There is a lot of energy with anger, flashbacks, triggers, tears from the Pope’s visit

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Pope Francis - Photo credit to Adam Scotti
Pope Francis - Photo credit to Adam Scotti

Omushkegowuk Nation – We are all human beings with mixed emotions. Even the Pope is a human being. It may be that he is sincerely sorry, as an individual person, only Kisheh Mundoo, the Creator knows his heart. If you have ever been sorry for something, you knew in your heart and if you believe in a higher power such as Kisheh Mundoo, you would acknowledge that God sees your heart. Again, the Pope as his own person, having his own heart, may be truly sorry as to what happened to our people across Turtle Island.

Support is available for anyone experiencing distress during the papal visit to Turtle Island. The Residential School Survivor Support Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1-866-925-4419

But I do not think Canada and the Churches share the same sentiment, the sincerity would have shown by the honouring of Treaties, fully terminating the Doctrine of Discovery in its entirety (including the pieces of it attached to Canada’s section 35 Doctrine), addressing boil water advisories, and the list goes on.

The first thing I would think of whenever I saw pictures of the Pope is evil.

I would remember when I was a child how a bishop was staring at me as if he wanted to kill me with his eyes, not an ounce of kindness to be felt, only surrounded by darkness.

I would also remember the evil done and horrific stories of abuse endured by our people, the grossness and immorality of priests. I was reading a little bit of the Pope Francis’ biography before all the Internet explosion of the mixed feelings. He is quoted as saying “my people are poor and I am one of them” when explaining his decision to live in an apartment and cook his own supper. His work on communion and evangelization included a goal of providing assistance to the poor and the sick. I am just mentioning what I read in the biography of the Pope, and in wanting to see more information about his humanness as an individual.

I acknowledge our people who feel that the apology will help them to move forward, maybe they felt the peace and sincerity coming from the Pope, as an individual. Maybe they needed to be right there to hear the words. I acknowledge that only Creator knows his heart. I can acknowledge that the Pope may have been sincere, as his own person, But I do NOT accept the apology due to the politics attached to it, which may be he had no choice but to read it in the way that it was set.

If anyone’s read the full apology, right off the bat the first address goes to Madam Governor General, and then the Prime Minister, followed by “Indigenous Peoples of Maskwacis and of this land of Canada”. As you know, this land is NOT of Canada.
I’ve said many times that our lands were NOT brought over from Europe. Our lands were always here on Turtle Island. Our Indigenous people are NOT of Canada, our Nations have been on Turtle Island, our ancestral land since TIME IMMEMORIAL. The apology is an enforcement of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Pope talks about penitential pilgrimage which means he is taking on voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. I think that he definitely is taking on a lot of energy while coming here and being here, even though he was asked to come here by Indian Act leaders. You also have to remember that it was not this “holy” figure that imposed the genocide policies our people suffered, he has been a pope from within this past decade.

The Pope goes on to read in the written apology letter “I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.” Notice the wording “governments of that time” implying that the government no longer engages in genocide policies- it still DOES. Child welfare is a good example, as well as the historical Treaties not being honoured, and the continued frameworks it imposes on First Nations that are based on Treaty termination agendas.

Pope Francis - Photo credit to Adam Scotti
Pope Francis – Photo credit to Adam Scotti

The Pope was asked to come here, he didn’t ask for a headdress.

It was given to him by a Wilton Littlechild. I don’t know much about Littlechild, other than reading that he is a member of parliament, served as [Plains Cree] Chief, helped with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and carries his grandfather’s cultural and traditional teachings. I have been trying to wrap my head around that part, where he gave the Pope a headdress. I’ve looked at it at all angles in trying to find the “why on earth…?”

I have been going to our Medayhewaywin, Matootsoowin, and other ceremonies for over 20 years. One of the things that I hold sacred is what those eagle feathers represent. Some tribes may not have had the full on headdress as represented by the Plains Cree and other Nations, but the significance of what those feathers represent are the same or very closely similar.

As such, our clan system being an example. Many belief systems around the world point to one Creator, one God. In that aspect, and for the few seconds that the Pope wore the headdress, I can only assume that it was intended on Littlechild’s part that it be binding by spirit. That is one of the ways I have tried to look at it, I do not know because I have not sat with Littelchild in a ceremonial lodge.

The eagle feathers (and headdresses) are very sacred to the Indigenous people because of what it represents. The Nations have their teachings maintained on why this is. An eagle feather has to be earned is an example, anyone that is crowned a headdress must work towards what those feathers represent is another. This is not the reason that the headdress was put on the Pope, he obviously was not crowned to be Chief or leader of the people. I think that it may have been for another reason as stated above. He did not wear it long, but nonetheless, it was on his head for a few seconds. I am just pointing out one of my thoughts on the possible why.

I know that the actions of Littlechild has angered many. Many do not see a problem with it, even the ones that don’t understand our ceremonies, and the ones that have only known Catholicism or Christianity. We cannot just give away our sacred items, especially something as sacred as eagle feathers. But maybe this was done to make sure that the pope and the system he works for put actuality to the apology without any conditions attached to it, and to make sure it is done through spirit. I am not defending anybody’s actions should they be wrong. It is as I’ve said one of my thoughts as I’ve tried to understand this headdress ordeal.

Indigenous leaders need to make it clear in writing that some of the terminology on the written apology is not acceptable as it maintains the Doctrine of Discovery.

I have never set foot in a Residential School, yet my life has been affected by it and I continue to deal with oppression as a result of the IRS. But I know that there is healing in our inherent cultural spirituality which is how I choose to continue walking on the road of healing.

Now as the people continue to look forward to the Pope’s visit and apology, I am thinking of them in prayer. This is how they would like to have closure and continue on their healing path, they have a right to choose on how they want to move forward in their healing if that means hearing the Pope’s apology. There is a lot of energy with anger, flashbacks, triggers, tears, and so on from the Pope’s visit- I acknowledge you all and pray for your healing. Miigwetch.

Jennifer Wabano
Omushkegowuk Nation