Being Anglican and Metis
Rev. Donald MacKenzie asked me to reflect on what it means to me to be Anglican and Metis. Please know that my response is my own personal view. Other Metis Anglicans will also have a story that will reflect their own journey.
Firstly let me say that when we gather as a Church, we often begin by acknowledging the Land. When we gather as a people of faith and start in this way, it reminds me to be conscious of our setting and our linkages to one another. Indigenous, Settler or New-comer, we come together here in this place and time. We give thanks for the relationship to each other and God the Creator.
We come together here on Treaty 1 + 2 territory on the traditional land of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, and Oji-Cree peoples and the homeland of the Metis Nation. We are grateful for their stewardship of this land and their hospitality which allows us to live, work, worship and serve God the Creator here.
In my adult years, I became involved with my Metis Nation here in Manitoba, embracing Metis culture, working towards positive changes supporting my community and learning from Elders. I am a busy Anglican Deacon, working full-time in my vocational work at the University of Winnipeg and also serving in community, bringing the needs of the world back to the church. I often find myself involved in Metis initiatives in the community and in my vocation. God has opened many doors for me to be plunked in the midst of the grassroots workings of the Metis people here in Manitoba. For this I give thanks!
My Metis family roots are in East Selkirk. My family worshiped and were connected to St. Peter’s Dynevor (Old Stone Church) and other areas in the Interlake. My dad, Angus McLeod and his ancestors for many generations were rooted here, First Nations/Metis/Scottish roots. Often our McLeod family were referred to as Half-breeds in the community. From generation to generation we lived here, before it was called Rupert’sLand, before it was called Canada. It is a rich history that I have. My roots run deep here. For this I give thanks!
I love the Lord Jesus Christ. I love the Church. I have a sense of belonging – rooted in Anglican ways and to the Land. Metis families worked very hard at trying to fit into community and in doing so we lost some pieces of who we are along the way. It was my Aunty Joyce McLeod Kapilik who continually reminded me of my Metis roots as I grew up. Our cousin, Elder Velma Orvis and I have had the opportunity to reconnect at Epiphany Indigenous Anglican Church as we worship there together on Sunday evenings on occasion throughout this past year. She accepted the invitation to come with Rev. Vincent Solomon and a host of Deacons for a retreat weekend where we learned more about Indigenous ways of knowing God. We also learned about the medicines of our Land. I still have so much to learn. This journey that I am on is exciting indeed. For this I give thanks!
One mentor of mine that many of you know is Bishop Mark McDonald, our National Indigenous Bishop. I listen to his messages with pointed interest. He has helped me discern how to navigate being Indigenous and Anglican. Indigenous Anglicans have worked very hard for years, gathering in Sacred Circles of love, prayer and hope, placing the Gospel in the centre and listening to hear God’s voice. Their work has resulted in a variety of documents that has helped us move forward as Indigenous people in the Anglican Church: the 1994 Covenant, the Mississauga Declaration, The New Agape Resource are just a few examples. All this work has been in an effort to help First Nations, Inuit and Metis Anglicans be included, respected, and valued in this Anglican Church in Canada. I see the Declarations as a kind of renewal of vows that acknowledged the damage of colonization. They also provide the ground work needed to enter into a covenant to create an Indigenous self-determining community within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Mark McDonald wisely stated about this important work, “This isn’t Indigenous Anglicans threatening to leave, this is Indigenous Anglicans threatening to stay”.
Our Elders discerned that leaving was not the right answer. God has other plans. The threat to stay is a threat to power imbalances that have gone on since first contact. Indigenous and Non-indigenous Anglicans continue to work towards truth telling and reconciliation – a work in progress.
Metis governance and our place in Canadian Society is not understood well by many. We are a resilient people. I think there is a void in also knowing who we are in the mix of Indigenous people of this Land. If you are Metis and an Anglican, I want to encourage you to speak of this proudly in your parish family. Here is a beautiful message that explains how I see being Metis to be a blessing in my life.
We are Metis. We are neither First Nations nor Inuit, nor are we European immigrants to this land. Instead, we are the middle-ground between camps; the compromise between differences and the dawn that separates night and day. We are not half-breeds, but the children born of a marriage between two very different worlds. To be Metis is to be blessed with the best fruit of not one, but two family trees. We are not “half” of anything, but doubled. Being twice blessed, we are likewise proud, strong and determined. (Terry St. Amant)
Indigenous people are a gift to the Anglican Church that has not been fully embraced. Metis people are a part of this blessing. Here in Rupert’s Land we are looking at our structures, decision-making processes, and new ways to embrace those on the margins. God has something wonderful and fresh planned for us that we cannot even imagine yet. For this I give thanks!
Rev. Deacon Tanis Kolisnyk