On February 27th, 2011, Christian Peacemaker Teams participated in the rally supporting the people of Six Nations in response to Gary McHale’s so-called ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ Rally. In response to McHale’s letter to Christian leaders, two members of the CPT had the following to say:
Speech by Julián Gutiérrez Castaño:
My name is Julián Gutiérrez Castaño. I have come here from Colombia and I work for Christian Peacemaker Teams. I was invited to a rally responding to McHale’s so-called ‘Rally for Truth and Reconciliation’ in Caledonia. I also see that he and some of his people are trying to inaugurate a monument of apologies for the rightful reclamation of Kahnonstaton. When I first (mis)heard about the apology, I thought, “good, finally we are going to apologize to the people from Six Nations”, because they are the people who deserve an apology and the reasons can be easily found in the history of this place. If the apologies are not being made to them, this can not be a rally for Truth and Reconciliation. Rather, it would be a rally for ‘Lies and Violence’.
That monument there demanding apologies from the people from Six Nations is an invitation to do more violence to people of Six Nations.
I would like to start offering my own apologies:
I am myself a Mestizo from Latin America. I should be able to speak Quimbaya, the language of the Indigenous people that populated the land where I was born. I also should be able to speak an African language from the west cost of that continent. But these parts of my identity have been lost many generations ago. I feel deeply sorry for
I offer my apologies for the many ways that I and my people have forgotten our indigenous ancestry and have internalized racism, sometimes becoming complicit in colonialism, rather than standing in solidarity with our indigenous sisters and brothers.
But today I am here to do the right thing as a Mestizo and a newcomer or settler to this land. I am here to stand in support with the people of Six Nations and to advocate for honest truth and reconciliation between settlers and Indigenous peoples.
Julián Gutiérrez Castaño
Aboriginal Justice Team – Christian Peacemaker Teams
Speech by Peter Haresnape:
I was invited to make a response to the article ‘Letter to Christian Leaders’, in which Christians are encouraged to speak at the Truth and Reconciliation Rally, 27th February 2011.
The centrepiece of this rally was to be the placing of a monument on land reclaimed from developers. The monument was to have the apologies of the Six Nations, the provincial police and government for permitting the act of self-determination.
This rally, monument and those organising it ignore and hide the centuries of non-natives appropriating Six Nations land, only recognising five years of recent history and the effects on non-natives as relevant.
The following piece is an expansion of what I said at the rally. I write in the knowledge that, as a white, European Christian male, the understanding I have of my unearned privileges has been largely a gift from those without these privileges.
When I look at the conflict, historical and ongoing, in Caledonia, I don’t see it as a matter of 5-year police indifference, but as the result of a historical and ongoing system called ‘Colonialism’. My understanding of Colonialism is that people from one place travel to another place and remove wealth from it. Sometimes they establish permanent residences, sometimes they just take what they can and leave. One of the justifications attempted for this behaviour is the belief that the people who are extracting the resources are entitled to them because they are more advanced or favoured in one respect or another.
Today, of course, this is not the case. Our societies are built on equal dignity and equal opportunity… officially. Yet building projects go on even though land claims, which are intended to rectify historical wrongs, remain unsettled. Canada’s capital is built on land that was never legally Canada’s. For most people, the fact that it is there is apparently the same as a right to be there. With such disregard for the law, no wonder Six Nations people took action to stop more houses being built on the Haldimand Tract; if the law recognises ‘I built a house here’ as the same as ‘I have the right to build a house here’.
A rich young ruler came to see Jesus. He said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him about the Ten Commandments. “Yeah,” said the guy, “I’ve already done those all my life.” Jesus looked at him and said, “One more thing, you have to sell all you have and give it to the poor. Then you can come with me.” And the man went away sad, because he was very rich. (Recounted in Luke 18.18-23, paralleled in Mark 10 and Matthew 19)
This account is a good model for an approach to reconciliation. The man approaches Jesus with a question, asking what he needs to do. He does not demand, but asks respectfully. The account also acknowledges that it can be difficult, too difficult in this case.
Change is a difficult process. Truth is often disturbing. For white males like me it is disturbing to learn that we benefit from privileges that we aren’t even aware of. For many, this truth is too hard, and it is easier to locate blame with another individual, society, race or organisation. It is also very difficult to learn and acknowledge alone. This is why it is important to ask ‘what must I do’ rather than demand ‘this is what you must do for me’.
People experience the unprivileged life all the time, in many places around the world. They know what it is to live in fear, to live betrayed or ignored by their leaders. They know what it is to be vulnerable. It’s not right, but it is very, very normal.
I don’t wish to minimise anyone’s suffering, hardship or fear. These things are all real, wherever they are experienced, whoever experiences them. This is part of the problem. For some reason we white folks in the dominant culture think that matters of truth, reconciliation and justice can be resolved without suffering, hardship or fear being experienced. This is not the case.
Jesus cleansed the temple by chasing out the moneychangers, who probably experienced suffering, hardship and fear. Jesus caused a whole herd of pigs to stampede over a cliff, which didn’t make him any friends among their owners. Setting things right is painful, difficult, costly, but it is right.
When the rich young ruler was told that his wealth, his privilege, was an obstacle, he was unwilling or unable to listen. The challenge is to do better.