While reading Matthew’s gospel recently, my eyes teared up when I came across “but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”” (Matthew 19:14).
I realized that the images from my research work for Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada had not gone away. The discoveries of unmarked graves rekindled the vicarious trauma of those images. I’m not Indigenous, still, one cannot escape the realization that the triumvirate of empire, colonialism and racism made unwilling martyrs out of thousands of Indigenous children and their families. I use the term “martyr in its original meaning as “witness”, as they were witness and victims of government sanctioned cruelty just like the early martyrs of ancient Rome. But unlike the ancient martyrs, these saints remain unsung. But now, some light shines in the darkness.
Among the many making cracks in the colonial armour, allowing light to enter our consciousness three come to mind: Alanis Obomsawin, Abenaki filmmaker and activist, who work sheds light on discrimination and injustice, but also on Indigenous strength and resistance; Dr. Cindy Blackstock of the Gitxsan First Nation, works fiercely and tirelessly for the rights of current Indigenous children; and, Sleydo (Molly Wickham), an Indigenous spokesperson for the Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their allies, who struggle to preserve the health of Wet’suwet’en natural ecosystems for future generations, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
These three living saints are numbered among the innumerable unsung saints who have struggled against the injustice of empires from time immemorial. Let’s begin to remember and celebrate Unsung Saints, and by our own actions amplify the light.
Art and writing by Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie