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Not too long ago, the Office of Race Relations was invited to facilitate The Blanket Exercise workshop for a class at Calvin University. It was a group of about 24 students.

As facilitators, it doesn’t matter how many times we read the stories presented in the workshop; it is always hard to go through those events full of evilness. That evening during the sharing circle, we heard the comment, “How come I never hear this in my school?”

For some, to watch The Cutting of the Tsiiyéél - Triumph Over Trauma, Susie Silversmith’s story as a survivor of Indian boarding schools was shocking. They thought this was ancient history! They had never imagined that Susie could be the same age as one of their parents.

When we think about history, we often consider it to be hundreds of years ago. But, whether unconsciously or not, we forget that our present reality is intimately linked to our historic past. A decision we made in the past will have positive or negative results for our future. I’m sure we’ve made decisions that later we regretted. We realized the impact, and we may not be able to change the outcome. Hopefully, down the road, we can make some changes. Then, in the future, we’ll measure the alternatives better, weigh the results, and make a conscious decision.

According to the Doctrine of Discovery (1452), the destiny of the inhabitants of Turtle Island—the Indigenous term for North America—was already doomed. The European's description of the native people was not just a stereotype, or simple innocent opinion because they had not met the inhabitants yet. The Europeans already had a concept about them.

The Native Americans’ future had been mapped out because they had already been classified as heathens, barbarians, and uncivilized. What the Europeans, settlers, government, church, and military did towards Native Americans was not a mistake due to lack of knowledge or experience. The horrors committed were done intentionally and with a specific purpose. 

Since the days of wealthy planters in Virginia, almost 500 years ago, Native Americans have been a problem for settlers. The Indigenous population was greatly diminished by violence, enslavement, epidemics, broken treaties, forced assimilation, and removals. As if this were not enough, the destruction and annihilation of the Indians did not cease after the Civil War. It got worse. We began to see big massacres like the Sand Creek Massacre (1864), which stood out for the violence. Wounded Knee Massacre (1890), where Natives were ordered to surrender their weapons. Despite having a white flag, the militants killed 300 tribe people, mainly women and children.

The Native American culture, language, and spirituality has been destroyed. The genocide practiced against them was a genocide in every sense of the word. Natives, once self-sufficient, have been transformed into dependents. The decisions we made yesterday affect our present and future.

Today, the indigenous population suffers in the areas of education, plumbing poverty, addictions, suicide, alcoholism, health (including radioactive effects of uranium mining), criminal system, the missing and murders of Indigenous women; historical and generational trauma. 

We tend to think of Natives in terms of their music, the sound of the flute, their art, their colorful blankets, and their beautiful regalia. We do this because these things don't challenge us like their present state today.

How many times in a week do you think about this? How is your congregation talking about it?


Viviana, that was a well thought out and researched paper. Due to limited space in an article you could not write about all of the various treatments towards First Nations, Metis, Inuit, Native American and other Indigenous people. I would like to make two small observations as a First Nation Cree. 

1. The 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s were a period in Canada where young children were kidnaped in front of the parents faces and sent off to adoption agencies - where the demand for babies was very high in the large urban ares like Toronto (Sixties Scoops).  Women who's child was part Indigenous typically had their new born child taken from them at the hospitals and then made to stand in front of a judge and made to say they were unfit to be a parent.

2. Native American is a term for Indigenous Peoples living in the USA, Whereas in Canada we recognize the various group titles, such as First Nation (Cree, Mohawk, Algonquin, and many many other First Nation People. Metis is also a term used to recognize people who have one half European and the Other have Indigenous, Inuit are a special Peoples in the Arctic, and then Indigenous Peoples to recognize the balance of First Nation People who may not know their ancestry. 

As someone who is 61 years old I recently learned of my heritage from my mother, my biological mother only 10 years ago. I met her, but my biological Father has died before I could meet him. Her deep Love to have me taken into custody for adoption in 1960 was the greatest act of Love a woman could do for their child. But she wanted to keep me, but the nurses and social workers convinced her otherwise - I doubt she would have had a choice.

In the end God found me a wonderful Family who treated me as if I was their biological son. Sadly they were never informed of my heritage - they would have found a way to incorporate both the Cree traditions and the Christian Faith.

One piece of Native American and First Nations that you missed - or not. Is the pain and suffering that Buffalo Soldiers did to the Native American resettlements. Buffalo soldiers also participated in the murders and starvation and other atrocities as White Soldiers. This is why Indigenous Peoples on both sides of the border do not trust BLM - Black Lives Matter, because when we say all lives matter BLM is quick to brush Indigenous people off. And when people use the term BIOPIC - we see it as another insult.

Well Done with your article! We need more discussions of healing.

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