Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Monday, July 25, 2022

Actions Speak for Themselves

a tanka sequence-in progress written in response to the Pope's 6-Day "Apology" Tour for Indigenous Abuse

the Pope apologized
during a private audience
at the Vatican
just some Catholics, not the Church
a survivor lamented 

feathered headdresses
carved walrus tusks and masks
gathering dust
in the Vatican's storage room ... 
Pope's "apology" tour starts

the Pope 
in a wheelchair guarded
by four men ...
face to face with survivors
in manual wheelchairs

Pope's apology
delivered in languages 
once forbidden
in residential schools
survivors' faces in light and shadows

with her fist up
in the simmering heat
she sings in Cree
to the tune of O' Canada ...
to rebuke Pope Francis

FYI: Associated Press, July 21: "Vatican says they're gifts; Indigenous groups want them back." 

The Vatican Museums are home to some of the most magnificent artworks in the world, from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to ancient Egyptian antiquities and a pavilion full of papal chariots. But one of the museum’s least-visited collections is becoming its most contested before Pope Francis’ trip to Canada.

Official Canadian policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also aimed to suppress Indigenous spiritual and cultural traditions at home, including the 1885 Potlatch Ban that prohibited the integral First Nations ceremony.

Government agents confiscated items used in the ceremony and other rituals, and some of them ended up in museums in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, as well as private collections.

It is possible Indigenous peoples gave their handiworks to Catholic missionaries for the 1925 expo or that the missionaries bought them. But historians question whether the items could have been offered freely given the power imbalances at play in Catholic missions and the government’s policy of eliminating Indigenous traditions, which Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called “cultural genocide.”

“By the power structure of what was going on at that time, it would be very hard for me to accept that there wasn’t some coercion going on in those communities to get these objects,” said Michael Galban, a Washoe and Mono Lake Paiute who is director and curator of the Seneca Art & Culture Center in upstate New York.

Gloria Bell, a fellow at the American Academy in Rome and assistant professor in McGill University’s department of art history and communication studies, agreed.

“Using the term ‘gift’ just covers up the whole history,” said Bell, who is of Metis ancestry and is completing a book about the 1925 expo. “We really need to question the context of how these cultural belongings got to the Vatican, and then also their relation to Indigenous communities today.”

“These pieces hold our stories,” he said. “These pieces hold our history. These pieces hold the energy of those ancestral grandmothers.”

And below is an excerpt from Pope Francis's Apology:

... I think back on the stories you told: how the policies of assimilation ended up systematically marginalizing the Indigenous Peoples; how also through the system of residential schools your languages and cultures were denigrated and suppressed; how children suffered physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse ...

I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which "many members of the Church and of religious communities co-operated," not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools ...

And The Canadian Press, July 26: "What Pope Francis left out in his words of apology to residential school survivors"

1 A revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery

2 An apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution

3 Any mention of sexual abuse — or genocide

4 A promise to release documents and artifacts

5. A commitment to reparations and compensation

And CBC News, July 29: "I couldn't stay silent," says Cree singer who performed powerful message for Pope Francis: Si Pih Ko was not reacting emotionally to the Pope’s apology, she says: she was rebuking him


the Pope preaching,
God calls us to love others...
women hold the banner
facing the congregation

FYI: FYI: CTV News, July 28: Want healing for residential school survivors? 'Rip up' the Doctrine of Discovery: activist

"Rescind the Doctrine"  was present at the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre basilica on Thursday, spelled out in bold, red letters.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a "centuries-old papal pronouncement used to justify the colonization, conversion and enslavement of non-Christians and the seizure of their lands."

And Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer, July 29: "It just feels so raw": National Chief RoseAnne Archibald reflects on the papal visit

Is there a specific moment that stood out to you on this visit?

There were many moments. Two of them involved women.

When Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson went up to the stage after the apology and started shouting: “What about the Doctrine of Discovery? Revoke the Doctrine of Discovery!” That was a powerful moment.

The other was when [Si Pih Ko] was singing a prayer song. That was a really visceral moment, and she was almost right in front of me, and I was so moved by her strength and ability to stand in that moment with such emotion but to still sing that song. I felt that was a really healing moment for her and all of us.