“We all know the story of the man, who sat beside the trail too long, and the trail grew over, and he could never find his way again. We cannot forget what has happened, but we cannot go back, we cannot just sit by the trail.”
As we cannot just sit by the trail, The Salvation Army is endeavoring to empower our First Nations communities in body, mind and spirit. We want to provide a compassionate and receptive environment where it is easy for First Nations people to share their story.
Recently at a Thanksgiving dinner in Weetamah, Man., we asked Joe to pray in his language, Swampy Cree. As we stood in a large circle of volunteers, Joe rose from his wheelchair and shared a part of his story with us. As he spoke, emotion echoed in his voice. This was the first time he was asked to pray in his language in a church.
The Salvation Army has always and will continue to be a practical expression of faith. We acknowledge that:
“in order to have a lasting effect, healing must address not only individuals but also the community; not only the physical, but also the spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of life.” (Steven Hick. Social Work in Canada)
The Salvation Army continues to meet basic human needs through hands-on help as well as advocacy. The United Nations Human Development Index states that First Nations within Canada rank 78th in human development internationally. This is in comparison to Canadians being ranked 8th.
While we continue to meet needs The Salvation Army recognizes that the struggle for First Nations people is greater than the physical realm of poverty. As Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux eloquently stated, “We do not want riches. We want peace and love.”
Reconciliation (peace and love) has been a heart cry of our First Nations people for centuries. The Salvation Army desires that all nations, from every tribe and language, be treated with dignity. This requires harmony on multiple levels. There is a cultural awakening occurring amongst First Nations people which the Salvation Army is increasingly endeavoring to encourage.
“It’s all about identity,” comments a young First Nations woman. Encouraging people to find out who they are and their role in this world brings healing and settlement to the individual and the community.