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National Aboriginal Day and Acknowledgment of Traditional Territory

This is a version of the opening devotion for a meeting of the Trinity United Church Council, held on Wednesday, June 22:

treaty signingTuesday, June 21 was National Aboriginal Day, first proclaimed in 1996 by then-Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, to recognize and celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. There is conversation about it becoming a statutory holiday.

Last year, the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed its work, and issued its final report. In the introduction to summary of recommendations, the first paragraph says:

“For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada.”

As public policy, it was both shameful, and a failure, and we all live, consciously or not, with the social, spiritual, political and moral consequences. The TRC completed its work with 94 calls to action, many of which are meant to educate, raise awareness, and to promote right relations.

The United Church of Canada has issued formal apologies for its role in the darker chapters of our shared history, and is committed to being in good relations, and to seeking justice together on the issues impacting Indigenous Peoples in Canada today.

One small but important symbolic action many governments, school boards, and church bodies have taken is to acknowledge when they meet, that they are gathered on traditional territory.

I would like us to begin our meeting tonight with gratitude for the land where we live, and where we are free to worship, and follow our own traditions. We acknowledge that all the land is sacred, and a gift from the Creator, and that long before we were here, this land we are on is part of the traditional territory of the Mississaugas.

The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation are part of a much larger civilization of people known as the Anishinabe. This word means “human beings” in the language of the Ojibway.

They are the original people who resided on the traditional territory of what we now know as Halton. The Oakville land was part of the 1805 Toronto Purchase and 1806 Head of the Lake Purchase between the Crown and the Mississaugas.

It would be good for our congregation to think about other occasions when we might make this acknowledgment.

 

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