In what is believed to be the first ceremony of its kind since the process of truth and reconciliation began, several Anishinaabe elders in Winnipeg have adopted a non-aborginal brother: the Most Rev. James Weisgerber, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Winnipeg.
The powerful gesture of forgiveness and healing took place April 14 in a traditional Ojibway welcoming ceremony known as “naabaagoodiwin” at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House, an aboriginal cultural and social-services centre.
Joining local elders was Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and one of the principal architects of the $5-billion residential schools agreement. Fontaine and the elders are survivors of the residential schools. Witnessing the event was Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Archbishop Weisgerber acknowledged that there is still a long way to go in the process of reconciliation, “but it’s a road worth travelling.” For his part, Fontaine apologized for indiscriminately blaming all Roman Catholics, even those who had shown genuine concern for his welfare, for the trauma he suffered in the schools.