November 8th was a very special day at the Regional Archives. Musqueam Elder Shane Pointe led a smudging ceremony to help our Archives begin a significant project. The project is part of a multi-phase digitization project of the national United Church Archives, grounded in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the TRC Calls to Action.
“I believe beginning with ceremony can establish a healing path forward.”
The project team with Elder Shane Pointe (far right).
We’re beginning the work of identifying and digitizing all archival documents relating to day schools, hospitals, and Indigenous communities, in an effort to provide better access for Indigenous communities and researchers. To help us with this work, we have consultants from The History Group, who worked with the TRC to identify and digitize residential school records.
Our connection with Elder Shane Pointe goes back several years:
- He has worked with the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and was part of a related interview that BC Conference recorded for Interchurch TV in 2000.
- In 2015, he performed an extended cleansing ceremony at 312 Main, the building where the Regional Archives are now housed. That ceremony helped clear the negative energies that had accumulated from the building’s difficult past.
Now, with Shane’s encouragement, we continue our walk on the healing path toward reconciliation, learning and listening with greater attentiveness.
A book that Shane recommends, as it is directly from the experience of survivors.
“The ceremony was an uplifting and supportive way to start work on a project that I know will be emotionally challenging at times. I felt a strong sense of calmness and positivity afterwards.”
“I know that reconciliation is something that can’t be done alone, but I can’t help thinking what a difference [one survivor’s] bravery made when he told the truth of what happened to him at the Alberni Residential School… At a time when I think that people are feeling pretty powerless, it reminds me that sometimes it only takes the bravery of one or two individuals to create a ripple effect of change.”
“The smudging ceremony was deeply spiritual, deeply moving. And it was such a privilege to hear Shane speak of his experience of the spirit of the Grandmother protecting her grandchildren in this space. It felt like a significant, meaningful start for the work that lies ahead.”
“Commencing this project with the guidance and blessings of Musqueam knowledge-keeper Shane Pointe makes such a big difference! …Shane spoke from the heart about his own experiences and those of his family and people. He welcomed our work in the United Church Archives and cast no blame, stressing the crucial importance of making this information available as a gesture of reconciliation and healing.”
“Shane spoke about how truth must be told before reconciliation can happen. Truth, and a confirmation of what happened for the wronged person, must be spoken and acknowledged before any kind of reconciliation can be done. Truth is the beginning of healing.”
From participant clergy:
“For me the words of truth ring similar to the time of atonement described by our Jewish brothers and sisters. We need to identify the truth and not only apologize but also make reparations for the harm that has been done. Knowing what we know now about the truth of the residential school, what are we called to do? I believe beginning with ceremony can establish a healing path forward. We have a lot of work to do. We can begin with healing ceremonies that were prohibited and begin a journey of experiencing truth.”
Our thank-you letter that accompanied our gift of protocol including remuneration, cedar, tobacco, and sweetgrass.