We have already travelled far together.

Marking the 30th anniversary of the United Church Apology to First Nations Peoples, this is a conversation with Alberta Billy, the Very. Rev Bob Smith, Pam Hart, and Lawrence Sankey about how the Apology came to be, and what is needed to make it real.

As Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, we have worked to more faithfully reflect who we are as a church.

The church has learned and continues to learn from Indigenous wisdom and spiritual practices.  You can read the statement “Affirming Other Spiritual Paths” under Downloads, below.

We have apologized as a church for our broken relationship, and we have pledged to heal it.

The 1986 Apology

“We tried to make you be like us and in so doing we helped to destroy the vision that made you what you were.”

In 1986, at its 31st General Council, The United Church of Canada responded to the request of Indigenous Peoples that it apologize to them for its part in colonization. You can read the 1986 Apology under Downloads, below.

The church marked the 30th Anniversary of the Apology in August 2016, and we continue to try to live into its promise to “walk together…in the Spirit of Christ so that our peoples may be blessed and God’s creation healed.”

Resources to help communities of faith in this journey include the video “Moving Forward, Together,” above on this page, the November 2016 edition of Mandate magazine, and worship and reflection materials available under Downloads, below. We also invite you to join us in seeking to live out the Apology through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

The 1988 Response

In 1988, at the 32nd General Council, the Indigenous church acknowledged the apology, expressing its hope that the church would live into its words.

Mrs. Edith Memnook, a representative of the All Native Circle Conference, said:

The Apology made to the Native People of Canada by The United Church of Canada in Sudbury in August 1986 has been a very important step forward. It is heartening to see that The United Church of Canada is a forerunner in making this Apology to Native People. The All Native Circle Conference has now acknowledged your Apology. Our people have continued to affirm the teachings of the Native way of life. Our spiritual teachings and values have taught us to uphold the Sacred Fire; to be guardians of Mother Earth, and strive to maintain harmony and peaceful coexistence with all peoples.

We only ask of you to respect our Sacred Fire, the Creation, and to live in peaceful coexistence with us. We recognize the hurts and feelings will continue amongst our people, but through partnership and walking hand in hand, the Indian spirit will eventually heal. Through our love, understanding, and sincerity the brotherhood and sisterhood of unity, strength, and respect can be achieved.

The Native People of The All Native Circle Conference hope and pray that the Apology is not symbolic but that these are the words of action and sincerity. We appreciate the freedom for culture and religious expression. In the new spirit this Apology has created, let us unite our hearts and minds in the wholeness of life that the Great Spirit has given us.

— 1988 Record of Proceedings, p.79

The 1998 Apology

“We pray that you will hear the sincerity of our words today and that you will witness the living out of our apology in our actions in the future.”

In 1998, the church apologized specifically for its role in Indian Residential Schools, and since 2008 has been actively engaged in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), which was created to address the history and legacy of Indian Residential Schools. The United Church is responsible for 15 residential schools operated between 1849 and 1969. About 6.7 percent of the approximately 80,000 residential school students still alive today attended United Church schools.

In 2018, we mark the 20th anniversary of the Residential Schools Apology. You are invited to take part in the Braiding Reconciliation Prayer Ritual, under Downloads, below.

You can read the 1998 Apology under Downloads, below.