This year at Parliament, we gave a great welcome to Indigenous ceremony – a sacred fire was lit and kept burning for the duration, the opening ceremonies gave primacy to Indigenous attendees and dance, and a great structure called the Lodge of Nations was erected with its own track of programming and an accreditation program. Indigenous peoples from the Amazon came to talk about ayahuasca, and Yoruban leaders from Nigeria shared the beauty of their tradition. Hopefully this is the first in a long line of Parliaments that welcome and include these traditions at the level that we saw this year. It would be a disservice not to do so, and may the programming expand beyond introductory sessions in the future.
In Tkaronto (Toronto), where this year’s Parliament was held, an effort has been made to educate its residents about the Indigenous history of Turtle Island. Initiatives such as Toronto For All, and the practice of land acknowledgements being included with morning announcements in every Toronto school, attempt to bring this forward. Indeed, at the Parliament, many speakers included land acknowledgements at the start of their presentations – not all, but many pagans did, and even those who are not from this place.
A land acknowledgement is the beginning, not a culmination of a relationship with Indigenous peoples. Land acknowledgements mean little if we do not live our lives as treaty peoples, engaging in right and respectful relationships with these communities. It may be that our ancestors did not directly contribute to the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, but more often than not we benefit from the systems that were put in place to do so. One of our highly respected virtues is hospitality, so we should embody that virtue in our relationships with the first peoples of this land also.
The land on which we live provides our sustenance, our shelter, and is the base for our economy. We recognize her beautiful places, what she gives to us, and how her seasons underscore our lives. Is it not right, then, to acknowledge those people who lived here before we came, and shared it with us by treaty?
I propose that we, as the folk of ADF, include land acknowledgements at our rites.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation and the Anishinaabeg people. We also recognize the enduring presence of Indigenous peoples on this land.
Look to your universities and colleges for a land acknowledgement statement you can begin with. In Ontario, all have one. Even better, ask your local indigenous community for assistance with crafting one – and pay them for their help. Remember that this is the beginning of a conversation, and we may need to do some learning to do it correctly.
CALLS TO ACTION
In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was organized as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, to give a voice to all who suffered there. In 2015, along with the Executive Summary, they released 94 Calls to Action towards reconciliation. Many of these Calls to Action were directed at the government, but some were for faith groups (48, 49, 60).
These calls to action are concerned with the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the right to self-determination in spiritual matters, and education for clergy.
As monotheism and “universal” religions are often the focus of interfaith or multifaith discussions, I have no doubt that is what was considered here when using the term “all other faiths”. We, as Pagans, do not seek to convert others to our ways, or believe that our way is the way for all. However, for as long as Neopaganism has existed there has been eclecticism, and with it the concern of cultural appropriation.
To meet the call to action for education, I propose that we encourage and allow our Priests to complete an Indigenous history course for their region as part of Continuing Education. This may not be an area that we wish to develop curriculum for ourselves, but we can maintain a list of resources to help Priests find courses.
In the ADF Subgroup Charter Manual (members only link), there exists a curious line whose content I have not seen elsewhere. It reads:
Groves 4.1. “Non-Indo-European local aboriginal traditions may also be integrated into activities according to Clergy Council policies.”
I was unable to find what Clergy Council policies this refers to (if anything), but nevertheless I believe that we should remove this line from our Subgroup Charter Manual.
Without postulating what led to the inclusion of this line, or what exactly it means by “activities,” Indigenous traditions are part of a larger cultural matrix, and to remove them piecemeal for inclusion into our modern Pagan rites is appropriative at best. Some of us may have received teachings and employ those teachings in our personal spiritualities, but that is outside the scope of this document. Indigenous traditions are living traditions, traditions that have been outlawed and demonized by our governments, and are being lifted up again by their keepers to reinstatement. Let us remove this line in the spirit of hospitality.