When Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, a co-chair of the National Youth Council of the First Nations Assembly, met with Francis on Thursday, she “talked a lot about the doctrine of discovery,” she said. She asked him to withdraw the papal bull, she said, and replace it with a new formal document appreciating the indigenous people and their culture.
“We didn’t come here just to complain,” she said. “We also offered him solutions.”
“My generation didn’t go to the residential schools, but we still had the consequences,” Ms Behn-Tsakoza said. It had been hard growing up and watching older generations “struggle every day to be proud of who they are,” she said.
After meeting Francis on Thursday, Phil Fontaine, another delegate and former resident school student who, as national head of the First Nations Assembly, first traveled to the Vatican in 2009 to ask for an apology from Pope Benedict XVI. , heap. He said he felt “on the verge of finally turning the corner on this issue that has confused so many in the past”. He added: “We heard the Holy Father say to us, ‘The Church is with you,’ and that was an incredibly important statement.”
The church softened its apologies last year after three indigenous groups announced that ground-based radar had discovered signs of many hundreds of unmarked graves containing human remains, mostly those of children.
The first announcement came in May when a First Nation in British Columbia reported that a geophysical survey indicated the remains of 215 people lay across a river from the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The anthropologist who conducted the study said the size of many of the remains suggested they were children, as with the missing.
“The eyes of the world have been on us all week, in part because of what happened in Kamloops,” said Mr Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations. “The news of the discovery went around the world and I am convinced that at that time the Church had nowhere else to go to continue with us.”
Gerald Antoine, Dene’s national chief, said Canada’s indigenous people looked forward to receiving “the Holy Father Holy Father in full, and we hope this will open a measure of trust, dignity and respect for all those people who have disadvantaged.”