Reconciliation in Action: Deepening Cultural Competence

 on May 29, 2024
Contributed by Renée Wetselaar

St. Matthew’s House staff, board, and volunteers, as well as community partners from the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA) recently benefitted from some day-long sessions at the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre (HRIC). The goal of the sessions was to develop our cultural competence with respect to Indigenous history and culture. Such cultural competence is essential to the success of the 412 Barton apartments that St. Matthew’s House is building for Black and Indigenous seniors facing homelessness.

Each session began in a very innovative way with a spool of yarn being passed around the room as participants were invited to introduce themselves by sharing something of their own personal history. By the end of this very impactful introduction, we experienced first-hand the importance of sharing our stories, and understanding how our individual histories effect who we are today. Our facilitators led us in a conversation about the Blood Memory they have inherited from their ancestors at birth which carries both many positive teachings and traditions as well as the intergenerational trauma of colonization.

“We can’t say goodbye to a problem until we have first said hello.” (Gerry Oleman, Elder, traditional knowledge keeper, mentor, storyteller, healer, and educator) Our facilitator shared this quote to begin teaching us about Turtle Island and its history since colonization. We touched on such topics as the Creation Stories, Thanksgiving Addresses, early conservation agreements amongst First Nations, how governance was organized with Clan Mothers and Chiefs, the Medicine Wheel and Indigenous approaches to well-being, and the negative impacts of colonization. We ended the day in a circle around a visual representation of Turtle Island which pulled together all of our learnings from the day. Perhaps most impactful was that we each took turns saying out loud the negative ways Indigenous peoples have been impacted as well as racist statements made by our government leaders through to present day.

These gatherings (both staff and senior leadership) are funded by the Anglican Foundation of Canada.

The meaningful learning that took place at these sessions is yet another part of the work that we are stitching together towards truth and reconciliation in conjunction with our “412 Barton” project, a deeply afford- able housing initiative dedicated to providing homes for 15 Indigenous and Black elders experiencing homelessness. The Diocese of Niagara made a generous donation of $100,000 to this project, in consideration of the important work of reconciliation that we all need to continue to undertake.

St. Matthew’s House is truly grateful to both the Anglican Foundation of Canada and the diocese for their deep commitment to our work.



National Indigenous Day of Prayer

On June 21, the Anglican Church of Canada marks National
Indigenous Day of Prayer in its calendar, the same day as
National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day to give thanks
for the gifts of Indigenous peoples, to pray for the ongoing
work of truth and reconciliation, and to celebrate the unique
heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

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