The Wrongs to Rights Study that began in September of 2016 is proving to be a huge success! At All Saints, Agassiz we meet for two hours on the first and third Wednesday afternoons of most months. Each session is complete in itself, though connected through the book Wrongs to Rights in some form. This independent approach at each meeting makes it possible for those interested to join at any time during the course of study. Wrongs to Rights is based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. More than 40 contributors from varied backgrounds, Indigenous and non-Indigenous (referred to as ‘Settlers’), Christian and Traditional have delved into what the Declaration means to us all.
To date we have 38 participants (beyond our expectations!), however some are unable to attend every session. About a third who registered come from First Nations bands within the Upper Fraser Valley, and Metis people. Participants also travel from Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Hope eager to be part of this important time together. Before the Study, and during the break we partake in refreshments and goodies, we mingle, we laugh, we've built relationships and community.
At our first gathering we were honoured and fortunate to have Seabird Island Chief Clem Seymour gather the group into a circle and open the Study with sharing and prayers. This was followed by 3 participants drumming and singing. The Reverend David Price prayed on behalf of Settlers (Western European people). Each person in the circle then shared who they are and why they were attending. The Settler-style agenda was laid aside as we followed the Creator’s agenda. It was a blessed and meaningful time and set the tone for the sessions ahead.
We had initially planned for 10 sessions starting Sept. 21 and ending Mar. 1, 2017. That time may be extended, depending on the needs of the group. Each week we assign a certain number of chapters in preparation for the next meeting. Each Wednesday we revisit the Learning Covenant, reminding us “what is said in the room, stays in the room”. However it is acceptable in the interest of education, to speak generally to those outside the group without mentioning names or places. The Study then moves on to jumping off points for discussion, although we are not a slave to the set agenda. As of this writing we are half-way through the Study.
From the very first gathering we recognized the Creator/God was leading us down a slightly different path than what was scheduled. For example, it was arranged some time ago to deviate this week so one elder could lead a Pipe Ceremony, Twice a month drumming, singing, and prayers begin our time together. One of the leaders introduces a subject, poses a question and we move forward. Quite often there’s insufficient time to discuss all the chapters planned, and that is acceptable. Instead, we have discussed in depth that which needed to be addressed, we have heard witnesses, and stories have been shared. We are thankful that elders feel comfortable sharing; for some it is the first time to speak of certain experiences. There are times we feel like weeping. It is important to realize these personal recollections need to be spoken, and we are to hear them from many different sources. It is necessary that Settlers listen – not just with our ears, but to really listen, with our hearts. This is all part of the reconciliation process.
As Rev. Price said “It is more than just moving towards reconciliation – it is about building a new reality, equality, It is about a community of multi-cultural people being in unity. Reconciliation is about us being all peoples together, and that no one person is superior to another.”
Reconciliation is a relationship based on mutual understanding and respect. The Wrongs to Rights Study enables us to learn from each other, to understand one another. It is all about sharing; about building community between Settlers and Indigenous peoples and I believe this is taking place each time we meet. I encourage other parishes to obtain a copy of Wrongs to Rights if they have not already done so and to contemplate holding their own form of study around this very important and enlightening book.
Article written by Monica Gibson-Pugsley
PHOTOS: Anthea Lewis