While the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school has shocked and horrified Non-Indigenous People across the nation, for Indigenous People, such a discovery was no surprise at all.
It is estimated that 6,000 children died in Canadian residential schools. The trauma of the residential school experience has been passed down through generations and has been reawakened for survivors in the last week.
Those of us who are members of the dominant culture which has historically benefited from the subjugation of the first people living on this land, must discern and confess the sins of the past which have extended into the present.
In the 19th century, white men in power made idols of race and worshipped progress. Herbert Spencer was considered one of the great minds of the 19th century. He took Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and applied it to human society. The term “survival of the fittest” was attributed to him. In the process of social evolution, Spencer believed that human societies that couldn’t keep up would just have to die. His kind of thinking defined an outlook and was embodied in government policy.
In order for this country to be built, those in power deemed that the indigenous way of being had to be eradicated, land cleared, and track laid. If Indigenous People were to exist it could only be through a process of forced assimilation. Residential schools were part of that project. The Victorians called that progress; we now know that it was cultural genocide — a sacrifice made to the false gods of race and progress — a sin committed against people and against God. The churches, which believed they were bringing Christ to indigenous children in residential schools, were actually participating in his crucifixion.
Tragic death is not the end of the story. The future is not without hope. It is filled with promise. Scripture teaches that God is just and gracious. The victims have not and will not be forgotten by God. Jesus, the one through whom the sin of humanity is forgiven, who died and rose for all, will return and make all things new.