Diana Steinhauer says Aboriginal people gain power by drawing on their spirituality


Diana Steinhauer says Aboriginal people gain power by drawing on their spirituality.

April 4, 2016

Christian churches have wrought great wrongs upon Aboriginal people, but can work with them to provide a brighter future, says Bob McKeon.

Colonizers brought disease, poverty and enslavement, took away the land of Aboriginal people and even took some of them back to Europe, McKeon said March 19 in a session at Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert on the Doctrine of Discovery.

However, McKeon urged the 50 people at the session to look to a future of working together and learning to trust each other.

Audience members spoke of their worries about Aboriginal youth and their fears that the youth are becoming a lost generation, that they had "lost their way."

Several Aboriginal people said they realized that their parents were sent away to residential schools and not allowed to receive love and care from their own mothers and fathers. As a result, they in turn, do not know how to parent.

McKeon said in response to the past wrongs of the churches, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued calls to action to create new covenants of reconciliation and to repudiate the doctrine of discovery.


The doctrine of discovery began with a series of papal bulls immediately before and after Christopher Columbus' first trip to the Americas. The bulls gave Christian explorers unrestricted sovereignty over lands they had "discovered" as well as over they people inhabiting those lands who were described as considered "pagans" and "brute savages."

The indigenous peoples who were not converted to the Christian faith could be killed or enslaved.

However, beginning in 1537, other popes issued documents revoking the doctrine of discovery.

McKeon, former head of the social justice office of the Edmonton Archdiocese, underlined the importance of forming covenants of reconciliation which repudiate the doctrine of discovery.

A covenant, he said, is a "solemn promise before God."

He also noted Canada along with other countries supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Telling the audience that he had been a resident of Edmonton's inner city for 35 years, McKeon said he has witnessed and recognized the reality of the indigenous urban dwellers' plight. What is needed is to tackle these problems of homelessness, poverty, hunger and incarceration.


One of the first steps forward, said the social activist, is to "get in the habit of talking to each other, build trust" and tackle projects at the grassroots level.

Local Church people have been meetings with Aboriginal elders over the past five months to discover the role they can play in working towards solidarity.

McKeon urged participants at the meeting to find a spiritual partner, agree to meet again and build trust with each other.

Some at the meeting worried if the historical truths were made known to all the Aboriginal people, the fear was the young people "would just get angry." But most agreed that was a risk worth taking.

Educator and spiritual director Diana Steinhauer acknowledged the spirituality of the indigenous people, focusing on the power they could have once they link into their culture and spirituality.


Using slides in her PowerPoint presentation, Steinhauer showed how petroglyphs "write on the land" and prove the presence of the Creator. The slides also captured rock formations that appear like humans in Jasper's mountainous area.

Speaking of humanity's responsibility to care for "the birds in the air," all animals, the sacred land and seas, Steinhauer told of the teachings that tell of people of all colours gathering in "one whole circle again."

The ecumenical gathering included people from Catholic, Anglican, United Church and Lutheran churches.