Bishop Chris Harper, the first Treaty Six member to play such a role in the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon, sees himself as a bridge builder.
Harper, who has spent half his life in Onion Lake First Nation, about 325 km northwest of Saskatoon, and half off reserve, works to build bridges between the church and the laity , Indigenous and non-Indigenous since returning to Saskatchewan in 2018.
He has teamed up with people like Reverend Marie-Louise Ternier, who is pastor at All Saints Anglican Church / Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, in Watrous, about 120 km southeast of Saskatoon. And together they try to bring people together.
They held Zoom meetings, listened to podcasts, and watched films with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. This is their response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 48, which calls on religious parties and other faith groups to provide a framework for reconciliation while respecting the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. on spiritual rights, including the right to practice, develop and teach their own spiritual religious traditions, customs and ceremonies.
Understand and heal
Harper said he “is just trying to be the bridge of healing, reconciliation and peace that we all desperately need as Canadians … Now is the time to realize who you are, not just in the now but also in relation to the past that we all share. “
Much of the job is learning to understand other people, he said. But more needs to be done.
âWe have to start being more educators and more teachers, as well as facilitators to open the door to understand who the neighbor is. And I believe the church has the opportunity to teach that too. so did it in the diocese of Saskatoon, âhe said.
To address intergenerational trauma in the Indigenous community, he said listening is key.
“I think the most important part right now is listening, hearing the stories, recognizing who we are and embracing, especially as an Indigenous person, who we are because my personal story represents at least half of my life, I’ve tried to run away from being who and what I am as an Indigenous person, âHarper said.
He did not want to be identified as Aboriginal until years later.
âNow I am proud of my Aboriginal identity. I wear it on my sleeve. “
Ternier was pastor in Watrous, which has been part of the Diocese of Saskatoon, for five years. And when she first arrived, she wanted to learn more about the history of the church with their native parents.
Ternier also addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action # 49, which calls on all religious denominations and faith groups that have not yet done so to repudiate the concepts used to justify European sovereignty over land and land. Indigenous Peoples.
In 2019, community members in Manitou, a village three miles north of Watrous, gathered to watch a documentary produced by the Anglican Church of Canada titled Doctrine of Discovery, Stolen Earth, Strong Hearts. After Bishop Harper shared his personal story, people opened up. Watrous doesn’t have many First Nations reserves nearby, but the area has ties to Indigenous people, being a hunting ground and a staging area for Indigenous people.
Ternier said a significant number of the clergy and bishops of the Anglican Church in Canada are indigenous. And she wants to help the Anglican Church create educational resources for local community parishes and clergy at ground level.
Today, the church of Rev. Ternier has a sharing circle. They recently completed a Zoom study with a series of Indigenous podcasts that the Anglican Church has produced, including other resources that local clergy can use in their communities to help residents connect with their land, history and the ones with the others.
The group has established itself as a place of listening, learning and growth. And the word is spreading throughout the province.
âWe found that our Zoom study was actually a positive thing to engage Indigenous teachings. And we drew people not just from Watrous, but from Humboldt, Wadena, Endeavor, Meadow Lake, Redvers, Rosthern, and yes, a few from Saskatoon, âTernier said.
“I think rural communities don’t have a lot of opportunities to engage in learning,” she said, adding that she felt it was her responsibility and mission to make these opportunities available.
Harper said reconciliation requires more than a single seminar or podcast.
âIt has taken years for people to recognize the need for reconciliation,â said Harper. “It will take continued effort.”
Ternier agreed, noting that the resources help broaden parishioners’ perspective on life.
“These courses give them a new perspective,” she said.
Call to Action: Stories of Reconciliation features individuals and groups from across the province who are endorsing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. Themes range from language to justice, emphasizing local efforts and the people who lead them. Read more stories about the call to action here.