For the first time during his tenure as Indigenous Justice Ministries Coordinator for the Diocese of New Westminster, Brander Raven McDonald visited and made a presentation to Diocesan Council, March 16, 2016. Bishop Skelton introduced Brander to Council, informing them that she is fortunate to have him reporting directly to her regarding his work in Indigenous Justice for the diocese.
Brander began by acknowledging the First Nations whose lands that we are on and thanked them. He then provided some biographical history about his family; Cree from rural Manitoba and the subsequent move of the family to northern central BC where her was raised.
After the move from the more isolated area, Brander’s parents decided that it was unwise to speak their language. Brander and his two siblings were told that it was better to live like white people in order to be successful and the result was that he lost his language at the young age of five
Brander presented some information about First Nations worldview, cosmology and summarized by saying that we are all in relationship with our world and the creator. He spoke about the fact that First Nations do not have the concept of Original Sin and that can be problematic when First Nations Christians who are called to ordination are asked to change their worldview or understanding.
Life for First Nations is a circle, or perhaps more accurately it is a cycle. You start out young and impetuous, perhaps making choices that could be better and then you evolve into an elder and in thanksgiving for that journey you give back. When you pass you are still connected to Creator. As Brander has said in the past and as Bishop Skelton told Council, reminiscing about a conversation she had with Brander when he was asked whether he longs for God (seeks the divine) he had answered “No”, for he is always connected to the creator, there is no separation.
Time is not time specific in First Nations worldview and to illustrate this, Brander related some anecdotes from his childhood. The issue of time is also reflected in First Nations understanding of tasks. Not task-oriented per se by the settler’s understanding, but focused on the relational nature of the task whether it’s meeting to do some work or gathering in the Long House.
He spoke about direct interaction and how different it can be for First Nations people regarding their comfort zone for speaking to people that they do not know. Brander suggested that it works to come along side as opposed to face to face.
Brander spoke briefly about punishment and how that is generally regarded in First Nations worldview. He said, “the indigenous justice model is accountable equitable restorative relationships.” Those being punished remain and share responsibility.
When it comes to survivors of IRS it is important for those from outside this experience to realize that the victims suffered banishment. Their families experienced the loss of those with whom they share connection. Banishment is separation and the connectedness of all things is torn apart. This is very much contrary to First Nations worldview and the damage done is devastating.
Diocesan Council gave Brander a very warm welcome and listened intently to his words. He concluded his presentation by promoting the Second D of NW Indigenous Justice Circle scheduled for May 25 at the Synod Office where worldview will be a focus of the days learning and sharing.