[Editor’s note: We want to introduce Charlie Ratte. Charlie is a former university student who was involved with Power to Change – Students in Toronto several years ago. He also served as an intern with InterVarsity working with international students. Charlie is Saulteaux and loves Jesus. We are grateful to be able to listen, reflect, and learn from his unique perspective.]
Written by Charlie Ratte
Historically, Christians have a painful and terrible track record when it comes to living in a good way with Indigenous peoples.
According to Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, the first step for someone coming to know Jesus personally is knowing and trusting a Christian. But for Indigenous people, we have had 500 years of knowing and distrusting Christians, thanks to things such as settler colonialism, residential schools, the ‘60s Scoop, and the Millennium Scoop.
In order to overcome the paralysis that can come from (white) settler guilt, or confusion if you’re a (recent) newcomer, I want to offer an answer to the often-asked question, “But what can I actually do?” Particularly, what can be done within the context of the university or college campus to build relationships with Indigenous peoples?
P2C-Students could offer gifts to the local Indigenous student associations. They could offer pipe tobacco, coloured cloth, or berries or whatever is normally given in the region. They could research local gift-giving protocol for their region to give a good gift in a respectful way. They could meet with Indigenous student leaders and give the acknowledgement that as settlers, they have no entitlement to the land. They could acknowledge that Indigenous peoples do have an ancestral right to the land. They could offer this gift at the beginning of each semester because trust is built over time.
If these gifts are given, honour could be restored. Where followers of Jesus have dishonoured Indigenous folks for centuries, in a small way, this could be undone. Trust might be restored.
And relationships could be started. Opportunities could arise for Christians to join Indigenous student groups in acts of solidarity. This could look like joining Indigenous students in demonstrations to protect the land.
As a non-Indigenous student, you are a guest on someone else’s traditional territory. Acknowledge this history with gifts.
For further reading:
Unsettling the Word: Biblical experiments in decolonization Ed. By Steve Heinrichs