Indigenous chiefs and survivors: papal apology is only first step of new journey

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On the first full day of Pope Francis' trip to Canada, chiefs and survivors of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations shared their response to the Pope's historic apology.

For some, it was a moment to reflect on those who did not survive, those friends and families who did not have the chance to share their stories. It reminded the survivors, also known as thrivers, of their mission in making these stories known.

Ermineskin Cree Nation
I promised them that I would be their voice. I promised them that I would go out there and tell the truth. You know it's about truth, justice, healing, reconciliation. But one thing we talked about today is hope. We have to bring in hope into our communities.

But Pope Francis' apology does not mean forgetting the pain and sadness of the past. Words are not enough to end, as Chief Desmond Bull calls it, the “intergenerational trauma” these families endured. 

Louis Bull Tribe of the Maskwacis Nation
Instead of getting over it, I'm asking you to get with it. Get with learning about our history, get with learning about our culture, our people, who we are. Get with reaching out to your neighbouring Métis, Inuit or First Nations person and learn more about them. You want to help with our healing? Get with our healing and be part of our journey.

Though the path of understanding and healing will take years, Grand Chief George Arcand believes Pope Francis' trip to Canada is the Church's first step in making amends with the indigenous groups.

Confederacy of Treaty Six Grand Chief & Chief of Alexander First Nation

After meeting with the Pope and hearing his words today - I believe there is a path forward together. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Today I believe we begin a new journey. Today, I believe we now start to have to do the work necessary to make things better. And I sit by my fellow Chiefs and Survivors. To build that new road, to create a better place for our people to live.

Pope Francis' meetings with indigenous people in Canada opens a door to healing and hope. It also opens the door to conversation and education—an education on the importance of embracing diversity and the need to walk this road of reconciliation together into a brighter future.


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