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We acknowledge, this day, that we gather for worship on the traditional territories of the Neutral Tribes, Erie, Huron and the other Native Peoples who followed them, as the original nations of this land, and we acknowledge, with respect, their history, their spirituality, and their culture.


In preparation for the upcoming First Nations worship service on  Sunday July 16th, we are going to be sharing some background information to the congregation in order that we have a better understanding of Indigenous issues, cultures, and history.


Indigenous Peoples Update


This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advised of the intent to rename National Aboriginal Day (Wednesday June 21st) to National Indigenous Peoples Day moving forward.


There are many terms used to describe the first peoples of Canada and it can be a bit confusing so here are some definitions you might find useful.


The First Peoples of this land now known as Canada formerly had unique communities with unique names - there wasn't a need for collective nouns or complicated terminology.


Indigenous means “native to the area.” In this sense, Aboriginal Peoples are indeed indigenous to North America. Its meaning is similar to Aboriginal Peoples, Native Peoples or First Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples is a collective noun for First Nations, Inuit and Metis and is growing in popularity in Canada.   This is the terminology used in the landmark United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Aboriginal Peoples is a collective noun used in the Constitution Act 1982 and includes the original peoples of Canada consisting of Indian (or First Nations), Inuit and Metis Peoples.


First Nation is a term used to identify Indigenous peoples of Canada who are neither Métis nor Inuit. This term came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the term “Indian” and “Indian band” which many find offensive. 


One story about the origin of the term “Indian” dates back to Christopher Columbus, who mistakenly thought he had reached the East Indies, so referred to the people in the lands he visited as “indios” which is Spanish for Indian.


Inuit refer to Indigenous people in northern Canada, living mainly in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, northern Quebec and Labrador. Ontario has a very small Inuit population.  Eskimo is the term once given to Inuit by European explorers and is now rarely used in Canada. It is derived from an Algonquin term meaning ―raw meat eaters.  Many people find the term offensive. The term still is frequently used in the United States in reference to Inuit in Alaska.

Métis Peoples are people of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry. 


Native is an outdated collective term referring to Indians (Status, Non-status, Treaty), Métis, and Inuit but has largely been replaced by Indigenous.



The National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO)






Acknowledgement of Territory


Acknowledgement of the traditional territory is an important cultural protocol for many Indigenous peoples, nations and cultures both in Canada and abroad.  The practice demonstrates respect for the traditional custodians of a particular region or area, and service to strengthen relationships.  It is a way to continue to live out the church's Apologies to the First Peoples of North America.  The acknowledgement supports our calls to others to pay respect to Indigenous peoples.  It is also one way the church can work toward  right relations - repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery that assumed the  land was empty when European explorers, traders and settlers first came.


In order to promote mutual respect, peace, and friendship, the 40th General Council 2009 encouraged the recognition of Traditional Territory of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples at the gatherings of the courts and pastoral charges of The United Church of Canada.


Acknowledgement of Territory by Tansley United Church (and all churches of NBCu)

We acknowledge that the land on which we gather is situated upon traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron - Wyandot, the Haudenosaunee (ho-den-oh-sho-nee) , and later the Mississauga of the New Credit First Nations. The territory is mutually covered by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Ojibway and other allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. Today, this remains the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in their community, and to share and respect Mother Earth.


Background Information

The Dish with One Spoon agreement among the First Nations of the Great Lakes Region is commemorated in a wampum belt that records the essence of the peace treaty. 

Bound on strings, wampum beads were used to create intricate patterns on belts. These belts are used as a guide to narrate history, traditions and laws

In the Great Law of Peace, it is stated that:

It will turn out well for us to do this: we will say, ‘We promise to have only one dish among us; in it will be beaver tail and no knife will be there’... We will have one dish, which means that we will all have equal shares of the game roaming about in the hunting grounds and fields, and then everything will become peaceful among all of the people; and there will be no knife near our dish; which means that if there is a knife were there, someone might presently get cut, causing bloodshed, and this is troublesome, should it happen thus, and for this reason there should be no knife near our dish.


[Concerning the League, p. 458]

The Lords of the Confederacy shall eat together from one bowl the feast of cooked beaver’s tail. While they are eating they are to use no sharp utensils for if they should they might accidentally cut one another and bloodshed would follow. All measures must be taken to prevent the spilling of blood in any way.

Moving forward, Tansley will be acknowledging the territory on which we are situated each Sunday, as well as, at Board meetings.



United Church of Canada


The Haudenosaunee Confederacy


Google The Dish with One Spoon for more information.



Residential Schools and the United Church of Canada


Until 1969, The United Church of Canada was involved with Canada's "Indian Residential School" system, which resulted in a painful legacy for many Aboriginal people and their communities. 


During the 19th and early 20th century, federal policies were under girded by a conviction that First Peoples needed to be assimilated into Western European culture. Children were removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools. By discouraging First Nations’ languages and cultural practices the schools played an important role in carrying out this policy of assimilation. There were day schools in some communities, but due to isolation and seasonal movements of First Peoples, it was often deemed more suitable to establish large residential schools in permanent settlements.


During the 19th century, both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches were highly committed to universal public education (for example, noted Canadian educator Egerton Ryerson was a Methodist minister). At the same time, there was little corporate understanding of the importance of cultural sensitivity in both education and gospel proclamation. Thus a mission goal of providing education and proclaiming the gospel was not tempered by respect for the existing culture, values and spirituality of First Nations.


With rare exceptions, the national policy of assimilation was not questioned by the churches. This uncritical approach to mission enabled the church to become an agent of government in promoting the schools. Between 1849 and 1925, the Methodists and Presbyterians operated a number of schools. In 1925, at the time of church union, the United Church assumed the responsibility for 12 schools of which the last one closed in 1969. The United Church also operated two residences (Kitimaat and Teulon) where children from out of the community attended day schools. In total, the Roman Catholic, Anglican Presbyterian and United churches operated some 130 Indian Residential Schools.


The United Church was involved in the following Indian Residential Schools: In British Columbia - Ahousaht, Alberni, Port Simpson, Coqualeetza; in Alberta – Edmonton and Morley; in Saskatchewan - Round Lake and File Hills; in Manitoba - Norway House, Brandon and Portage la Prairie; and in Ontario - Mount Elgin (Muncey). Of approximately 80,000 students alive today, about 10 percent attended United-Church run schools.


As the school system evolved, it was the federal government that set the standards and provided the funding (often inadequate) for the schools, and legally required children to attend. The church was involved in suggesting to the government potential principals for the schools and also hiring other staff. The name of The United Church of Canada was integral to the identity of the schools and, aside from a few voices rarely heard by those in power, gave unquestioned assent to the policy of assimilation that informed the school system. 

"We now realize that the offering of the churches and of countless faithful and caring servants of the churches, through their participation in the residential school system has tragically resulted in pain and suffering and injustice for many...." Repentance Statement of the 36th General Council, 1997


In spite of the harm done by this system, some students speak positively of acquiring an education that allowed them to move forward in the “White man’s world,” to gain cross-cultural skills, and to provide leadership to their people in transition.


In the past 20 years, the United Church has begun a directed, prayerful, and concerted effort to become more informed and responsive to the harmful affects of the residential schools on First Nations peoples and cultures. In 1998, the church offered a formal apology to former students, their families and communities.  In an amazing sign of God's grace among us, it has been the outstretched hands of many Aboriginal people that has offered an invitation to healing. The journey toward reconciliation requires a long-term commitment. Initial steps have included the church's Healing Fund, its participation in the claims settlement processes, advocacy for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, collaboration in the historic Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, archival research and increased resources for reconciliation and right relations work.



Remembering the Children was a March 2008 multi-city tour by Aboriginal and church leaders to promote the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools.





Truth and Reconciliation Commission


Residential Schools

Residential schools for Aboriginal people in Canada date back to the 1870s. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, and the last school closed in 1996. These government-funded, church-run schools were set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children. 


During this era, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were placed in these schools often against their parents' wishes. Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. While there is an estimated 80,000 former students living today, the ongoing impact of residential schools has been felt throughout generations and has contributed to social problems that continue to exist. 


On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government of Canada, delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons to former students, their families, and communities for Canada's role in the operation of the residential schools. 

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

With the support of the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit organizations, former residential school students took the federal government and the churches to court. Their cases led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. The agreement sought to begin repairing the harm caused by residential schools. Aside from providing compensation to former students, the agreement called for the establishment of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada with a budget of $60-million over five years.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was a truth and reconciliation commision organized by the parties of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada had a mandate to learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools. The Commission was officially established on June 2, 2008 and was completed in December 2015.


The Commission documented the truth of what happened by relying on records held by those who operated and funded the schools, testimony from officials of the institutions that operated the schools, and experiences reported by survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience and its subsequent impacts.

The Commission hoped to guide and inspire First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples and Canadians in a process of truth and healing leading toward reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. 

The Commission viewed reconciliation as an ongoing individual and collective process that will require participation from all those affected by the residential school experience. This includes First Nations, Inuit, and Métis former students, their families, communities, religious groups, former Indian Residential School employees, government, and the people of Canada. 

Calls to Action

The Commission published 94 "calls to action" urging all levels of government- federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal - to work together to change policies and programs in a concerted effort to repair the harm caused by residential schools and move forward with reconciliation.



The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada website  http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3