Jill Harris elder of the Penelakut First Nation of British Columbia #2:

The formality of becoming part of this church has been so unsettling for me.It has been very important to me that I be aware of how everything is conducted in the traditional way of my community.

I went to a church in this Diocese where I found an air of entitlement. It seemed that it was a church for richer people. I am not a showy person, so I wasn’t the kind of Indian person people wanted me to be. I felt very unwelcome. I was not the kind of Indian they could brag about.

My mum was such a warrior Christian. She said, “Don’t let anyone knock you down, if they do, get up.”

How did they make us give up our culture and practices so quickly and so completely?

Who are you? How did you get here? What are you looking for? Searching these questions is what reconciliation is about.

I am not a feminist. To be a “feminist” says I need to adhere to a western theology that does not apply to my culture. I am a womanist. At my daughter-in-law’s funeral one of the elders told me that I am now the mother to my grandchildren.

Where you are meeting here today is where our village was burned and our people were removed. We used to get fish from the stream that ran right down along this street out there.

Some of my relatives were the earliest converts to the Anglican Church.

The missionary was also a businessman who became an Indian Agent and stole the timber from our land. Some of the early missionaries were also here to do business. This history casts “a long and terrible shadow.”

In England, the book The Invention of the White Race, was outlawed.

As I was recovering, I was in a therapy group. People were very condescending to me. They were very superior.

There are histories that have to be reconciled.

Another part of my job as an elder is that I work on a treaty committee. Don’t worry, we are not going to take your land away that used to be our land. But we are buying some of it back. But there is some land that will never be ours again. We cannot restore it to the way it was. Today we have only five people who speak our traditional language. We can’t learn the teachings without our elders and they are dying.

Working with Aboriginal Neighbours is really important. It is a bridging group to get to know each other.

What does our theology mean? Do we want to make everyone Anglican? Or do we want people to be proud to be Indigenous and Christian?

I have only been able through contact with other Indigenous women to come to interpret the Bible as an Indigenous person.

I see that many of you are seeking. For me that is a good sign. When you give your testimony, you open the way for other people.

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