Canada’s Anglican Church Lays Out Reconciliation Action Steps; Canadian Tribe Turns Down $1 Billion in Order to Save River; Black Hills Sacred Site Gets Land Trust Protection

Here are three important stories that have come to our Inbox in the past few days.

Leader of Canada’s Anglican Church Lays Out Action Steps for Healing with First Nations

On March 19, Archbishop Fred Hiltz responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action on behalf of the Anglican Church in Canada. He made his remarks at Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, Six Nations of the Grand River. He opened with this apology:

My heart is heavy with the burden of our many sins against the Indigenous Peoples throughout Turtle Island. For every way in which we insulted their dignity and took their lands, silenced their languages and suppressed their culture, tore apart their families and assaulted their children, I must never weary of saying on behalf of our church, “I am sorry”.

In his speech titled, Let our Yes be Yes, Hiltz also presented specific action steps, including:

  • Ensuring opportunities in every diocese for ongoing learning. He specifically recommended the growing practice of beginning meetings and assemblies by acknowledging “the traditional territories and lands on which we gather and an expression of thanks [to First Peoples].”
  • Continued efforts to get Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II “to disavow and repudiate publicly, the claimed validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery”.
  • Adding the full text of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the Handbook of the General Synod — and regarding the Declaration as a guiding document for the church’s  relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
  • Holding a public reading of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in every parish across Canada on the Sunday nearest National Aboriginal Day, June 21. “This should be accompanied by appropriate prayers and ceremonies in keeping with Indigenous spiritual customs.”
  • Calling on our church in every circle of its life and work to an unwavering commitment to anti-racism training, in the spirit of equipping all of us to honour our baptismal vow “to respect the dignity of every human being”.

Hiltz closed his statement by announcing he would establish at this year’s General Synod “a Council of Elders and Youth to monitor our church’s honouring in word and action our church’s commitment ‘to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’”

Hiltz’s comments were in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action report. Specifically, Recommendation 48 called on faith communities “to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”

Canadian Tribe Turns Down Billion-Dollar Offer in Order to Protect River

The Lax Kw’alaams, a First Nations people in Canada, turned down a $1 billion-plus offer from oil giant Petronas to build a plant and terminal for liquified natural gas (LNG) on tribal lands, according to a report in The Guardian March 20.

The headline read: “By rejecting $1bn for a pipeline, a First Nation has put Trudeau’s climate plan on trial.” Here is the opening paragraph:

Everything has a price. Everyone can be bought. We assume this principle is endemic to modern life — and that accepting it is most obvious to the impoverished. Except all over the world, people are defying it for a greater cause. That courage may be even more contagious.

Petronas has proposed building the natural gas terminal at the mouth of the Skeena, Canada’s second-largest salmon river, on the Lax Kw’alaams’ traditional territory. The river is vital to both the First Nations people and the entire regional economy. According to the story:

… you couldn’t pick a worse place to transform into an industrial landscape. The proposed site for the LNG plant is smack in the middle of a unique estuary, a coastal Mecca for fish: where every year hundreds of millions of young salmon, having travelled down the river after birth, feed and nurture as part of their journey to adulthood.

A study published in Science said if the gas plant went through, it “could lead to the collapse of BC’s wild salmon run.”

The vote among the Lax Kw’alaams wasn’t close. It voted unanimously to decline the billion-dollar offer.

Sacred Black Hills Site Gains Indian Land Status

According to a news release from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,

The United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs informed the Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) on March 10, 2016, of its decision to take Pe’ Sla, a 2,022-acre sacred site in the Black Hills of South Dakota, into federal Indian trust status.

In 2012, the Rosebud, Shakopee Mdewakanton, Crow Creek, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes worked together to raise $9 million to purchase the land. The tribes petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to take the land into trust status so that it could retain its original character as a sacred site. …

The tribes’ goal is to keep the land in its original and natural state, reintroduce buffalo and natural species, and preserve the area for traditional ceremonies. In the spring of 2015, the first calves were born to buffalo reintroduced to Pe’ Sla.

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