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Fall 2014 · Vol. 43 No. 2 · pp. 213–227 

Following the Road to Oz: Christian Mission in Mishkeegogamang First Nation

Deanna Zantingh

The road winds for miles through the sea of tall birch, pine, and poplar trees, amidst thousands of lakes speckling the landscape. I wonder at first if I have entered a time warp, beginning to feel as I imagine Dorothy did as she set out to follow the yellow brick road to Oz. As the yellow pavement lines whiz by beneath the tires of my car, I am reminded that I too am stumbling to Oz down a road marked by yellow. I am headed to Mishkeegogamang First Nation, affectionately referred to as “Oz,” the short form of the Hudson Bay Company’s trading post “Osnaburgh House” established there in 1786. 1

A postcolonial mission rejects as a lie the notion that Christianity looks like a particular culture, a particular people, or a particular way of life.

Though I have now entered and exited “Oz” many times, I remain on a journey to understand all the influences and struggles that have shaped the lives of my friends here in this community. It is this story I’d like most to share with you, a story of a friendship that has dared me to ask questions about my own Christian story in ways I never could have anticipated.

The history of Christian mission among Native North Americans, as well Indigenous peoples around the world, is a story of paradox. It consists {214} of inspiring stories of people who truly lived out the call of Christ, and at the same time (and sadly too often) appalling stories of Christian participation in oppression, violence, abuse, and utter disregard for human dignity that embody the very antithesis of Christ’s church. For this reason, Christian mission may be said to have provided both good medicine and bad to Indigenous communities. While missionaries sincerely believed they were bringing good news, many Indigenous peoples received their message as bad news. Christian missionaries took their own (particular) prescription and assumed it must be the cure for the ills of all Indigenous communities. The main side effect of this inappropriate prescription has been widespread illness in both Indigenous communities and churches.

Regardless of one’s denominational affiliation or race, in North America we are all shaped by the impact of colonial Christian mission. This story is still too much with us and necessitates that we begin to dissect the attitudes and actions surrounding Christian mission in order to find truthful answers to certain key questions: What did/does colonial Christian mission look like? What were/are the impacts of colonial Christian mission upon Indigenous communities? How might an understanding of that mission as bad medicine help us shape a postcolonial understanding of mission capable of moving us to embrace a truly good medicine? Can we rediscover the Good Medicine that moves both Indigenous communities who experienced harm and the church that inflicted harm, toward mutual healing? Can we seek Mino-Pimatisiwin together? 2


Mishkeegogamang offers a unique perspective on Christian mission because, due to its remote location, virtually no missionaries came to the Osnaburgh House area until around 1870. 3 So the direct impacts of Christian mission are less than 150 years old, even though the first contact between white traders and the Ojibway of Northern Ontario occurred in the 1600s. 4 As in other nearby communities, the earliest missionaries to Osnaburgh House were Anglicans, because they were favored by the Hudson Bay Company which “owned” the region. 5 Oz is situated approximately five hundred kilometers north of Thunder Bay and is home to Mishkeegogamang Ojibway Nation (also known as Indian Reservations 63A and 63B).

Traditionally the people of Mish traveled over large areas of the land with the changing seasons. They lived in family clans of twenty to thirty people and, prior to the signing of Treaty No. 9, were not a cohesive group. Treaty No. 9 was presented to 350 Native people who happened to be at the trading post at the same time. Daniel Missabay, a blind man and respected leader, was chosen to speak on their behalf. Treaty No. 9 was signed by {215} him when he was promised by treaty commissioners that the Ojibway way of life—living on traditional lands and hunting and fishing as they had always done—would not be in any way compromised by the treaty. 6 One of the treaty commissioners was a man named Duncan Campbell Scott. Now remembered as a poet, Scott is also infamous for his development of the Indian Residential School system.

