Some people may wonder what we as Canadian members of the Christian Reformed Church have done that requires reconciliation with Indigenous people. This question is extremely important. Left unanswered, it leaves a formidable barrier to improved relationships with North America’s original inhabitants. I would like to suggest a few reasons why we need to reconcile with our Indigenous neighbors.
The heritage of many CRC members is from the Netherlands, a country that established colonies in North America over 400 years ago. At that time, our ancestors made a historic pact with the local Indigenous people. They agreed, as recorded by the two-row wampum belt, to share North America’s resources without interfering in Indigenous ways of life. Instead of honoring that agreement, They have benefited from hoarding those resources and at the same time have allowed Indigenous people to be suppressed in numerous ways.
We have silently watched our governments force Indigenous people onto reserves located on what were thought to be useless pieces of land. As members of the Christian community, we stood back as churches collaborated with governments to confine young Indigenous children in residential boarding schools. Those children were separated from their family and culture so they could be forcibly educated in Christianity. As residential schools began to fall out of favor, we supported the development of a new government initiative. Under the guise of protecting
Indigenous children, this welfare program removed them from loving homes and placed them with non-Indigenous families around the world.
We currently allow our governments to default on treaty agreements that are already heavily slanted to our advantage. We build up our retirement funds by investing in oil and mining industries that fervently resist revenue sharing with Indigenous communities while ignoring Indigenous health concerns. We vote for governments that waste millions of dollars fighting laws that were specifically put in place by courts to protect Indigenous rights. We reject task force recommendations to educate church members on the Doctrine of Discovery, which has been and still is used to justify the dismal treatment of Indigenous people. Most important, we need to be reconciled for believing that, because we kept our hands clean by allowing others to do the dirty work, we in the church are innocent of any wrongdoing.
It’s high time we accept responsibility for allowing past injustices and begin showing true Christian love to our Indigenous neighbors.