We are very aware in our United Church of Canada that relationships with First Nations peoples need to be mended in this country. Governments and churches must provide leadership in this regard, but it is remarkable when an individual takes the steps to do so.
The CBC radio program As It Happens shared the story of Kenneth Linde, an 86-year-old retired rancher donated half his land to a B.C. First Nation. For Linde it was not so much a gift as an act of reconciliation, says Esk'etemc Chief Charlene Belleau. "When he talked with me, I thought, you know, this is reconciliation in its best form," Belleau told As It Happens host Carol Off. "He's not just talking about reconciliation; he's actually doing something about it."
According to the accompanying piece, Linde bought 260 hectares of land on the east side of the Fraser River near Alkali Lake, B.C., in 1961 and worked on it for decades.His family owns the nearby sawmill that employed many members of the Indigenous community, Belleau said, and he has long been a friend and trusted neighbour to the Indigenous community.
Belleau said that when she spoke with Linde he observed, "When I bought the land ... I paid for it. Every year since I bought the land, I've paid my taxes so I could continue to use it. But I've always, always known it's your land. I would like to give it back to you."
She goes on to say "Our ancestors, years ago, knew that our people would go through a hard time with other people — that they would take our land, that they would put us in residential schools, that they would put us in foster homes, they would incarcerate us, that we would go through very difficult times. So the Creator gave them a song and a ceremony to heal from that. So when we had this big day with Kenneth Linde on Monday and we did our declaration of title and rights, it's our children asking us to let go of everything that's happened to us in the past, to be able to be forgiving, to be stronger for what we've been through and to be able to move on into the future. Our children led the way on Monday. And it was, it was — I can't even express it, it was so, so beautiful."
This is a beautiful story of reconciliation. May there be many more.