Truth and Reconciliation

Our work towards reconciliation

Mill Woods United Church is committed to reconciliation between Canada’s First Nations and non-indigenous people, and we welcome the recommendations in the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-2015). To begin, we acknowledge the land on which we gather. Mill Woods is the ancestral land of Treaty Six First Nations. All of us are Treaty people, for which we give thanks.

For more about what the wider United Church is doing, please consider joining the Being Good Relations Circle of  Chinook Winds and Northern Spirit regions’ Facebook group.

This page has news of events, ideas for action, and background resources. For other outreach activities of Mill Woods United, click here.

MWUC Honourary Witnesses — 2016-2020

In February 2016, Mary-Anne Janewski and Nancy Siever agreed to be “honourary witnesses” for Mill Woods United Church to the Calls to Action of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Final Report. This was work they had been leading at MWUC since 2014.

In October 2020, Mary-Anne and Nancy withdrew from this role for personal reasons. In doing so, they prepared a video report to the congregation (click this link to view on YouTube). If you are interested in taking up this work, Mary-Anne and Nancy would be happy to mentor and work with you.

Everyone in the congregation thanks Mary-Anne and Nancy for their spirited and gracious leadership in this work over many years. Thank you!

Below is a list of some of the activities they led or participated in:

  • Papaschase gathering at Jackie Park in 2012 where Mary-Anne attended her first blanket exercise.
  • We both attended the TRC Conference at Shaw Convention Centre 2014.
  • Started Minutes for Reconciliation including reading the two apologies of the UCC.
  • We made recommendations to council to begin services with land acknowledgments and had a plaque installed at the front door of the church.
  • Reintroduced the Turtle candle for worship services.
  • We invited Chief Bruneau, chief of the Papaschase people, to speak on Aboriginal Day to our congregation & created a heart garden outside in the community garden (the hearts have since been installed into a frame in our sanctuary).
  • Participated with Moving Forward with Reconciliation – group of Edmonton United Churches funded by Edmonton Presbytery which included promoting many reconciliation events around Edmonton.
  • We participated in numerous Common Ground ecumenical events including tipi raising, pipe ceremony, talk with Hunter Cardinal to learn how to make tobacco pouches, round dances and 8th Fire educational events.
  • Invited Michelle Nieviadomy to lead us in a mini-blanket exercise during worship (where Mary-Anne took on the role of the pompous European).
  • Invited Sarah Komarnisky to speak to the congregation and purchased and installed her posters 150 Acts of Reconciliation.
  • Invited Chubby Cree to present songs on Aboriginal Awareness Day.
  • Arranged Reconciling YEG art display in the sanctuary.
  • Held an educational event in the sanctuary with Stanley Salopree singing and drumming and sharing stories and Anne Marie Sewell speaking about the paintings and the poems with each one.
  • Attended many Aboriginal Family nights which became Wahkohtowin nights.
  • Participated in a Poundmaker walk to the Legislature.
  • Mary-Anne attended traditional arts and regalia nights and learned to bead from metis artist Krista Leddy plus attended a drum making class taught by Lloyd Cardinal at the Native Friendship centre to make a drum from buffalo hide.
  • Attended Amiskwaciy nights at EPL.
  • Attended an event at Amiskwaciy Academy.
  • Attended mass blanket exercise and first round dance at City Hall.
  • Arranged a storytelling walking tour of the river valley with Dr. Dwayne Donald.
  • Screened movies with speakers/elders in attendance to guide discussions afterwards: Elder in the Making, Treaty Talk, Treaty Walk, Reel Injun, Indian Horse
  •  Attended Treaty 6 days at City Hall on behalf of the MWUC..
  • Recognized and promoted Orange Shirt days at MWUC.

“Treaty Walk” discussion, June 2020

On the evening of June 18, seven of us gathered on Zoom to discuss the recently released video “Treaty Walk: a Journey to Common Ground.” The video documents a walk last June from Edmonton to Calgary of a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians as a way to raise awareness of the blessings that flow when we remember that all of us are Treaty people. Thanks to Mary-Anne Janewski for promoting this new video and for facilitating a lively and inspiring time of sharing.

Seven Sacred Teachings, Winter 2019

During the winter of 2019, Elder Evelyn Day and Rev. Ian Kellogg led seven worship experiences that focused on Seven Sacred Indigenous Teachings. For more information about these services, see “Recent Spiritual Gatherings” between January 13, 2019 and March 17, 2019

“Why I will be wearing orange on Sunday”

by Mary-Anne Janewski, September 28, 2018

I wore an orange shirt to work one day in September in 2016 and 2017 to show my support and commitment to the work of reconciliation and equality. Both my husband and I will be wearing our orange Every Child Matters shirt to church on Sunday Sept 30th and we hope that you join in.

