Stan Beardy: To first nations, treaty-making is sacred. Our side is honourable because it invokes our spirituality and the two pillars I previously referred to. The Crown and our Prime Minister failed to give honour to the treaty relationship based on the principles of human conduct in the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Our struggle will continue until there is indication of good faith by the Crown, by the state and by the churches by appropriately dealing with the Doctrine of Discovery.
Mark MacDonald: I think it is important to say that for many people, the dispossession of land, language, and culture that indigenous peoples have endured is a regrettable historical wrong. For the peoples themselves, it is an ongoing and accelerating process. It may not be with the level of outward viciousness of the past, but its product is the same.
For the churches’ part, they were part of the treaty-making process – even gave it some of the ceremonial and spiritual legitimacy. Today, in addition to repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, they must rediscover their own role in way of life that will bring blessings to all.
Lorna Dueck: Mark, given the reality of the Doctrine of Discovery and our colonial past, can you explain why churches are still part of aboriginal culture and what they have to contribute to building a better relationship with the Crown?
Mark MacDonald: The elders who responded to the Christian message saw its deep resonance, in its original form, as read directly from Scripture, and its original view of the world – as opposed to the Western scientism and materialism that infected even the missionaries. Today, the wisdom and theological brilliance of these elders still inspires many. A truly aboriginal Christian faith has much to say, perhaps in an interpretive way, to point a way to reconciliation.
Lorna Dueck: It’s time to conclude. I close by wishing there was a mass marketing campaign on the Seven Grandfather Teachings; they were a wonderful discovery in this conversation. What are your closing thoughts on the way forward, panelists?
Mark MacDonald: Faith and hope!
Stan Beardy: Idle No More will continue and may even start to escalate, because the government that is being protested does not have a conscience and cannot provide an acceptable response. Although there was an apology to first nations in 2008, today’s actions are contradictory to that. If the response is not changed, we are headed for a collision course. This is why we feel it is important to educate the general public about our frustrations. There is no justice in first nations living in Third World conditions while the dominant society prospers.
Wanda Nanibush: The way forward is for the grassroots to have a voice, for us to walk together in unity of purpose – which is the great reimagining of this country – to protect the Earth and water. This togetherness must be based on the nation-to-nation relationship, the honouring of the spirit and intent of treaties, the education of all Canadians on the real histories of this country, the legal acknowledgement of the founding aboriginal nations, and the return to ceremony and sacred places. We do not have to agree, but we must work together in a way that has honesty, integrity and respect as its core for peace and friendship in the future. All peoples need to reconnect to the life force of their spirit and body and how it is connected to all of life.
Lorna Dueck: Thank you all for your excellent dialogue. Your views fascinated me and I sure they will engage many readers.
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