A 1934 document titled “Religious Affiliation of Osnaburgh House Indians,” issued by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, reports that the community consisted of 430 Anglicans, 66 Catholics, and 137 pagans. The wording of the report implies that the religion of all non-Christian people in the community was contemptible, hence the urgency of converting “Indians” to Christianity. A statement from the Department of Indian Affairs regarding “Osnaburgh Indians” (also issued in 1934) makes clear that churches were in general agreement with the state’s project of civilizing the population: “The greater number of the members of this band are Anglicans, the remainder being Roman Catholics, and a few pagans who are easily distinguished from the Christian Indians by their dirty faces and long hair, uncombed.” 7 To become Christian was to cease to be Indian not only in belief but even in appearance. It was to step up out of a “fallen” and depraved state, and into a “Christian” identity that included being clean-faced, clean-cut, and well-groomed. Even Mennonite missionaries in this part of Ontario connected faith with appearance. 8

By the 1940s and ’50s an Anglican minister preached regularly in Oz. Later, a Catholic church was also constructed there. When lightning burnt it down, the Catholic Bishop commissioned an Ojibway man to rebuild it. The man completed the project and waited to be paid. The Bishop told him he would receive his reward in heaven. 9

Eventually a village was established on the other side of the lake, allowing people to live nearer to the recently constructed Highway 599 (a project, initiated by mining corporations, that proceeded without consulting the community or the treaty). A new Anglican church was soon built in the village. Sometime later, the community was visited by a Mennonite missionary who eventually started a mission there. 10

In the 1950s many community members were subjected to the government- and church-run Residential School system. It was the brainchild of Duncan Campbell Scott, then the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs. It was his view that Indians were a problem to be solved, and that the solution to that problem was their “absorption into the general population.” 11 Government-funded residential schools, where children would unlearn their native language and traditional ways and instead learn English and sound Christian morals, were the means by which the government sought to achieve that goal. And churches, intent on missionizing but low on {216} funding, were its willing administrators. 12 Thus, education to turn Indians into citizens of the state was adopted by churches as a means of also turning them into citizens of heaven.

Many in the Osnaburgh community lived in the bush more often than not, and so escaped the school system for many years. But eventually many children were forced to enter the schools. Jeff L. of Mishkeegogamang shared with me his experience of returning home from Residential School and his struggle to communicate. Prohibited from speaking Ojibway by his teachers, he lost much of his knowledge of his mother tongue. He told me, “even now sometimes I don’t catch things . . . [My partner] has to explain to me [Ojibway] words I don’t know.”

Mishkeegogamang’s current chief, Connie Gray-McKay, spoke to me of her Residential School experience in Pelican Falls. Suffice it to say she only spent a year there before going into hiding in the bush with her grandparents. The same school, now under First Nation administration, operates as a high school for Indigenous youth. Today, Chief Gray-McKay’s daughter attends the very school where many once experienced traumas that have drastically affected their community and their youth.

The 1960s marked the solidifying of a cohesive community in their new locations around the highway. People began to occupy houses year-round where formerly they had travelled in and out of the bush, living off the land. The timing of this settlement coincided with the beginning of the system of government pensions and social assistance. The proceeds of hunting, fishing, and trapping paled in comparison to government handouts, and so began generational cycles of dependency. 13

During the 1970s and ’80s, social problems in the community connected with drug and alcohol abuse had spiraled out of control. The people were not used to living together year-round in large groups, and lack of employment paired with government social assistance introduced drastic changes into community life. Children who grew up in Residential School returned with so little knowledge of their language or culture that in some cases communicating with their own parents was nearly impossible. Many children were removed from their families because parents could not cope with sons and daughters who were strangers to them. At the close of the 1980s, the community had experienced such a radical breakdown that all non-Native ministers and missionaries were asked to leave. 14

In 2000, three churches operated in the community. Today, only one church remains, but non-Native Christians are again allowed entry. The House of Prayer holds Sunday services led by a non-Native pastor whose message follows the colonial principle that people must be taught they are fallen before they can be taught that God saves them. Presently, the residents of Oz may identify themselves as belonging to a particular {217} denomination, even though their church buildings are gone and their priests or ministers no longer reside there. It is noteworthy that much of what is known about the history of various churches associated with Oz is recorded as statistics and numbers, a telltale sign of the nature and goal of Christian mission in the area.

