On the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer 2016

June 21 marks the annual commemoration of the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer, established by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. In response to Call to Action #48 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz has called for a public reading of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by every parish in Canada, to be held on National Aboriginal Day or the Sunday closest. The reading should be accompanied by appropriate prayers and ceremonies in keeping with Indigenous spiritual traditions.

The Government of Canada officially adopted the UN Declaration on May 10, 2016, when Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, addressing the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations in New York City, announced that Canada was “now a full supporter of the Declaration, without qualification.” Outlining the rights of Indigenous people around the world on issues such as culture, self-determination, language, health, education, and resources, the UN Declaration provides a foundational framework for reconciliation and for securing the rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in Canada.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald writes: “While each of the articles of the Declaration is important, the guiding thread is the right to self-determination…The Anglican Church of Canada has had moments where, coming close to such a recognition, there have been steps forward towards realizing a new relationship within this understanding…Fully complying with the UN Declaration will mean more consistent and genuine progress toward lasting self-determination for the Indigenous church, in such a way that can nurture creative relationships of equity and mutuality across the whole church.”

Forty-six Indigenous representatives present a short version of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Video by Melanie Nielsen Emonet

A number of additional resources are available online to help Anglicans celebrate the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer.

In response to the Primate’s call, the Rev. Canon Greg Smith has created A Ceremony of Solidarity as a resource to parishes. The document outlines the headings of each the UN Declaration’s 46 articles pertaining to Indigenous rights, and is accompanied by a reading of the Ten Principles guiding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the mandate given by the Primate, and prayers from Indigenous Ministries resources.

Liturgical resources also include Honouring the Four Directions, a prayer resource based on the colours of the medicine wheel, and propers for the Book of Alternative Services Calendar of Memorials and Commemorations. Texts for the latter are available in English and French, Inuktitut, and Western Cree.

Finally, a key resource for setting the UN Declaration in both its historic and present-day context is the timeline “Indigenous Peoples and the Anglican Church in Canada: Timeline of an Evolving Relationship”, created by Esther Wesley, coordinator of the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation, in cooperation with the General Synod Archives, Indigenous Ministries, Public Witness for Social Ecological Justice, and Communications.

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