In Conversation with… the Venerable Valerie (Val) Kerr, Archdeacon for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry

Introduction: Val was appointed to her new ministry in April of 2016. As she approaches her second anniversary, the Niagara Anglican engaged her in a conversation to introduce you to the person and her important ministry.

Niagara Anglican (NA): Tell us about your life and ministry.

Val Kerr (VK): I am a Mohawk woman of the Wolf Clan. I am a widow, a mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great grandmother. I am part of the Iroquois Confederacy Mohawk Nation, Wolf Clan originally from Tyendinaga, which is east of Belleville and I now live in St. David’s.

I was ordained in 2004, served at St. George’s St. Catharines for ten years before being appointed to St. John the Evangelist Niagara Falls.

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Photo: Hollis Hiscock

NA: What is included in your new role as Archdeacon?

VK: This ministry includes teaching, building relationships and fostering healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Part of the role will be education and sensitivity training for Niagara Diocese and beyond.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how we function, why we function the way we do — being First Nations people — and what’s happened in our history.
One of my goals is to lay the groundwork so people know about the history of my people and what we call Turtle Island, or North America.

NA: What are some things you hope to accomplish or see happen?

VK: I hope to be part of building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people as I believe the more we learn about each other the more the barriers are broken down. There needs to be some elimination of misconceptions and stereotypes for real healing to take place.

NA: Can you give us some examples of what is happening?

VK: There is a real hunger out there from people who want to learn the real history of this country where it concerns Indigenous people. People are asking more and more questions and wondering why it has taken this long for anyone to be even trying to answer their questions. The one statement I hear the most is “why have we not learned this before”?

NA: What can parishes and people do?

VK: There are many things parishes can undertake. Start by acknowledging what traditional territory they meet on … introduce themselves to local band councils, do some book studies, attend educational events, and go to a Pow Wow or Friendship Centre. Learn the history of the area they live in.

NA: What else would you like to say about your new ministry?

VK: The requests for education at times are overwhelming. However, I love teaching our history and way of life, and feel privileged to have the opportunity to encourage others to learn and share in the journey.

NA: Anything else you wish to add?

VK: We learn from everyone we meet and I have been fortunate to learn from some of the most caring, knowledgeable people of integrity on this journey. We are all connected in this web of life and truly are sisters and brothers on the journey.

NA: May God continue to bless all of us on this journey.

The Venerable Valerie Kerr is the Archdeacon for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry for the Diocese of Niagara.