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Northern light

"Northern light" Continued...

Issue: "Africa, Inc.," Oct. 10, 2009

One major goal of the Schnupps is to train aboriginal leaders to help their own people. Clair is quick to point out it is not anointing but rather affirming and helping leaders that are already there such as Noel in Coral Harbour. All of NYP's efforts, Schnupp says, have been at the request of native leaders. His philosophy is simple: "Never move ahead of their requests. Walk with them, partner with them. When they are capable let them do it." Clair remembers, "Only once in our 50 years has a native leader come and said to me 'It's time now for you to step aside; I don't need your partnership anymore.' I guess I had missed the clues that I was there too long. I admire that. We are the best of friends today." He smiles.

Cree leader Howard Jolly pastors the First Nations Alliance Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Providence Theological Seminary. The Schnupps counseled Jolly 20 years ago, and he says, "They helped me see the mercy of God for the first time." Because of his residential school experience, he "thought of God as strict and condemning. But I learned God is compassionate and we are very dear to Him."

These days Jolly addresses the topic "Embracing Your Identity" as a speaker for Rising Above, a First Nations ministry that offers hope and healing to survivors of sexual abuse. Questions of identity can be problematic for those who have felt the pain of both racism and abuse. Jolly says, "I always felt whites were better. I hated my ethnicity. That's the message of the residential schools. 'We have to raise your kids for you.'"

Jolly also says a biblical understanding of identity has helped: "The Bible says, 'The nations brought their glory to the Lord.' What do I have to bring to God that is distinctly Cree?" He can relate to the taunts to Jesus' identity: "Save yourself if you are the Son of God." But Jolly adds, "Knowledge of Jesus' real identity was what kept Him on the cross. For me, my identity is also connected to being willing to die for the glory of God."

In Coral Harbour Jackie's wife told him this was the best spring fishing trip they had ever had-less fighting, more family harmony. "We got new wives!" he jokes, knowing in full it is he that is new.
For more information on this year's Hope Award for Effective Compassion and to read profiles of other nominated organizations from this year and previous years, click here.

A devastating legacy

In order to "civilize" the Native population, both the Canadian and American governments established boarding schools for native children in the mid-19th century. The Canadian government's stated goal was to "remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures." The schools were made compulsory by the governments and run by churches-­primarily Anglican, Catholic, United Church of Canada, and Presbyterian.

In many cases children were forcibly removed from their villages and families at the age of 6-some unable to see their parents until they were teenagers. For most students these were tragic experiences. Beyond the loneliness and deprivation of parental contact, there was physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of teachers and older students. (By the 1990s 4,500 lawsuits were filed in Canada against the churches for physical and sexual abuse.) Children were punished cruelly for speaking their own languages. Living conditions were often squalid, which led to a tuberculosis epidemic. The Canadian Department of Indian Affairs reported a 24 percent death rate in residential schools at the beginning of the 20th century. Many children died without ever seeing their parents again.

In 2008 Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper made a formal apology on behalf of the Canadian government, saying, "There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail." Canada made a financial settlement in 2007 awarding former students $10,000 for their first year of attendance and an additional $3,000 for every subsequent year spent in the system. Harper acknowledged that "in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow."

Northern Youth Programs

• 1967: Year NYP founded

• $7,000: 1967 budget

• $1,250,000: 2008 budget

• 48: Full-time employees

• 17,000: Gallons of airplane fuel used in 2008

• 77: Degree latitude at northern point of NYP ministry in Greenland

• 4,044: NYP Bible study booklets completed by inmates in 2008

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