Litigation seen as result of loss of old Native ways

Published December 1, 1999

Native people had their languages and culture taken from them, along with ways of resolving disputes they had developed over millenia, which had nothing to do with money, Rev. Mervin Wolfleg of the Tsuu Tina Nation in Calgary told Council of General Synod.

Mr. Wolfleg was at council as an aboriginal partner. He offered his reflections near the end of the meeting.”You took away our sundances, our potlatches, our spirituality. Our people are now more individualistic, less mindful of their brothers and sisters. The result is litigation.”Natives often feel like they don’t belong anymore in the world, he said. Many have chosen suicide and drug addiction as answers.”Now the choice is litigation.”Council also heard from representatives of the two dioceses most affected so far by litigation ? Cariboo and Qu’Appelle.

The Diocese of Cariboo lives “between reality and hope,” said Dean Nick Parker”There is fear, insecurity but also an incredible energy,” Dean Parker said. “There is some prejudice, some racism.”The public is hearing about Native people not just in connection with residential schools litigation but also regarding land claims, fishing rights and logging, Dean Parker said, “things we can’t control. The public may see them as just one big thing.”

He lauded the efforts of Bishop Jim Cruickshank and suggested there might have been many more than just the six lawsuits launched against the diocese had Bishop Cruickshank not spent much time on healing and reconciliation soon after arriving in the diocese eight years ago.”There is the sense this is not the end, it’s just the beginning,” Dean Parker said. “We are in good shape and in good hands.”

Rev. Helena-Rose Houldcroft of Qu’Appelle said that her diocese has nowhere near the resources to meet the more than 200 legal claims against it. People are concerned that the limited amount of money might end up in court and legal costs rather than going to the people who most need it, she said.Nonetheless, “there are more gifts in this journey than damages. The gifts have to do with naming the reality of racism. Maybe we should have recognized it earlier.”

People on the Gordons Reserve, where most of the lawsuits have originated, are deeply divided over the issue, Canon Houldcroft said. The bishop has gone to meet with the Natives on the reserve, she said, and efforts continue to try to set up an alternative dispute resolution project there.It’s important for those in Qu’Appelle to feel connected with other Anglicans, she said.

Dioceses not involved in these lawsuits might feel relieved that they won’t look any different at the end of it all, she said.”I think we have to say we’re all in this together. If Cariboo’s not going to look the same and Qu’Appelle’s not going to look the same and the national church is not going to look the same, then none of us is going to look the same.”We have to be in this together if this is really going to be transforming, if we’re going to slay the dragon of racism. I urge us to think about how we make this journey together.”


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