Dave and Steph Young are certified ministers living in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Dave is a Bushcraft expert and Steph is an artist. Their passions include discipleship and eldership-style ministry. Together they have a combined 60+ years ministry experience.
In the fall of 2019 I accompanied a group of indigenous friends from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory to the “Mohawk Institute – Native Residential School” at Six Nations. Former students and family members have renamed it “The Mushhole”, because of the mostly rotten food that was served. I’d like to share with you what I learned about reconciliation on this visit.
My first observation was how this imposing building, which was obviously designed to intimidate and frighten young children into submission, seemed more like a prison than a school. Looking in its windows I wanted to cry as I imagined a 3-year-old child being forced up the stairs, thru the pillars, and into its doors only to have their lives traumatically changed forever…if they even survived.
As we walked around the facility and shared private stories about the horrors our family’s endured, it was hard to shake the evil and oppressive atmosphere that threatened to overwhelm us. Periodically we had to stop to give support to each other. Next we walked thru the educational centre where we saw documented proofs of these horrors.
Psychiatrists call what we experience “Generational Trauma” but lets call it what it is – “Colonial Trauma”; the trauma created when one people group believes they are inherently superior to others and are willing to do anything to the “weaker” people to fulfill their agenda…and they do.
But it wasn’t until I saw the school’s Superintendent’s house that I realized an important truth. Although the house was burned down many years ago, there is a tree that stands in front of its foundation and despite having nothing to block it from the sun’s energy – grows not toward the sun, but away from it.
The most powerful lesson I learned that day was - When we stray from the simple truths of following Jesus – we lose the Son’s energy, and instead of growing towards Him we grow away.
Let’s never allow pop culture, policy, or politics to distract us from the most basic of Jesus’ teachings…
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength. The second one is equally important: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Matthew 22: 37-38)
Reconciliation is a funny thing in North America – we think it’s a collection of events that “will make things right”, but that’s not true. Reconciliation is a collection of opportunities, motivated by love, to form authentic loving relationships.
And the first step is to acknowledge the wrongs. Its plainly clear that residential schools was a plan motivated by death – the death of culture and traditions at the very least – at the most it was a plan that murdered and abused thousands of Indigenous children and youth. Let’s take what we know and commit to give life. Lets seek out opportunities to foster reconciliation.
Wearing an orange shirt on September 30th won’t make it right, but it will show that we are willing to acknowledge a wrong…and that we would like to build an authentic relationship with those who were hurt both directly and indirectly (colonial trauma) by residential schools. As well as show our commitment to never make the same mistake again.
You can learn more about Dave and Steph and get in touch with them at exilednomad.com