Book Review: May 2023
Updated: 6 days ago
Our Home and Treaty Land: Walking Our Creation Story
Authors: Raymond Aldred and Matthew Anderson
Publisher: Wood Lake Publishing Inc.
Reviewed by: Jessie Parkinson
“An Indigenous writer and scholar, and a settler scholar and pilgrimage enthusiast together explore what it means to live and walk in harmony on the land” reads the description of this wonderful book on the Curious Cat Tea & Books website.
Reverend Dr. Raymond Aldred is a status Cree from Swan River Band, Treaty 8. He is the director of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Vancouver School of Theology and is ordained with the Anglican Church of Canada. Rev. Dr. Matthew R. Anderson is from Treaty 4. He is a settler-descended biblical scholar who teaches New Testament Studies and Pilgrimage Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, and at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He was recently appointed Director of Camino Nova Scotia at the Atlantic School of Theology and is an ordained Lutheran Pastor.
This book is dedicated to the memory of the thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families and never made it home.
The format of this book is that of a settler-descended/Indigenous dialogue—with Rev. Dr. Aldred beginning with a chapter, and Rev. Dr. Anderson responding with a chapter. Altogether the work consists of 18 chapters.
The styles of Dr. Aldred and Dr. Anderson could not be more different. Dr. Aldred’s chapters are printed in italics while Dr. Anderson’s are in a bolder font. It is almost as if Dr. Aldred is whispering to you while Dr. Anderson is lecturing. Despite this difference, the message from both is clear: settler descendants and Newcomers have signed treaties with Indigenous peoples and then almost immediately broken them.
Dr. Aldred writes: “If you are a Canadian, then the treaty is your creation story. Canada exists because of the goodwill of First Nations people.” Europeans came here desiring to make a home. They said that they wanted to share the land, and First Nations said “Yes” you can share this land. We will make a treaty. That is how Canada exists. That is why we are “treaty people”. That is what the treaty is about.
Following Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Report came specific Calls to Action. Call to Action 59 states “ We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history, and legacy of residential schools and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities, are necessary”.
However, writes Anderson, if we expect our Prime minister to apologize to Indigenous Nations on behalf of Canadians when we haven’t really understood or accepted what we are apologizing for then “we are saying nothing”. Worse, we are “virtue signaling”. Repentance without understanding and without a heart-felt desire for change is not repentance at all.
Since Christian missionaries were crucial in helping broker the treaties, should not Christians have a special responsibility, now, in returning to them?
Professor Anderson offers wise advice on how to get to know Indigenous peoples and how to organize events with Indigenous educators. What to do, and not to do.
This little book quotes extensively from the works of authors and historians whose references appear in the 7-page Bibliography. This is not an easy read, but a must-read for settler-descended Canadians who wish to truly address reconciliation.