The past several weeks have been indescribably hard for some here in Saskatchewan. I refer, of course, to the savage happenings on James Smith Cree Nation, and also touching Weldon.
My spiritual hope has taught me that in every story, every reality, there is opportunity for learning, for growth.
For me, in this very sad story, a learning has been about the vibrancy of the spirit of First Nations people.
The news conferences that come out of this event have been about forgiveness. The prayers have been about hope. The pleas have been about self policing, but pleas that affix little blame. The words have been spoken, the tears have been shed, with dignity, with compassion, with honesty. I am seeing, again, a man who has lost a sister in this mad violence, drawing to himself and embracing the partner of a suspect. I’m seeing another, also a brother, choosing to sit in front of reporters to tell the stories of who his sister was. Though savaged by grief, the stories are warm, gentle, touched with humour.
This indicates a culture that has retained an understanding of healing that has slipped by so many in other cultures, others ways of being. In our race to make things black and white, to make something that lawbooks can sort out, judges, lawyers, the innocent go here, and the guilty stand far over there, far apart. When things get more complicated, we write more lawbooks. Hard times are much about right or wrong.
Indigenous values, at their best, point in another direction. How can the community be healed? How can individual people be healed? How can the good energy of so many be marshalled to draw folks together? How can reality be shared, be brought into community, how can the destructive power and fear of such savagery be confronted, named, and be stripped of its strength?
Last week, I had a conversation with a neighbour, a Christian man, who talked about the evil of the people responsible for this catastrophe. As I left that conversation, I decided that the word, evil, is not useful for me to begin to process this event. The word, evil, is only applicable if it is inserted into every instance where we all choose to stop short of perfection. I include myself.
When the pictures of the Sanderson brothers were circulated in an attempt to locate them, I was deeply struck by the sadness in their eyes. If the word “evil” is applicable, it is also about me, and the opportunities I have been given to address such sadness and have not done so. The violence growing out of such sadness, does not happen without community failings. That’s about me.
I’m reminded of a premise that has always centered my Christian faith, and that is, “We are all created in the holy image of God.” When lives careen off into wildly other directions, will we step forward, learn what is offered, and work toward change? Will we accept responsibility, as modelled to us by James Smith Cree Nation, to come together, to embrace, to include, to weep, then to move forward?
Spiritual author, Richard Rohr suggests that “When all is said and done, the gospel comes down to forgiveness.” He quotes those words that we’ve repeated thousands of times, “Forgive us as we’ve forgiven our debtors.” There are responsibilities, it’s on us, to live into holy directions.
It’s the center of living with integrity. Can we learn something of that from the communities that surround us?