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   On February 21, 2023 the Tseshaht First Nation shared information concerning the  Phase 1 scanning of part of the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) grounds and 17 unmarked graves. AIRS was run by the United Church from 1925-1969.  

We hold in prayer the families and communities of the children and survivors. United Church Moderator Carmen Lansdowne offers this prayer for the non-Indigenous Church after the Phase 1 results from Tseshaht First Nation:  

Creator, You, in whom we live and move and have our being, You created the universe and everything in it, in the fullness of your time, which is so vast it is difficult for us to comprehend. We, your children, caught up in the busy-ness of life, often forget there is always space and time. Always. We continue to be held to account for or the ongoing legacy of the United Church’s role in colonization and the operation of residential institutions – the so-called “schools” Today we are held accountable specifically for our operation of the Alberni institution in the traditional territory of the Tseshaht (c̓išaaʔatḥ) First Nation, and that impacted so many other communities up and down the coast This is difficult work – the messiness of repentance can be hard to do, and we may feel tempted to rush. There is no rush – Only your time Your healing We ask for your peace that surpasses all human understanding The peace required to sit with uncomfortable news The peace required to let our emotions come to the surface The peace required to own our own reactions and not to burden Indigenous peoples with them The peace required to respond, in due time, with humility and accountability The peace and space for Indigenous peoples, inside and outside of the church, to offer their prayers and seek healing in the ways that are most meaningful to them We ask you for the grace to create breathing space To center the reality that children lost are not statistics To pray for affected family members and communities of the lost ones To listen to Indigenous peoples, especially the Tseshaht (c̓išaaʔatḥ) First Nation and other communities affected by the Alberni residential institution To, when asked, take their direction on what is the next right thing to address the deaths To make amends when we make mistakes, and to know we will always make mistakes To continue to be present to our history and committed to a future where we acknowledge the worth and dignity of all To remember this is one step at the beginning of a journey – that the deaths confirmed and possible graves found is just one piece of information, and will not be the final numbers; we may never know the final numbers. We ask for your healing touch Fill our lungs with breath Breath that grants your peace Because every child matters. In the name of the one who came to teach us to reconcile, Amen  

Contact: Lori Ransom, Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice Animator, Indigenous Ministries, The United Church of Canada.