By the Rev. Canon Dr. Murray Still 

Tansi. Welcome. I greet you today from Treaty One territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinabe, Cree OjiCree , Dene people and the Homeland of the Red River Metis Nation. 

My name is Chief Golden Eagle Man from the Bear Clan. I am a Cree member of Peguis First Nation. My spirit name is flying otter. 

My given name is Murray Still and among other tasks, I pastor two Lutheran churches in Winnipeg and Bird’s Hill and am the co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous People (ACIP). 

It is an honor to bring you this message as a part of the Indigenous Day of Prayer. Each year at this time, we set apart not just a Sunday, but a month of awareness and education on Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island, more commonly known as North America. 

There is much to learn as we have discovered through the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) who spent five years traveling the nation of Canada and hearing the stories of Residential School survivors. At the end of its five year mandate, the TRC issued 94 Calls to Action for the government of Canada and the churches that ran the now infamous Residential Schools. Our Anglican Church of Canada was one of the four churches that ran the Residential Schools, along with the Presbyterian, United Church of Canada (UCC)and Roman Catholic Church. 

The UCC was the first church to issue a formal apology for the treatment of indigenous people in the schools. Most experienced abuse of some kind…sexual, physical, emotional and certainly spiritual and all, including me, today live with intergenerational trauma. 

The goal of the Residential School was, in essence, to kill the Indian in the child, thereby assimilating the child into so called Canadian society. Harsh discipline came if a student spoke his or her language and many were separated from other family members. The end result for those who made it home, was a complete lack of understanding of who they were and an inability to show love. For many, the anger inside led to harmful behaviour such as abuse, addictions, violence and imprisonment. Many could not parent their own children who now repeat negative behaviour. Some end up on the street. Many live with addictions of one sort or another. Many end up in the Manitoba Youth Centre or jail and many simply commit suicide trying to escape the horrors. 

Every fall, nationally, we celebrate Orange Shirt Day, when families have the day off to focus on the experiences of Indigenous people. At the elementary school across from our home in Winnipeg, I am invited to speak to the children about the meaning of the orange shirt. The

essence of the story is that on one occasion, a kookum, or grandma, gave her granddaughter a beautiful orange shirt to wear as she entered school. That shirt was instantly removed on arrival and the abuse began. 

Many of the children tried desperately to escape the schools and as we discovered at Kamloops, many did not make it home. Their remains were located, first on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School, then on other grounds across Canada. On a recent return home from Canada, the Pope declared that the experience of Residential Schools was an act of genocide on the part of government and churches. 

All along the fence at Montrose School in Winnipeg and other schools, the faculty and staff have placed orange ribbons to mark the occasion and remember. For indigenous Christians and others, these children were our martyrs and we owe it to them and the generations that follow, healing and reconciliation. This will take at least seven generations and we have only started. 

In its own journey to healing and reconciliation, the ACC apologized at the second National Native Convocation at Minaki Lodge in Kenora, Ontario. Indigenous folk from across Canada of all ages attended that second one. I attended that gathering and every one after that. Today,those gatherings are known as the Sacred Circle. 

At that first gathering I recall a good friend, Sidney Black, a Blackfoot person and then a priest of the Diocese of Calgary and later co-chair of ACIP and then bishop, saying to all in attendance he did not ever think he would see the day that all those tribes from across Canada would gather as one. Many of them in times past had warred against each other, including the Blackfoot and Cree. 

It poured rain the first three days of the gathering as residential school survivors shared their painful memories. At the end, Primate Michael Peers, issued these words: 

“I accept and I confess before God and you, our failures in the residential schools. We failed you. We failed ourselves. We failed God.” That apology was still on our hearts and minds the following year, when 25 or so Indigenous Anglicans, myself Included, gathered in Winnipeg to discuss the strategic planning process of the ACC. 

Over those days, we jettisoned the paperwork we were given and came up with our own statement for the church. Six of us, myself included, were asked to go to an upper room and come up with a statement. As we wrestled with every word, we could hear singing and prayers that were being offered. 

Here, in part, is what we said: 

“We acknowledge that God is calling us to a prayerful dialogue towards self-determination for us, the Indigenous People, within the Anglican Communion in Canada. Through this new relationship we can better respond to the challenges facing us in a relevant and meaningful way.

As faithful people of God, guided by the Holy Spirit, we invite you, the Anglican Communion of Canada to covenant with us, the Indigenous Anglicans of Canada, in our vision of a new and enriched journey 

We, representatives of the Indigenous people of the Anglican Church of Canada, meeting in Winnipeg from the 23 to 26 of April, 1994, pledge ourselves to this covenant for the sake of our people and in trust of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” 

That covenant was written 30 years ago this year so you can see how long we have been at this. The Covenant is also a part of the newly written Covenant and Our Way of Life that can be found on the ACC website. 

At the ACC’s General Synod in 2019 in Vancouver, Primate Fred Hiltz apologized for the spiritual harms to indigenous people as a result of colonization and Residential Schools. The loss of language, culture and traditions were hard enough but the impact of loss from spiritual traditions such as the potlach, sweat lodges and other ceremonies have caused havoc. The young become addicted or become one of the missing or murdered on our streets. Homelessness is only one consequence and many more in numbers are committing suicide because they are lost. 

Our scriptures for today are quite clear and point to a resilience that comes from knowing God. The prophet Isaiah says God gives strength to the weary 

and increases the power of the weak. The youth grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not be faint. 

Two years ago, in Beauséjour, Manitoba at the Sandy Saulteaux Centre, young indigenous adults gathered for Sacred Beginnings as a response to the 2019 apology. While there, indigenous young people were taught the importance of reclaiming identity and learning about the sweat lodge along with singing and drumming, establishing a sacred fire and reclaiming the art of sewing, beading and creating items such as leather medicine bundles. While there, anyone in need was brought into a circle to lay hands, anoint and pray. That first year 9 received their spirit names in the sweat lodge. 

The second Sacred Beginnings was held this May at the same location. In addition to what they learned in the first year, participants learned the 7 sacred teachings…love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humity and truth. Each teaching was integrated with the Christian parallel. Each day prayer and worship with Gospel Based Discipleship shaped our activities. Each gathering has a teaching on suicide prevention. 

During the week, Tim Barron Jr and his fire keepers once again shared their intense stories of being connected to gang violence, drugs and alcohol. Some told their story of being in prison. Yet, the return to their traditional ways brought life and healing and the witness spoke powerful truths to the young. The young adults this year made mocassins and learned land based

teachings such as discovery of medicines of the land and how to prepare them. A few of us, myself included, received our spirit names. 

We are reminded in the Word today that God sent His Son as light into the World. To all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God. As such we can rejoice that we are all family together. In the indigenous community, when we baptize, we understand we are creating family. We are all family and together we can make a difference. Together, we can achieve healing and reconciliation within the Church. 

As allies, we welcome you as family and ask for your prayers and support as we heal. As we heal, the nation will also heal. As we heal, we will rejoice and continue to witness to the generation to come. The work has started. Please join us and walk with us as we build a stronger family around the earth. Please join us in helping protect and nurture our Mother Earth and please journey with is in ensuring peace hope and reconciliation for all. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.