Church fund helps abused heal

Published November 1, 1999

Told that some people suggest aboriginals should forget about the unhappy legacy of residential schools and get on with life, Donna Bomberry smiles.

“We’d like to get on with life,” says Ms. Bomberry, the Anglican Church’s indigenous ministries co-ordinator and a Native woman herself. “The cycle of abuse continues.”

Ms. Bomberry administers the church’s healing fund ? money to be used to help Native individuals and communities recover from the wounds of various forms of abuse.

The fund began in 1992. This year, General Synod has allotted $100,000 for projects across the country. The New England Company (founders of St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C., and the Mohawk Indian Residential School in Brantford, Ont.) will contribute another $12,500 to projects related to training. It has committed to do this for the next three years. (The NEC contributed about $250,000 in total to various projects in Canada in 1999.)

The cycle of abuse is a legacy that has been handed down through several generations, Ms. Bomberry said.

She has visited healing gatherings across the country. She sees three generations of former students, all who have had different experiences.

There are the people in their 60s and older who feel they missed out on a good education. These people attended school part of the day and were forced to do manual labour the rest of the day, such as chopping trees and farming. They sometimes became injured. The schools ran these farms for the money, Ms. Bomberry said. The children were not allowed to eat any of the food they harvested, she said, and would be strapped if caught.

As funding became less of an issue, the farms closed down.

The second generation is people in their 40s and 50s. The last group is in their 30s, since the schools closed in the 1970s. Students from more recent times were in school all day. “The abuses happened elsewhere in the schools, in the dorms,” Ms. Bomberry said.

All approved projects for the healing fund must be initiated by aboriginals and involve aboriginal people at the grassroots level. The aim is to to help communities move from a dependent relationship on the church or other structure.

“This community is self-determining what is going to help them heal,” Ms. Bomberry said.

The healing fund has given money to a wide variety of projects, including:

  • The largest sum, $30,000 (including money from the New England Company) went to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations for a training project. Training in counselling services was to create a pool of individuals with expertise in both traditional and contemporary counselling techniques. Ms. Bomberry said the fund offered to double its grant if the federation could identify Anglicans involved in the training. It did and the fund followed through. “We’re encouraging our church to be part of the healing locally,” Ms. Bomberry said.
  • $7,000 was for a women’s wellness conference in Thomson, Man., in recognition of the important role women play in keeping their families nurtured and strong. Topics included spiritual health, fetal alcohol syndrome, suicide, crafting, and parenting in separation and divorce.
  • $6,000 went to help produce 1,000 hymn books containing 57 hymns in the Kwak’wala orthography. The books will be used in church, as teaching aids in schools and at funerals and weddings in the Kwakwaka’wakw communities of the north end of Vancouver Island.

Many people, including Natives, are surprised to learn of the existence of the healing fund, Ms. Bomberry said. While she believes the fund is having a positive effect, she doesn’t suggest that it’s enough, nor that there is ever enough cash.

“We know there’s much more to be done,” she said. “We’re just scratching the surface.” Meanwhile, the advisory committee is beginning to look at projects for next year, including whether long-term funding can be offered.


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