Blogs Posts from the Anglican Indigenous Network

Covenant & Promise: Waitangi 2015

6 February 2015

Some reflections from the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi - and a resolute rejection of the claim that Christian faith colonised Maori culture.

The full article can be found here

New UN document opens door for churches to do more for indigenous rights

23 September 2014

New UN document opens door for churches to do more for indigenous rights

[WCC] Scattered throughout the recent history of Indigenous Peoples are nationaltreaties, declarations and laws that languish in obscurity or are brushed aside and ignored.

Adding insult to injury, when many national and local churches attempt to speak out about the denial of rights of Indigenous Peoples they are told by governments that the church has no place in politics, effectively being seen but not heard.

Yet a new "outcome document" of the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is about to turn that perspective on its head. The world’s governments are now inviting churches and other civil society groups to be seen and heard when it comes to advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ human rights.

For ecumenical representatives of indigenous faith communities who attended the UN conference, held in New York on 22 and 23 September, and other side events, the six-page outcome document is significantly lending motivation and teeth to a movement that has sought to secure the rights of Indigenous People's around the world.

The document was agreed upon by all UN member states on Monday, 22 September, and reinforces the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), effectively turning a page where governments are concerned.

"Through the document, the nations of the world state that the well-being of Indigenous Peoples is essential to the well-being of the planet," Bishop Mark MacDonald of the Anglican Church of Canada said. MacDonald is the first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop of Canada.

MacDonald also said that the governments agreed to a partnership with Indigenous Peoples, and the document requires the church and other members of civil society to enter into that partnership and advocate for the commitments of the document.

The document, which is essentially the governments of the world speaking to themselves, civil society and others, and to Indigenous Peoples, covers a wide swath of concerns, including ensuring  basic human rights;  consulting and cooperating with Indigenous Peoples when crucial economic decisions are made in their communities; providing improved access to education, health and work; empowerment of youth; addressing social needs; free and informed consent; and the development of national "action plans" inclusive of the needs of Indigenous Peoples.

Churches and Indigenous Peoples

"The church has a special responsibility both in light of its fundamental mission as a body but also its historic relationship with Indigenous Peoples," MacDonald said.

"This is not only an affirmation of the declaration adopted in 2007, but it is a new commitment of the member states that they will now take intentional and systematic action," Rev. Tore Johnsen, general secretary of the Sami Church Council in Norway, said. "At least in words they are committing themselves."

For Johnsen and his colleagues, when the states say in the document that they encourage civil society to advocate, that means the churches need "to take an active role in promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples."

"For the churches that also means taking an active role in holding the nation states accountable," Johnsen said.

At the same time, he admits, "this can easily be cosmetic," referring to one potential outcome of the document. But that need not be the case. "The church has a strong moral voice," he said.

May Vargas of the Philippines, and a member of the ecumenical team, welcomed encouragement by the state for the church and other groups to be engaged. In her context, where there has been significant violence inflicted upon indigenous populations because of land resources, the church becomes a "sanctuary for the poor and the oppressed," as some of the churches are doing there.

Both Vargas and Johnsen saw a clear role for the church to play in the situation of extractive industries, such as mining of minerals, oil and gas, and the situation of violence against Indigenous women and children.

In such direct and real situations, the group stated, with the support of churches and willingness of the governments to follow through, implementation of the document could have a positive impact.

"It is also important to say that this resonates very much with the World Council of Churches, which has in many instances lifted up the issue of indigenous rights," Johnsen said. He suggested that the document opens the door for the WCC to pay "specific attention to Indigenous Peoples’ rights."

WCC minute on Indigenous Peoples

UN Outcome Document from the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

New indigenous diocese celebrated

9 June 2014

New indigenous diocese celebrated

[Anglican Church of Canada By Leigh Anne Williams] It was a historic day for the Anglican Church of Canada as it celebrated the birth of the first indigenous diocese and the installation of its first bishop in Kingfisher Lake, Ont.

The Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh’s installation service for Bishop Lydia Mamakwa was held in a school gymnasium that had been transformed for the occasion with red and white banners, garlands and a profusion of flowers around the altar. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, offered the homily. Archbishop David Ashdown, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, formally seated Mamakwa as bishop and blessed the episcopal chair. National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald participated and offered a reflection. The service was in English and Oji-Cree. Bishops from across the country attended, along with many members of the 400-person Kingfisher Lake First Nation, which is located 350 km north of Sioux Lookout, Ont.

Hiltz began by holding up a pair of moccasins that Mamakwa gave him at General Synod 2013 in Ottawa. “I am wearing them today, recalling that wonderful moment when General Synod gave concurrence to the creation of an indigenous diocese in northern Ontario,” he said. “Carved out of the diocese of Keewatin, it would be self-determining with respect to its leadership, ministry and decision-making. It was a historic and a joyful moment.”

