Monday, March 6, 2023

Book Review: Our Home And Treaty Land

Our Home And Treaty Land: Walking Our Creation Story

Authors: Raymond Aldred & Matthew Anderson

Publisher: Wood Lake Publishing Inc., paperback, 186 pages, including: The Authors & This Book, Prefaces, Appendices, Notes, Bibliography, and Acknowledgements

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

The Authors

Rev. Dr. Raymond Aldred is status Cree (Nêhiyawak) from Swan River Band, Treaty 8. Ray is the director of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Vancouver School of Theology and is ordained with the Anglican Church of Canada. He travels nationally and internationally giving talks on restoring or pursuing right relations, including our relationship with land. His passion is to help as many as possible hear the gospel in their heart language. Together, Ray and his wife Elaine have also helped train people to facilitate support groups for those who have suffered abuse.

Rev. Dr. Matthew R. Anderson is from Treaty 4; he is a settler-descended biblical scholar who teaches New Testament Studies and Pilgrimage Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec and at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He was recently appointed Director of Camino Nova Scotia at the Atlantic School of Theology and is an ordained Lutheran Pastor. Matthew podcasts at Pilgrimage Stories from Up and Down the Staircase, and blogs at and He also teaches about the notion of the Commons or the “right to roam.” This reviewer and Matthew were members of the same Lutheran congregation many years ago. 

This volume is dedicated to the memory of the thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families and never made it home.

The format of this book is that of a settler-descended/Indigenous dialogue—with Rev. Dr. Aldred beginning with a chapter, and Rev. Dr. Anderson responding with a chapter. Altogether the work consists of 18 chapters. 

Brief Observations

According to Rev. Dr. Raymond Aldred, “Treaty means that your identity is bigger than just you (p. 8).” He states that those who signed Treaty in the late 19th century thought ahead seven generations. Journeying on the land connects one with one’s ancestors and grandchildren. 

Professor Aldred in his Preface speaks of both Indigenous peoples and settler-descended Canadians living in exile because of colonization. Then he states the purpose of this book: “This book is about “being alive well,” or “journeying well,” for settler-descended Canadians, in relation to us Indigenous people (p. 9).” 

Rev. Dr. Aldred then introduces three Cree words. Pimâcihowin, meaning journeying and related to health-well-being, and it also refers to “living” and “culture.” Pimâcihowin is also linked to Indigenous wisdom and knowledge, and hence philosophy and theology—thus this word has a lot of baggage.

The Cree word “askîhk” is “land,” and means all of Creation.

The word wâhkôhtowin means living life in relation with every one and everything, it is “kinship relationality.” Land is shared and viewed as public space. Hence the European understanding of land ownership is foreign to Indigenous peoples. For Indigenous peoples the land is sacred, therefore all relationships on the land are to be sacred.

According to Rev. Dr. Anderson, oftentimes when settler-descended people like himself speak of their identity, they refer to themselves as Norwegian (etc.) Canadians, rather than being born and raised on Treaty land. 

It was on walking pilgrimages “...that eventually led (Rev. Dr. Anderson) to meeting, listening to, and learning from Indigenous activists, scholars, artists and friends, including Rev. Dr. Aldred, Richard Kotowich, and Louise Skydancer Halfe (p. 17).” His walking pilgrimages were mostly on Treaty 6 and Treaty 4 lands. 

Professor Anderson’s main purpose in co-writing this volume is stated as follows: “My part of this book is intended for others, like me, who seek right relationships to the land and to its original peoples, but don’t quite know how to begin (p. 21).” Professor Anderson also provides references to resources that can help settler-descendants to join Indigenous Peoples on water walks and walks that highlight missing murdered Indigenous women and girls, and two-spirited persons. 

According to Rev. Dr. Aldred: “Canada only exists because of the Treaties that First Nations made with Newcomers (p. 27).”

Treaties involved Sweetgrass or Smudging Ceremonies, which are extremely important for Indigenous peoples in relation to non-Indigenous peoples. In the Treaties, there are three Indigenous rights: i) peaceful existence in the land; ii) access to the land; iii) sharing the wealth of the land. According to Professor Aldred, the Treaties are sacred covenants between two peoples and the Creator, and should be renewed every year. 

Rev. Dr. Anderson refers to “settler realization” and “intentional forgetfulness.” According to Professor Anderson, “settler realization” involves facing facts—not living in denialism because it makes us uncomfortable, forgetting the responsibility of Canadians to the Treaties. Many, perhaps most Canadian families—including Anderson’s—never talked about the Treaty covenants. Tragically, non-Indigenous Canadians have all benefitted from the exploitation, oppression, and failure to honour the Treaties.

Professor Anderson recommends several resources—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—that Canadians can learn from. He then, in confessional style, names many of the non-Indigenous sins committed against Indigenous peoples—followed by a reference to repentance, and the pilgrimage toward justice. 

Rev. Dr. Aldred cites two examples of Jesus coming to meet Indigenous Elders and a prophet named Bini or Benny. Jesus revealed to them that the Europeans were coming prior to their arrival. 

Rev. Dr. Anderson provides an insightful interpretation of Mark 10:17-22, Jesus’s encounter with the rich person. He notes that the story begins with Jesus “setting out on a journey,” which most likely involved walking. He suggests one of the most important points of the story is God calling us to be unsettled. Based on his and Professor Sara Terreault’s experiences of meeting a Mohawk leader and organizing group trips for university students for walks from Old Montreal to the Mohawk Territory—Professor Anderson offers wise advise on how to get to know Indigenous peoples and how to organize events with Indigenous educators. What to do, and not to do. 

Professor Anderson, at times, sounds like a Hebrew Bible prophet, citing a litany of unjust Canadian government policies toward Indigenous peoples, which have caused them enormous sufferings. He also appeals to us non-Indigenous Canadians to respectfully listen to and learn from Indigenous history and stories. 

Rev. Dr. Aldred shares an Indigenous creation story, then appeals to settler-descended Canadians to search their hearts and repent for breaking the Treaties. He is hopeful, that in the future: “As we move toward proper relatedness, we can find—we fill find—an affirming freedom, and equality, for all people (p. 159).” 

Both of the Appendices are very helpful, as their titles suggest: “Resources for Starting Out,” and “Calls to Action #s 48, 49, 59, and 60, from Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission.” There is also an extensive, 7 page Bibliography. 

All settler-descended Canadians would benefit from reading this volume. Hopefully it will become a required resource for Indigenous Studies courses. Highly recommended!


Matthew said...

Thanks so much for this review, "Dim Lamp"! I've noted your review and amplified it on my own blog here: I really appreciate you taking the time to review the book!

Dim Lamp said...

You are welcome, and thank you for co-writing this most significant, and in some respects, I think, ground-breaking work. Thanks to for providing readers with your link. Shalom.

Pointe Saint Charles said...

Yup, the book is an honourable undertaking. Unfortunately, reality shows us that things are still very "unsettled" in Canada. I think particularly of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their battle with Coastal Gaslink. The Ring of Fire? And so on. Colonialism continues in Canada albeit the gun has been replaced by the almighty buck.

Dim Lamp said...

True. It will take some time to improve Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationships. Hopefully, with books like this, and people of good-will, who work for the common good of everyone, eventually there will be more favourable peaceful, just, and reconciled relationships.