The mission trend these days is “short-term missions.” Groups of evangelically-minded people come for short periods to run tent meetings, church services, or “Vacation Bible School.” In my time in Mish I have heard some shockingly sad things preached from the pulpit, yelled in a tent meeting, or declared boldly as sin with no regard for the cycles of trauma that have devastated this community. Despite evangelists’ extravagant claims of revival, healing, and movements of the Holy Spirit, the community sinks ever deeper into despair. Wave after wave of grief, oppression, and violence from earlier trauma, neo-colonial government, and thoughtless mission activity have taken an awful social, economic, and spiritual toll.

There are major differences in the community as to which to follow: Traditional ways or Christian ways. The younger generation struggles when told that the fascinating traditions of their ancestors are evil and should be spurned. At the same time the Christian message most frequently heard in the community is, “You are a terrible depraved sinner worthy only of hell until God rescues you.” The people of Mishkeegogamang do not need preachers to tell them how depraved God thinks they are—their lives and their experience as a nation have been badly problematized by both government and church. Both have attempted to force them to change from what they are as Ojibway people into something else. The message “You are a sinner and need Jesus” will always be received as bad medicine.


It was not actually a tornado as it was for Dorothy, but a wildfire that shook my world up as it ripped through Northern Ontario my first summer in Oz. While handing out relief supplies, I met Elmer, a Traditionalist, who told me that for all the good medicine his people know, there is also bad medicine that one should be careful of. As we discussed tensions on the reserve between Christianity and Traditionalism, he shared with me that his mother was a Christian who also practiced Aboriginal traditions. By the end of the conversation, I lamented the harm done to his people in the name of Jesus and assured him that Jesus had nothing to do with it. Elmer paused and spoke words I promised myself I would never forget: “So you’re saying that just as my people have good medicine and bad medicine, Christianity might have good medicine and bad medicine too?” {218}

Missionary Christianity is like the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man: they all lacked something they needed to reach Oz. Dorothy’s friends eventually found what they needed. But has the church? The church participated both actively and as a quiet accomplice of the state in compromising Indigenous identity and oppressing Indigenous communities in ways that still reverberate. Colonialism is not only a Christian problem, but it is a problem that remains entangled in our Western Christian narrative and worldview.

At least five main factors have contributed to the formation of a colonial Christian mission paradigm.

1. Marriage of church and state

The marriage of church and state encouraged the assumption, unquestioned by many, that Christian political leaders and their programs were above criticism. Even more dangerous, it allowed churches to suppose that its values and commitments were consistent with government social engineering programs and therefore worthy of their support. Thus, “the Canadian government saw in the churches a fit and willing partner in this colonial project of assimilation,” precisely because they shared general European cultural norms, were religiously zealous, and sought to proselytize. 15 Catholic, Protestant, and even Anabaptist denominations enthusiastically set out to save Indigenous people—and then helped build the oppressive state that has crushed the spirit and culture of Aboriginal peoples. 16

But this collaboration also affected the souls of Europeans who settled on First Nations lands. Missionary Christianity played a prominent role in “the legitimization of oppressive colonial power, and [holds an] ongoing capacity to blind settlers to the violence and injustice that grounds their present state-sanctioned privileges.” 17 Many settler peoples live in prosperity today because the church forgot the true meaning of the gospel and atrociously declared, “Make the savage a Christian and he will settle peacefully on reserves. Teach him the scriptures and he will give up his claim to the land that we require.” 18 This is a “gospel” that is bad news, a “Christianity” that is non-Christian, a “medicine” that causes plagues.

2. Sin and salvation

What does it mean to experience salvation? The Ojibway had no directly corresponding word in their language, but they had a concept of “good life,” which they closely connected with being in harmony with the life force that flowed through all things. If they had had a concept of sin, it would likely have been narrated as the brokenness that occurs when one doesn’t live with respect toward all of creation, toward all things animated by the life force. The Christian missionaries who came to save the Ojibway, {219} on the other hand, required them to accept a distinctively Western Christian understanding of sin: all humans (perhaps especially Native peoples) are inherently sinful, bound for hell, and thus in need of saving. 19 And because missionaries typically expected Aboriginals to give up many of their traditional ways and accept Western ways when they became Christian, Indigenous identity became associated with a fallen and sinful nature. Salvation from sin meant, among other things, becoming more missionary-like and less Indigenous. Such a soteriology effectively defined personal worth and community by what one chose to do, believe, or follow. 20 The Christian emphasis on practice (namely, Western cultural practice), meant that who belongs to the church and who belongs outside of it is easily determined, quite apart from the life force people in both camps share. The sharp distinction between insiders and outsiders led Aboriginal people to the new concept of “the secular other,” which divided their communities sharply along religious and cultural lines.

