Here in Vancouver it is hard not to think about the history of Residential Schools in Canada this week. Without attempting to recap the history in a short blog post as I will share the 2 facts that can’t escape my mind:
*Over 150,000 children (as young as 4 years old) attended the schools, most were taken away from their families and housed apart from their siblings.
*The last Residential School did not close until 1996. Yes, you read that correctly, 1996.
Like so many historic atrocities, we can barely look back because we feel so hopeless and helpless. What can we do now? “I didn’t have anything to do with the schools!” is a common and easy way to respond. Right, yes, most of us didn’t. But we canacknowledge and confess the sins of humanity, of the church and of our ancestors. We can lament the tragedy. We can all out to God on behalf of the thousands that still hurt as a result of those schools. We can learn today what we should have been taught for years and we can teach our own children what we now know.
On our walk home from church last week my 5 year old told me that “sometimes you have to say sorry even if you didn’t do anything wrong.” He learned that in a Sunday School lesson during Reconciliation Week. I was so thankful that our church is not ignoring or avoiding such a hard topic, especially one that so deeply (and negatively) involves the church and its people. Of course we are not perfect but teaching our kids about reconciliation through the stories of Residential schools is a powerful place to start.
We can further that lesson by teaching our children how we are often benefitting from the oppression of others and how we can take steps to live in ways that don’t harm others. We can teach them to fight for justice and stand with those who are oppressed.
What else can we do to ensure they will learn? Kids learn by doing. My kids will be walking in the New Way Forward: Walk for Reconciliation with my husband and I and many of our friends this Sunday. My prayer is that when my kids see friends from church, school, t-ball, and from the neighbourhood walking with their families they will remember that day. My prayer is that when we arrive with thousands and thousands of others, something will stick. My prayer is that we will all remember. A day when we heard the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. address us; a day when we walked together in solidarity and in remembrance; a day when we said sorry; a day when we acknowledged the pains of the past and our hope for the future. Will you walk with us?
For more resources for learning you can go here.
For a Reconciliation Week Art Show by Cree Artist Ovide Bighetty please stop by First Christian Reformed Church Wednesdays 6:30-8:30pm or Sundays 1145-1:45pm through Sept 23. Below is Bighetty’s painting, “Because He Lives.”