You Owe Us an Apology: Planting the Seeds of Allyship – Video

An event in recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Guests were invited to gather at the Apology Cairn at Laurentian University on June 21st, 2022 where drum songs were shared along with presentations on allyship and the history of the Cairn including Sylvia Carscadden’s story.

** This event was created in partnership with the Manitou Intentional Learning Community, the Canadian Shield Right Relations Team from the United Church of Canada and Indigenous Student Affairs at Laurentian University.

Study Guide

You Owe Us an Apology: Study Guide

Prepared by Gillian Schell on behalf of the Manitou Intentional Learning Community

Thank you to CSRC Right Relations Team and all those involved in the creation of this video that challenges and inspires United Church people to reflect on apology and allyship.

Through sharing their deeply personal stories, Sylvia, Linda and Emilie invite us to reflect on our individual and collective journeys as people challenged to live out the Apology made by the United Church of Canada in 1986.

Responding to the video:

  1. Sylvia recounts that the response to Alberta Billy’s demand for an apology, was mixed; some participants wanted to learn what really happened to Indigenous people and were appalled by what they learned, while others did not feel it was an obligation to apologize. Why is it important for current settlers in the United Church to learn about and live out the Apology made in 1986?
  2. Linda suggests that Canadians are often taught a distorted history of the relationship between settlers and Indigenous peoples. Reflect on your own learning: What were you taught? How has your understanding changed? What do you need to learn more about?
  3. Sylvia and Linda both share with great honesty and passion their “reconciliation journey”. Reflect on your personal journey and that of your faith community. How have your ideas and understandings changed? What brought about these changes? What work do you still feel you need to do?
  4. Sylvia reflects that our privilege allows us to “sit in the high court of our lives every day” and that this means that we are called to “speak out and speak up”.  Susan comments on the fact that allies need to have the courage to bring their voices together to make change. What things do you currently feel called, as an ally, to “speak out and speak up about”?
  5. Susan reminds us that when the Apology was made, it was not accepted because real apologies must be accompanied by actions. Throughout her reflection, Linda repeats Art Solomon’s challenge: “What are you going to do about it?” Reflect on how you as an individual, as part of a faith community, and as a citizen, can answer this question.

Going beyond the video:

  • Emilie reminds us of the importance of “taking care of the earth and of the people on the earth”, and of the importance of sacred medicines to Indigenous peoples. Learn more about sacred medicines of the Anishnawbek people by reading The Four Sacred Medicines – Anishnawbe Mushkiki – Minute for Right Relations on CSRC site seems to be broken – does anyone have this? and reflect on the contributions that Indigenous knowledge make to our understanding of our relationships with creation and with each other.

Braiding Sweet Grass – book study. Study guide Braiding Sweetgrass Discussion Questions | by USFWS Library | USFWS Library | Medium

  • Emilie encourages us not only to remember the historic and current trauma experienced by Indigenous people, but to celebrate what 1st peoples have accomplished. Find out more about Alberta Billy by . . . and find out about and share the stories . . . The Resource section of this guide has some useful resources, but also check local media to identify some of the Indigenous people who are making a positive impact in your community.

Going deeper

b) Read and reflect on the words of the 1988 response. As settlers, we are asked to “respect our Sacred Fire, the Creation, and to live in peaceful coexistence with us”? Where do you find challenge in this response? Where do you find hope?

  • The apology to Indigenous Peoples by Pope Francis during his recent visit to Canada has highlighted once again that words of apology are meaningless unless accompanied by action. Indeed, Tanya Talaga in her July 25th 2022 article in the Globe and Mail states:

“You can’t just say you are sorry and walk away. There has to be effort and meaningful action.”

Read the article Opinion: Pope Francis’s apology was heartfelt and historic. But it left us wanting more – The Globe and Mail to find out why Talega finds this apology incomplete and inadequate.

  1. Reflect on the implications of her analysis of the Pope’s apology for us as we try to journey towards right relations.
  2. Talega ends her article: “What saves us is learning our languages, our ceremonies. In order for us to heal, we must turn to each other – we will not get absolution and peace from a man in white.” What can we as settlers learn from these words? How do they inform the work of building right relations?