3. Christ and culture

Our inherited understanding of mission employs a model of outreach that reflects our cultural values and imposes them on others with little, if any, regard for their culture. This came about because we viewed our culture (including our political culture) as Christian and therefore superior to all others. “Christian” came to mean “white”— clean, prosperous, civilized, well-mannered, hardworking, and patriotic. But when the state is considered Christian, its violence is soon understood as God-ordained violence and thus deserving of Christian support. The church begins to live by the same story as empire and seeks to submerge all difference into sameness. Christianity becomes monocultural. The Apostle Paul critiqued exactly this phenomenon and offered an alternative vision: the peace of Christ is for “Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free”—a stark alternative to the Pax Romana that absorbs difference into empire.

4. Alienation from the earth

A prominent difference between Indigenous North Americans and those who emigrated here from Europe was how they regarded the earth. Many First Nations communities have stories of land covenants with the Creator which outline how they are to care for the earth, 21 but the notion of land ownership was unknown to them when explorers landed on the continent. By contrast, European countries had a Doctrine of Discovery from the fifteenth century on. It gave Christian explorers the right to lay claim to any land they “discovered” for their Christian monarchs, 22 and laid out the conditions under which land could be seized from inhabitants who were {220} non-Christians. Robert Miller notes that Native people’s “loss of property and sovereignty rights was justified . . . by ‘the character and religion of its inhabitants . . . the superior genius of Europe . . . [and] ample compensation to the [Indians] by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity.’ ” 23 Similarly, the legal concept, terra nullius, justified the taking of land by declaring it “empty land”—a commodity free for the taking “if it is not occupied by white Christians.” 24 The misery visited upon Indigenous peoples forced to abandon lands that had long sustained them is well documented and continues substantially unchanged.

5. Christian superiority

Instead of subverting the concept of status as Jesus did when he said “the last shall be first,” most missionaries assumed that to be Christian meant being superior to non-Christians. This is evident in the above-mentioned Doctrine of Discovery, but also in the idea of Manifest Destiny: the belief that America was a special nation, a “chosen people,” blessed by God and destined to rule the world. 25 Similarly, the principle of sola Scriptura unintentionally suggested that those without the Holy Scriptures were spiritually ignorant. The (non-biblical) dichotomy of special and general revelation further demotes knowledge of God learned through the created order to a subordinate rank. The truth is, while Indigenous cultures may not have known Jesus, they had a deep contextual knowledge of who God is. As Heinrichs and Hiebert point out, it is a “common theme of many stories and teachings that all knowledge and wisdom comes from the Creator. People learn[t] this knowledge in various ways . . . through visits to earth by spirit beings, fasting and vision quests.” 26

Sadly, Christian settlers did not hesitate to treat the inhabitants of “their” promised land as Israel did the Canaanites and Amalekites. 27 This superiority both relegated Aboriginal worldview, knowledge, spirituality, and ultimately life, to an inferior status and also created a form of Christian mission unable to perceive the profound spirituality of Indigenous peoples. Consider, for example, the Anishinaabe word for life: Pimaatiziwin. Fred Kelly beautifully elucidates this term:

Its meaning is more than mere existence in a chronological progression of time. It is perfect, and it is intrinsically connected to Kizhemanito, the Great Spirit—the maker of all things. Therefore, like the Creator, life has no beginning and no end—everything that ever was continues to be, and everything that will ever be already exists in spirit. Pimaatiziwin, then, is the completeness and totality of creation itself imbued with the spirit of the Creator. 28 {221}

Never have we more desperately needed to understand how our modern view of mission devalues Indigenous worldviews, and what we miss when that happens. 29