The Living into Right Relations Committee of the AB NW Conference of the United Church of Canada would love to see a “sea of orange” in the pews on September 30th, 2018.

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in the spring of 2013.  It grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s’ story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at the Mission, and it has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.

The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.

By wearing an orange shirt (or an orange bandana, scarf, button)  we recognize the harm done to residential school students and intergenerational survivors. We also show a commitment to the principle that in schools and communities every child matters!

Here is Phyllis Webstad’s orange shirt story from her first day at a residential school: in video 1:55 minutes and in prose 

You can order especially designed orange shirts ($12), toques, mugs, storybook, and buttons at http://www.orangeshirtday.net/

“150 Acts of Reconciliation” – Dec. 3, 2017

On December 3, 2017, our Sunday gathering included a special presentation.

Crystal Fraser is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Alberta and Gwichya Gwich’in from Inuvik and Dachan Choo Gèhnjik, Northwest Territories. Her research focuses on the history of residential schools in the Canadian North during the postwar period.

Dr. Sara Komarnisky is a post-doctoral fellow in History at the University of Alberta and is of Ukrainian settler heritage. She is an anthropologist currently researching art and craft made by Indigenous patients at Canadian “Indian Hospitals” from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Sara spoke about the 150 Acts of Reconciliation Guide that they put together. For more information, click here.

Minutes for Reconciliation

The “Minute for Reconciliation” is a moment during our Sunday worship service where we reflect upon Reconciliation and the Calls to Action to the United Church of Canada. We will be archiving them on here our website.

Blanket Exercise on February 12, 2017

Our February 12 Worship Service featured the Blanket Exercise. Michelle Nieviadomy, of Inner-City Pastoral Ministry (ICPM) and Moving Forward with Reconciliation (MFWR) led our congregation through a KAIROS Blanket Exercise during the service, which was led by Nancy Siever and Mary-Anne Janewski of MWUC. Here is our photo album on Facebook.

Reconciliation Calendar

Here is a calendar of upcoming events relating to Reconciliation in and around Alberta (although most of the events are in the Edmonton area. They are the events that are announced through the Moving Forward with Reconciliation working group.

Exploring Reconciliation

The Edmonton Public Library offers programs and resources with opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of reconciliation and how it impacts all Canadians. Visit the EPL’s Exploring Reconciliation page for updated information.

Moving Forward with Reconciliation

Moving Forward with Reconciliation was a working group of people from Edmonton-area United Churches (including Mill Woods), as well as other cultural and faith backgrounds. From 2015 to 2019, it facilitated a wide-range of activities both educational and action-oriented.

2017 — changing the curriculum

Good news on the Mandatory Curriculum K to 12 Call to Action #62 in light of the forthcoming overhaul of the Alberta School Curriculum: Support for First Nations, Métis and Inuit student learning, as well as the inclusion of Education for Reconciliation, which includes ways of knowing and diverse perspectives, will be reflected in future K-12 curriculum. Four million dollars in existing funding will be spent on consultation with Indigenous partners on future curriculum.

June 2016 — Chief Bruneau

Chief Calvin Bruneau of the Papaschase First Nation was our guest speaker on June 26, 2016. We also planted a heart garden. To see photos from the service, click here to visit our album on our Facebook page.

Background resources

Moderator’s letter on crisis facing Indigenous communities — May 2016

Sorry: Why Our Church Apologized.” A new book of the United Church on the 1986 Apology given to Canada’s First Nations and some of the painful history of our church with First Nations.

Decolonizing Hearts” — click on the link to view a video presentation by Jennifer Henry, Executive Director of Kairos — filmed on April 11, 2016 in Edmonton

Kairos: Winds of Change Campaign Follow the link above to find out how you can join with social justice campaigners from many Canadian churches as they strive to respond to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, “Education is what got us here and education is what will get us out“.

KAIROS, an organization uniting Canadian churches, and the Legacy of Hope Foundation agree with the TRC that education is the key to reconciliation. They have launched a major campaign focused on TRC Action #62, which calls for education about the residential school legacy, Treaties and past and present Indigenous contributions to this country to be a mandatory part of the curriculum in each province and territory. Without a shared understanding of how our collective past brought us to where we are today, we will not be able to walk together into a better future.