Peoples who stewarded creation in the way of Shalom since time immemorial. We also acknowledge the ongoing impact of the injustice of colonization that the first peoples of the land still endure.
We invite you to use native-land.ca to find out whose traditional lands you are on, and let this awareness make way for next steps in your learning and engagement with the traditional stewards of your land.
"In a society such as ours, and in a modern world founded on and immersed in colonial practices of injustice and the use of illegitimate power, the postcolonial theologian must sacrifice much in order to serve Christ effectively. It is in the real-life struggles and in listening to the voices of the people who are themselves struggling against the illegitimate use of power that the answers to our theological questions are most often found." - Woodley and Sanders
Krista-Dawn, co-Executive Director shares her learnings from this book: “I was tremendously helped by the mix of theology and practical plain language Randy and Bo use to explain how to imagine shalom in my place, through a postcolonial lens. I have a new appreciation and understanding as to why we when we give thanks to God for creation we must also accept the fact that Indigenous peoples have a right to particular land, and that land cannot simply be stolen through a show of power and not recognized and repaired. I was deeply challenged by this book, and yet inspired to find ways to enact theologies of Indigenous people in a community of respectful diversity.”
Ephesians 5: 18-19 instructs faith communities to “...be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.”
Historically, the North American Church’s engagement with Indigenous people did not follow Paul’s instructions and allow people to use their own musical and spoken languages to whole heartedly sing to the Lord. And yet, Indigenous followers of Jesus have courageously worshipped the Trinity using the hand drum, circle drum and traditional singing styles to authentically express their hearts to God that honours Creator and their cultures.
We have created a playlist of songs and prayers that you can use to build familiarity with and receive from the richness of these cultural expressions. Using pre-recorded worship songs for reflection in your services can aid your community’s practice of the TRC’s Calls to Action 48.2, 58, 59 and 60.
If you wish to lead these songs and teach others to sing them, it is best to ask for permission from the artist, and then offer a gift if they give you permission as a sign of respecting protocol. Learning each other’s songs following respectful protocol is a beautiful way to bestow honour and dignity to one another as bearers of the image of God.
Feel free to contact Krista-Dawn (email@example.com) if you would like more information or guidance on this!
4. Read scripture from an Indigenous Perspective
The First Nations Version New Testament is the result of a desire to provide an English bible that connects, in a culturally relevant way, to the traditional heart languages of over six million English speaking First Nations people in North America.
It is a thought-by-thought translation of the bible, similar to the Message translation (known as dynamic equivalence).
This translation is not intended to be tribally specific, instead it is a retelling of Creator’s story from the Scriptures, following the tradition of storytelling in oral cultures. This way of speaking, with its simple yet profound beauty and rich cultural idioms, still resonates in the hearts of First Nations people.
We invite you to engage in scripture afresh through an Indigenous perspective, and notice what Creator may be highlighting for you!
5. Participate in a KAIROS Blanket Exercise
The KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) is based on using Indigenous methodologies and the goal is to build understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.
Participants are actively involved as they step onto blankets that represent the land, and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples. By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy.
“The KBE moved me viscerally, and helped me emotionally contextualize all the head knowledge and facts I had acquired about injustices towards Indigenous communities in Canada…it gifted me the heart-conviction I needed to continue the journey of reconciliation in a committed and authentic way.” - Wendy, Servant Partners staff in Vancouver
If you are in Vancouver, we invite you to join us for an in-person blanket exercise on June 26th. You can find more information and register here.
Who in your faith community may be interested in learning with you? Consider requesting a KBE for your community as a way to corporately move towards understanding and reconciliation!
What are some other resources your are learning from this National Indigenous Peoples' Month? Please share with us in the comments!