In 1969, the church ended a century of running residential schools. It also committed to a new relationship with Indigenous peoples, heeding Charles Hendry’s call (Beyond Traplines,) for a partnership based on solidarity, equality and mutual respect.
Since that turning point, the church has slowly grown into its solidarity role, supporting our political struggles for self-determination, recognition of treaty and land rights, and respect for Mother Earth.
For two-and-a-half decades we have had Indigenous staff at the national office. Our council has found its voice and strength, and become the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous bishops were elected in 1989, 1993, and 1996.
Through three national convocations (1988, 1993, and 1997) we have reclaimed our identity as Indigenous Anglicans, and begun to share and heal our pain from the residential schools. In 1993 we accepted from the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, an apology from the church for the residential-school system.
In 1994 and in 1997, we responded joyfully to God’s sacred call and covenanted together to work for self-determination within the church. That New Covenant has been accepted by the Anglican General Synod.
The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples began the search for the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop (NAIB) in 2005. After several interviews, The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald (Wendat) was called to be the first NIAB. He started this ministry in the spring of 2007 and was installed at the General Synod of 2007 in Winnipeg. The Elder’s of Indigenous Ministry gave him five charges:
- To speak for Indigenous Anglican People in the Councils of the Church
- To interpret what the Councils of the Church are saying to Indigenous people
- To be a spokesperson for Mother Earth
- To act as a midwife for a self-determining Indigenous Church
- To represent the authority of Indigenous identity with in the Anglican Church of Canada
In 2010, The Ven. Lydia Mamakwa, Oji-Cree, was elected area bishop for Northern Keewatin. She is the first Indigenous woman to be elected bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada. Lydia and Mark worked together to establish the Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, a new diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada. This was approved by General Synod in 2013 and Lydia was installed as the first bishop in June of 2014.
Meanwhile, in Northern Saskatchewan, the Ven. Adam Halkett (Cree), was elected area bishop of Missinipi (Northern Saskatchewan) in 2012. In both elections the traditional election process of having supporters line up behind each candidate was used.
At the General Synod of 2013, Canon 22 as amended, was also passed. This Canon solidifies the Office of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop and the ministry toward Indigenous self-determination.
In the fall of 2014, the Indigenous House of Bishop’s Leadership Circle issued the statement, “Where We Are Today: Twenty Years after the Covenant, an Indigenous Call to Church Leadership.” The statement has undergone several revisions and the current draft will be presented at the 8th Sacred Circle, “Lifted on Wings of Faith: Heeding the Indigenous Call,” in Port Elgin, Ontario. A copy of the statement may be found here.