Orange Shirt Day — Guest Post, R. Matthew Stevens

Usually my guest post comes on Thursday but today is Orange Shirt Day in Canada and it is important to honor that day. I am not a Canadian and my country, the United States, is unbelievably lacking in forms of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, so I turn to my friend R. Matthew Stevens … he wrote this for the book A Child Laughs – Prayers of Justice and Hope (Mankin and Tirabassi, 2017):

Gizhe-manidoowiwin, Divine Nature, we reflect upon the deplorable legacy of Indian Residential Schools in Canada. This blight was inflicted upon our people for one hundred and twenty-five years, and only on the Millennia was the last federally operated school closed. And so we lift up:

– the roughly 150,000 children compelled to attend the residential schools;
– the 4,000 who died attending a residential school and their lonely, unmarked, lost graves;
– the thousands of parents who grieved their children being abducted and removed to school;
– the hundreds-of-thousands of grandparents denied their proper role of sharing culture, language, and spirituality with their grandchildren;
– the communities that withered and died without a younger generation to reinvigorate;
– the thousands of children exposed to serious illnesses in deplorable conditions;
– the roughly 78,000 former students who survived the system, but still carry physical, emotional, spiritual scars;
– the thousands of residential school survivors condemned to dependancy, addiction, and chronic illness;
– the children and grandchildren of residential school students suffering from the syndrome of multi-generational abuse;
– those misguided European settlers who assumed their civilization was the pinnacle of human achievement, and genuinely believed that they knew best;
– for teachers, clergy, support staff, police officers, bureaucrats, agents, and others compelled to function in a system they didn’t support, and were themselves victimized by the process.
And we celebrate the generations who exposed abuses perpetrated upon them and brought this system to an overdue end at last;
– and those who gather and reconstitute the disparate elements of culture, language, and spirituality scattered and destroyed by the residential school system;
Finally Creator, we ask a blessing upon all who in their everyday lives quietly demonstrate an attitude of reconciliation and egalitarianism, so that such travesties as the residential school system never happen again. Amen

Matthew gives this as his bio: Matthew Stevens: Being a person of Métis heritage (sometime referred to as “Mixed Blood”) I consider myself particularly fortunate to be able to occupy a space between cultures, with access to both. I’ve been privileged to learn many of the traditional teachings from some very gifted and patient Elders, and to have availed myself of some excellent formal education as well. From both of these sources I have learned how disabling a pervasive sense of guilt can be to an individual, and how collectively it can incapacitate society from appropriately redressing prevailing circumstances.

He also added this resource: (his words)

I must confess I haven’t written anything specifically for Orange Shirt Day, and since it was initially promoted through the United Church of Canada network of congregations, it’s thus far tended to take a more local flavour. A good friend of mine by the name of Ferguson Plain was an Anishinaabe storyteller and artist, as well as a teacher and children’s author, before his untimely death earlier this year. A couple of years ago I arranged to get him together with a film unit from the national church, and they videotaped one of his stories entitled “Nokomis and I” (Grandmother and I), and for Orange Shirt Sunday I’m aware that a number of churches are including this video in their worship service. I’m attaching a link to it on the United Church Youtube channel here  and from there anyone can download it if they wish to use it for non-commercial, congregational purposes.

You will want to listen and watch this story — a blessing for Orange Shirt Day.

Wherever you live, remember. Never forget. Remember.

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