(above) Drums painted by Gitxsan artist Michelle Stoney. The artwork on the left is entitled Majagalee, which is the word for children and flower in the Gitxsan language, and is in honour of Indian residential school survivors. The drum on the right features The Salvation Army Gitxsan Shield, also designed by Stoney
June is National Indigenous History Month, a time for all Canadians to honour the history, heritage and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people to our country. Throughout the month, there will be opportunities to attend ceremonies and pow wows, to learn from Indigenous knowledge keepers and to actively engage in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, looking to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.
Reconciliation is good work, but it is not easy. My hope is that the prayer below calls attention to the spiritual work of reconciliation. As we seek to journey in right relations, God, the Creator, invites us to enter this journey with teachable minds and receptive hearts.
This is my heart song for a church and a people I love so dearly. I hope you sense my invitation to lean into this journey of reconciliation, opening our hearts to new experiences, a new language and, at times, uncomfortable honesty.
There is room for your whole self in this space.
A Prayer for National Indigenous History Month
Creator, help us walk gently with closed lips and attentive minds as we listen to the stories of the land. Creation speaks of your glory; the oceans reveal your boundless love and the stars reveal glimmers of your goodness. Do we hear the raging rivers and the whispers of the wind? Do we not know? Have we not heard?
The salmon struggle to replenish the rivers like they once did.
Methylmercury is polluting food sources.
Pipelines disrupt natural habitats.
The land is overconsumed.
For millennia, the original peoples of this land listened to creation and learned how to walk in a good way. Let their voice be elevated and may we learn to be good guests, thankful for the gifts we are given and taking only what we need.
Creator, help us walk gently so that our “thoughts and prayers” are radical movements in justice and policy change. What if the church spoke about #MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit)? What if our sermons shared that Indigenous youth are at a much higher risk for death by suicide? What if our small groups talked about the Indian Act and how it continues to rationalize racism in our communities? Oh, please wake up the church, let injustices be known and spoken in our pews. For your glory, let it be known. Let your light shine in the darkness—at the vigils and on the marches. In the depths of sorrow, let your love be known.
Creator, help us walk gently on the unknown paths of uncertainty and fear as we do the inner work of reconciliation. As moments come when we want to turn our faces away, challenge us to focus on the truth. History tells us a story of colonization, stolen land, displaced people and a trail of broken promises. And the church, a place meant for healing, was complicit in horrific abuse. We cannot turn our faces away.
Give us the courage to look at our hearts.
To look at our church.
When I read the Scriptures, I see your miracles. I see how Jesus taught about right relations and fought against complicity in the temple. Give us courage to live that gospel message. Give us courage to walk as Jesus walked.
Creator, help us walk gently and remove the boxes we build. One-size-fits-all boxes demanding that the way we worship, pray and follow Jesus must meet superficial requirements. You have created each one of us in your image; our cultures have the imprints of your hands. May we acknowledge the identity and gifts you have given to all your children. Teach us that there are many ways to find you.
Some pray at a mercy seat; kneeling at the altar, they pour out their deepest secrets.
Some pray on forest pathways, their pleas echoing through the trees.
Some pray with smudge bowls, the smoke ascending into heaven.
Each different, each important, each sacred.
What if our churches reflected the diversity of creation? O God, how would that change our gatherings?
And Creator, help us walk gently because we are bound to make mistakes and when we do, it will require humility and courage to continue to move forward. Remind us that reconciliation is relational. It requires intentionality; it requires us to learn from one another; it requires us to give our heart.
Guide us in the journey toward reconciliation.
Creator, hear our prayer.
Please, hear our prayer.
Captain Crystal Porter is the associate territorial Indigenous ministries consultant and divisional Indigenous ministries consultant in the Prairie Division.