Recently my wife and I attended the First People’s Forgiven Summit in Ottawa. Over 4,000 First Nations, Inuit, Metis and others came from all across Canada to officially respond to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology two years ago. It was a moving three days of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing that has had a lasting impact on us.
The reason why we attended the Forgiven Summit is that we met locally with Chief Kenny Blacksmith in January 2010 at the beginning of the six-month Journey of Freedom across Canada. When Chief Blacksmith told of his having been abused in residential school and yet has found the ability to forgive, it touched me deeply. I experienced Chief Blacksmith that day as having a transparent soul. When he said that he forgave us, I experienced this forgiveness as real, deep and costly.
During this Journey of Freedom, I was invited to the Tsawwassen First Nation for a time of restoration. It became clear to me that God is doing a powerful work among the First Peoples across Canada. He is giving them beauty for ashes, and releasing the power of forgiveness in a way that is bringing life transformation.
Dr. Billy Graham once said: “The greatest moments of Native History may lie ahead of us if a great spiritual renewal and awakening should take place. The Native American has been a sleeping giant. He is awakening. The original Americans could become the evangelists who will help win America for Christ! Remember these forgotten people!”
Out of the great trauma that the First Peoples have been through, it seems that they as national gatekeepers are now leading the way in the message of reconciliation and forgiveness. Chief Kenny Blacksmith is indeed a statesman in the message that he carried all across the nation. On Canada Day, Chief Blacksmith said: “Canada in its restoration and freedom will be a healing to the nations…. I believe because Canada and the original and host peoples of this land have made significant spiritual amends through an act of forgiveness, Canada will not only take back what the enemy has stolen but it will take new land for the Kingdom of God, and it will dig new wells of revival in its restored relationships and freedom from a negative past.”
It was a great privilege at the Ottawa Forgiven Summit to stand with other Church leaders and express our repentance for the way that the Churches have let down and hurt the First Peoples, particularly with the residential schools. The joy that flowed during the Forgiven Summit was palpable.
Here is how Chief Kenny Blacksmith describes this new beginning for Canada: “On this 1st of July 2010 let us begin to dream big once again, the best of what could be for our people and nation because the Lord God is mighty!
On this 1st of July 2010 let us arise determined more than ever to design and deliver a shared improved future built on a solid rock foundation on the best of what should be, and the best of what will be – for all our people and for our nation!
Let the path of the righteous in our nation be as the first gleam of dawn shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”
Chief Blacksmith went on to say:
“Canada – Arise and shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you! Canada – this is your time of restoration. Canada – this is your time of promotion! Canada – this is your time! God bless Canada!”
I thank God for Chief Kenny Blacksmith and other First Peoples who are leading the way in the message of forgiveness.