In addition to the celebrations in the new diocese, Hiltz said he believed there was also much joy in heaven, particularly for the late Archdeacon Dr. William Winter, Mamakwa’s uncle and spiritual advisor, a visionary elder who devoted himself to the dream of creating a self-determining indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada. “What had been revealed to him by God has been realized,” Hiltz said. He recalled how Winter had wrapped his arms around Mamakwa and prayed lovingly for her at her consecration as area bishop of Northern Ontario Region, diocese of Keewatin. “So what better date to celebrate the inauguration of Mishamoweesh…than his birthday,” said Hiltz. Winter passed away in 2011 but June 4, would have been his 93rd birthday.

“Whether we travel barefoot, or in moccasins, or in sneakers or in work boots or fancy dress shoes, we are all walking this dream together.”

Hiltz spoke of Mamakwa as a “woman of great compassion.” He told those gathered that “she has a heart for you—for your delights and your struggles, your joys and your sorrows, your sufferings and your hopes.”

“On this day of new beginnings, let us strive to make love the mark of our common life,” Hiltz said—love for children, parents, young people and elders, a love that is rooted in Jesus’s own ministry. “This love is not mere social service and is not mere political movement. No, it is the gospel,” he said. “It’s a gospel movement in which we must be socially minded and yes, politically motivated, so as to protect our people’s rights and dignities.”

In an interview with Anglican Video prior to the installation, Bishop Mamakwa said she draws inspiration and strength for the work ahead by thinking of the elders and those who have passed on. ”This was their vision. They wanted a native bishop and a native diocese. And I feel like I have been called to start to open up this journey for them,” she said.

Asked what are the biggest challenges facing the new diocese, Mamakwa spoke of setting up an executive council to be a governing body, along with establishing a council of elders. Geography, however, remains the biggest challenge, she said. “We are in an isolated area…None of the villages I look after, except one, is accessible by road, so that is a huge challenge,” she said, also mentioning related financial challenges. Mishamikoweesh encompasses more than 25 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario and northern Manitoba.

Mamakwa thanked the Kingfisher Lake community for coming together to prepare for the week’s celebration that also included a three-day Sacred Circle gathering, which will facilitate the operations of new diocese in the way that synods serve other dioceses.  Her great-niece, Shawnda Mamakwa, told the Anglican Journal that the preparations and event were fun. “I loved how the decorations were done,” she said.

Mamakwa also thanked the rest of the Canadian church for its continued support and prayers for this new church that will incorporate indigenous language, traditions and knowledge. “With this new ministry, we can start to reclaim the indigenous humanity that we were given, and we thank the church for giving us that door to do those things in the way that we feel we need to do.”

Early in the service, Bishop MacDonald spoke about the significance of the event for indigenous Anglicans across Canada. He noted that 150 years ago, Cree priest Henry Budd said, “we would never come to be the church that we were meant to be until the churches were self-determined with indigenous leadership.” MacDonald added that this goal has been similarly moving indigenous people across the north. “It happened, with nobody really knowing that it was going on in other places…It was a miracle that God moved in people’s hearts at the same time in many places in many different ways.”

“The apology of our primate, [Archbishop] Michael Peers, at the time allowed the Spirit to flow into what we are seeing today, but also many people, many elders, some from other places who are here today, and Bishop Gordon Beardy worked towards this day,” he said.

MacDonald, who was elected as a North American regional president for the World Council of Churches, added that it is something that is happening among indigenous peoples internationally as well. “We are at the beginning of some great movement of God that will change our communities and change the world,” he said.

Following the service, the Rev. Chris Harper, a member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), told the Journal, “It’s historical and at the same time a significant pivotal moment in our indigenous ministries and history. It is a great step forward that the elders have been praying for and seeking for a long, long time now come to fulfillment.” 

Donna Bomberry, former co-ordinator of indigenous ministries for the Anglican Church of Canada, said, “I find it to be a very blessed day in the life of our church. When I think back, this year is the 20th anniversary of the Covenant [in which elders called for indigenous self-determination within the church]…I remember the barriers and the emotions of people across our church at this idea, but we were persistent and prayerfully walked with the folks here and supported them, and it’s really beautiful to see this.”

Archbishop Ashdown earlier in the week said that in all his years of ministry, this event has meant more to him than any other. “We have had to learn to walk together,” he said.  “We have a chance to dance together now.”

—With files from Lisa Barry,  Anglican Video and A. Paul Feheley

Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh

1 June 2014

[Anglican Church of Canada] On June 1, 2014 the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh came into being. The creation of this new diocese marks a major milestone in the  journey of establishing of a self-determining, self-sustaining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh encompasses over twenty-five First Nations communities in Northwestern Ontario and Northern Manitoba.  Its structures and program will be  uniquely aboriginal in that it will be an expression of Indigenous self-determination within the Anglican  Church,  committed to upholding the tradition, order, and discipline  of the  Church,  expressing that commitment in a manner that is consistent   with the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Indigenous  people of the region.

More about ISMM:


More information and video's can be found here