REGINA — Indigenous people in the United States endured similar conditions as indigenous people in Canada — residential schools, discrimination — but in Canada we rarely hear about them. That changed a little for an audience who attended the eighth annual Campion Controversies Lecture series held in the Riffel Auditorium, Campion College University of Regina Sept. 13.
Patrick Twohy, SJ, and Christina Roberts, both of whom work with indigenous people in Washington state, described their experiences: Twohy working and living with coastal tribes and Roberts raising awareness about indigenous rights at Seattle University.
Twohy has been among coastal tribes for about 40 years. He has written two books on the life and spirituality of the coastal tribes: Finding a Way Home: Indian and Catholic Spiritual Paths of the Plateau Tribe and Beginnings: A Meditation on Coast Salish Lifeways.
He described the difficulty as he began his ministry with the coastal nations. “I knew nothing and I knew I knew nothing. I felt like a child.” His introduction to life with the tribes was for a funeral of an eight-year-old boy who had been beaten to death. “That’s how I started.”
An elder sat him down and talked him through it.
Roberts is a member of the Gros Ventre/Assinboine people, born in Butte, Montana. Her story is similar to that of people who attended residential schools.
“I didn’t know who I was. I moved to Seattle. I was lost.” She showed a few slides of her family and described some of the violence and the alcohol-fuelled problems they encountered. Her grandmother was a violent alcoholic. Roberts mother was abused and died at 46 in a fire.
Roberts works at Seattle University where she raises awareness about indigenous rights and building networks of support for Native Americans. “There is a chasm between our worlds. I hope we can come together in dialogue.” Her research areas include 19th-century American literature, Native American literature, ecofeminism and community based research.
Director of Pastoral Studies and chair of the Jesuit Vocations Committee Stephanie Molloy welcomed everyone and briefly explained the purpose of the lectures. “We looked for a way to say who the Jesuits are and how they carry out their ministries.”
The series was initiated to bring in Jesuits and their collaborators from various areas of expertise to talk about what they do and the impact they have.
Campion College president Rev. John Meehan, SJ, introduced the guest speakers and briefly described the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Local elders Noel Starblanket and Robert Bellegarde opened the evening with a prayer.