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Archives Sharing an Indigenous perspective

April 20, 2022

By Darcy Fargo

AKWESANSE – As delegations of Indigenous people planned to travel from Canada to Rome to meet with Pope Francis, Dr. Rose-Alma “Dolly” McDonald noticed an email in her inbox.

McDonald is a commisioned lay minister and communications liaison at St. Regis Mission Church.

“The subject said, ‘Globe and Mail interview,’” said McDonald. “I opened it. It was from a reporter from Toronto. He thought the media wasn’t really accurately covering the Indigenous perspective on the delegation going to Rome to meet with the pope. He wanted to interview Indigenous Catholics. I agreed to do the interview.”

While she doesn’t know for sure, McDonald said she assumes the reporter found her name online, since she has been involved in the National Healing and Reconciliation Day as well as a number of committees and organizations on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border meant to promote Indigenous inclusion in the Catholic Church.

“We talked on the phone for a couple of hours,” said McDonald. “A few days later, a photographer emailed me and wanted to get a photo. He couldn’t cross the border to get to St. Regis Mission, so we did the photo shoot in Cornwall. Later, I Googled him. It turns out, he’s a really famous photographer. He was a photographer for the Canadian prime minister, and he’s photographed people all over the world.”

The article was published in the Globe and Mail on March 24.

“The article was very balanced,” McDonald said. “Others had strong remarks about the need for an apology (regarding residential schools) and how important it is.”

McDonald explained that the delegation that traveled to Rome was made up of three separate delegations – Innuits, Metis and First Nations – representing the three types of Indigenous people in Canada.

“Each delegation presented its own issues,” she said. “Watching it, they did a really good job educating the Vatican. For three days, each delegation met with the pope individually. On the fourth day, all the delegations met together with the pope. Pope Francis made his apology on that fourth day.

"For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church," the pope told Indigenous representatives April 1, "I ask for God's forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry."

McDonald noted that she appreciates the apology, but she noted it was a long time coming.

“The pope made his apology in 2022,” she said. “The residential school system started in 1831 and ran until 1996. In the 1980s, there started to be concerns about Indigenous children being abused in residential schools. In the 1990s, there was an inquiry into the schools. The schools finally closed in 1996. It was another 10 years before the class action lawsuit against the Canadian government related to the schools. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission was established in Canada in 2008, and the federal government apologized then on behalf of the government of Canada. Then it took until 2022 for this apology.

“I’m happy the pope apologized. I’m happy the delegation went there to educate the pope, the Vatican and the universal Church about us.”

McDonald said she feels the Church needs to be more aware of Indigenous people and the issues they face and have historically faced.

“Education and awareness are needed,” she said. “We’ve been talking about residential schools and the abuses that took place for years. With the discovery of the mass graves, there’s proof that this was real. People need to be aware that this happened.”

McDonald also said she looks forward to what’s coming in the future.

“The pope said he’s going to come here, and he plans to meet with the Indigenous people,” she said. “While we would’ve liked to see this all happen 20 years ago, I’m glad it’s happening.”

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