From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Assembly of Indigenous People Pushes Self-Determination

Date 06 May 1996 06:10:30

Canon James M. Rosenthal, Director of Communications
Anglican Communion News Service
157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UT, England
Tel. 44 0171 620-1110
Fax 44 0171 620-1071

#733 ACC 

Assembly of Indigenous People Pushes Toward Self-Determination

(ENS-Episcopal News Service) Anglican representatives of the
Anglican Indigenous Network gathered in Alaska in September to
further their dreams of self- determination for their peoples.

Aboriginals of Australia and Torres Strait islanders joined the
Maori of Aotearoa, New Zealand, to journey the diagonal breadth of
the Pacific Ocean to a primal forest in Alaska to meet native
Hawaiians and First Nation Peoples of Canada and the United States

The wide-ranging agenda addressed concerns of the international body
of indigenous Anglicans, including a call for an indigenous training
centre in North America to preserve and nurture indigenous culture.
The centre would have regional sites in Canada and the United

"It's education, education, education," said Bishop Whakahuihui
Vercoe of the non-geographic bishopric of Aotearoa, with
jurisdiction over the Maori of New Zealand. "In Aotearoa we defined
education as the most necessary thing for the Maori to survive," he
said. The efforts at passing on indigenous culture, he said, have
encouraged strong growth in the indigenous Church in New Zealand.

The final consensus statement also endorsed establishing a "national
indigenous bishop" and regional bishops in Canada that would support
the concept of a non-geographical province for indigenous people in
North America. Support also was given to creating a native Hawaiian
episcopate, and for appointing indigenous bishops in Carpentaria and
North Queensland episcopal regions of Australia and Torres Straits.

"It took us 17 years to get where we are," said Bishop Vercoe in
encouraging other regions that do not enjoy the same autonomy as the
Maoris. "Exercise patience in your 'journey to self-determination.'"

Bishop Steven Charleston of Alaska voiced frustration with progress
for indigenous people in the United States. In intensive
restructuring caused by financial shortfalls in the national Church,
the Episcopal Council of Indian Ministries (ECIM) was nearly
scuttled in 1994. The council was rescued following Bishop
Charleston's appeal to General Convention, but reduced in size.

Indigenous people have been able to move forward in Canada, reported
Bishop Gordon Beardy, suffragan bishop of Keewatin. "How can native
people relate to the Church, to the Creator and to our people?" he
asked. "We want partnership. This partnership is not now a reality
in Canada, but there are new and more options now, and we hope to
realise a new model in two to three years. We want to be real

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