Spiritual Gathering participants greet the new National Indigenous Council.
Spiritual Gathering participants greet the new National Indigenous Council.
Photo: Sara Stratton/The United Church of Canada

Indigenous Church Establishes New Organization and Elders’ Council

Indigenous members of The United Church of Canada attending the National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering reached a consensus to create a new national Indigenous spiritual organization and have elected a new council to lead it.

Members of the new National Indigenous Council are Tonya Antone (Ontario), Beverly Brown (BC), Russel Burns (Alberta), Cathie Cunningham (Ontario), Nicky McKay (youth –Manitoba), William Miller (youth –Manitoba), John Snow (Alberta), and John Thompson (Manitoba). Samantha Miller (youth–Ontario) and Leeann Shimoda (Ontario) were named as alternates.

After the election, Elder Jim Angus prayed for the council, saying, “We are going to take our first steps in our church with authority. It’s about time.”

Delegates also acted by consensus to accept a statement from the Keewatin Circle of communities of faith, which calls for the creation of a 17th region of the United Church, an Indigenous region. The new council will be tasked with determining how the Keewatin statement will move forward. This will involve consultation with those communities of faith that were not a part of the consensus reached at Rama.

The Spiritual Gathering also saw the naming of a new National Elders Council. This council will continue to grow and provide guidance to the Indigenous church, but its initial appointees are Doreen Angus, BC; Rey Anderson, Manitoba; Jim Angus, BC; Lisa Anwar, BC; Jimmy Hunter-Spence, Manitoba; Ray Jones, BC; Lorraine Kakegamic, Manitoba; Donna Kennedy, Manitoba; Marlene Lightning, Alberta; Isabelle Meawasige, Ontario; Robert Patton, Quebec; Grant Queskekapow, Manitoba; Bernice Saulteaux, Saskatchewan; Agnes Spence, Manitoba; Lorna Standingready, Saskatchewan; and Clifford Summer, Ontario.

The Gathering concluded, as it began, in worship and ceremony. The new National Elders Council   was installed, with the All Native Circle Conference’s bundle passed to them for care. It was also a time to honour those who have brought the Indigenous church to this point, including members of the previous Council, and the Rev. Maggie Dieter, who is leaving the position of Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice at the end of August. Looking toward to the future, the Rev. Susie MacPherson-Derendy and the Rev. Mitchell Anderson led the communion liturgy with the Rev. Bernice Saulteaux.

Members of the self-determining Indigenous church are heading back to their homes, from Quebec to British Columbia. There’s much work ahead and determination to do it in a good way.

Photos of the National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering are available on the Indigenous Ministries Facebook page; daily summary videos are available on this website.