May 27, 2012

Archbishop adopted by Anishinaabe

Archbishop Adopted by Anishinaabe in Reconciliation GestureOver the past year, various Christian church denominations have reached out to aboriginals to make redress for the residential schools era. Now the Anishinaabe have returned the favor, adopting Roman Catholic Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg last month in a Naabaagoondiwin ceremony.

In April, Anishinaabe elders and community leaders brought Weisgerber symbolically into the tribe and called him brother, the first time such a step has been taken during the ongoing process of reconciliation between residential school survivors and the missionary churches that ran the schools.

“This is part of a long journey for me,” Weisgerber told Canadian Catholic News (CCN) after the April 14 ceremony. The process began when, as a priest in Saskatchewan, he served as pastoral minister at four of the schools, which were then called Indian reserves, CCN reported. When in 1990 he heard former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine start speaking publicly about his experiences at such a school, “I began to understand,” Weisgerber told the news service.

Fontaine and three other leaders adopted Weisgerber, CCN reported. Fontaine was joined by Tobasonakwut Kinew, an Anishinaabe elder, pipe carrier and member of the aboriginal medicine society Mideiwin; fellow Mideiwin member Fred Kelly, also an Anishinaabe elder, as well as part of the team that negotiated the Indian Residential School Agreement, and Bert Fontaine, Phil Fontaine’s brother and a leader of Sagkeeng First Nation. All of them had gone through the residential school system.
Comment:  Unlike the many reports on Johnny Depp's adoption, this article recognizes that most adoptions are symbolic. It's rare for a tribe to enroll a non-Indian as a full member.

For more on the subject, see Presbyterian Churches to Apologize to Indians, Churches Apologize for Betraying Gospel, and Catholic Churches Apologize to Menominees.

Below:  "Roman Catholic Archbishop James Weisgerber was adopted by Anishinaabe elders in a gesture of reconciliation, the first of this magnitude relating to the residential schools era."

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