Former Keewatin bishop now chief of First Nation

Former Keewatin Bishop Gordon Beardy has a new title to add to his signature: chief. He was elected to the position by his small First Nation community last month.

Bishop Beardy stunned Anglicans in 2001 by resigning as bishop only weeks after issuing an emotional absolution to the church for its past wrongs toward native people. The absolution was delivered to the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers during a healing service at the meeting of General Synod in Waterloo, Ont.

“I forgive you,” said Bishop Beardy, who retains the title of bishop even upon retirement. “I want to forgive your church which has become my church. I forgive your people who have become my people.”

This was the second time Bishop Beardy, 52, ran for chief of Muskrat Dam, a community of about 250 members 500 km north of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. He also ran shortly after his retirement in August, 2001, but lost to then-incumbent Vernon Morris. Mr. Morris came second in a slate of three candidates in last month’s election, according to the area’s aboriginal newspaper, Wawatay News. 

Bishop Beardy did not return calls to the Muskrat Dam band office.

Bishop Beardy won the support of 54 of the 110 eligible community members who voted; Mr. Morris received 34 votes. Jason Beardy, one of Bishop Beardy’s seven children, currently serves as deputy chief.

Bishop Beardy is quoted in Wawatay News as saying that his relationship with his son will be professional during band business, “but we’re father and son out of the meetings.”

Educated through the TAIP (Train an Indian Priest) program, Bishop Beardy was ordained to the priesthood in 1992 and elected suffragan (assistant) bishop of Keewatin just a year later in 1993. He became Canada’s first aboriginal diocesan bishop in 1996 and carved a role for himself in the church as a leading voice for healing and reconciliation between native and non-native Anglicans.

In 1997, he began a 19-month, 6,500-km walk for healing of aboriginal people. The walk was intended to raise awareness about the impact of suicide and abuse in native communities and to raise funds for healing and reconciliation.


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