Dorothy’s ruby slippers are capable of returning her to the comforts of home. Indigenous communities like Oz have no access to ruby slippers; there are no easy answers to the complex problems they face. I, however, do own ruby slippers, ready to transport me to the comfort I once enjoyed, unaware of the oppression I am part of. I throw out the slippers because there is an urgent need to embark on the long and painful process of truth-telling and self-examination. As Dave Diewert observes, for true reconciliation between Native and non-Native peoples, “Christian settlers must confront Christianity’s role in colonization, past and present. We must interrogate our theological traditions, critique the ideologies that support and justify political and economic domination, and inculcate new modes of thought and practice in the pursuit of justice.” 30

Isn’t it ironic that Dorothy’s house lands on the wicked witch without her wickedness ever actually being confirmed? It reminds me of the way settler people immediately saw in Native peoples a repulsive difference which they tried to erase by imposing their culture on them.

A rediscovery of what the church once cast as pagan, depraved, and evil is necessary and already underway. And as the church moves toward a postcolonial paradigm, it will be led largely by those who were colonized. We need to hear the voices capable of recasting the very story of Christianity that colonized them. 31 I need to hear the voices of Jeff L. and Connie-McKay, both of whom hold to good medicine amidst the destructive effects of bad medicine.

My time in Oz has taught me what features a postcolonial missiology must have.

Takes responsibility

Far and wide, the Christian church has made grave mistakes in its approach to missionizing Indigenous people. This means that the foundational step towards a postcolonial missiology must be apologizing for the harm done by our practice of mission. And then we must immediately work to rethink what true mission entails. 32 The Christian church is not alone in needing to offer wholehearted apologies with tangible evidences of sincerity, but its guilt is substantial enough to justify those apologies and serious efforts to make amends. {222}


Postcolonial Christian mission shuts up, refuses to believe it has all the answers, and will not assume superiority over its hosts. Listening to the stories of those who have been oppressed by people, systems, churches, and governments is a profoundly Christian act. Few people have truly listened to the stories of First Nations people. I’m convinced that if Jesus came back today, we would find him listening on the reservations of North America.

Listening attentively to Indigenous people before acting on our ideas of what they need also abolishes paternalistic attitudes and creates space for real partnership. Indigenous people have something to teach us. Perhaps the inverse is also true, but the true beauty is that through listening, we participate in becoming something better together than we could be apart.

Affirms traditional identity and culture

This one is simple: the new Christian mission seeks to support the recovery and affirmation of cultural and traditional identity, knowledge, and understanding. Of course there will be some aspects of Traditional cultures it will want to ask questions about. But Christian mission should not rush to “critique.” Until it has a deep understanding of how traditional knowledge functions in Native cultures and appreciates its benefits as well as its problems, its criticisms are likely to be well wide of the mark. Of course it must not be reckless, but postcolonial mission remains ever conscious that difference is a gift, that Indigenous culture is not inherently antagonistic to Christian faith, and that it can deepen faith in surprising ways.

Reconnects with the earth & the Spirit’s work

A postcolonial mission acknowledges that “land is life.” 33 This principle is recognized not only in the Old Testament, 34 but also in humanity’s lived experience on the land. The new mission advocates reconnecting to the earth in all the ways that empire teaches us to disconnect from it. It knows that land is gift, and its narratives affirm that “humanity does not have dominion over the earth, but rather a great responsibility to live on the earth respectfully and cooperatively.” 35

Likewise, postcolonial mission affirms that God and his Spirit were at work long before Europeans arrived in North America. In Oz, traditional religion was called Midewiwin—the way of the heart. And as in many Indigenous communities, “everything was structured towards becoming a human being.” 36 Personal and community survival were known to depend on spiritual strength: prayers, vision quests, and hearing the voice of God. 37 {223}

Resists oppression

Postcolonial Christian mission resists the continuing oppression of people and earth. Mission, as a movement toward reconciliation, must be the collective rediscovery of the story of Christ and a driving force in exposing the wrongs that this alternative story highlights. Christian mission means retelling all our stories of violence, greed, separation, disconnection, and racism in ways that promote justice, healing, and reconnection. It means creating space for voices who have experienced violence through what was supposed to be the story of peace. It means considering the possibility that we who are missionaries may need redeeming, may need to invite those we have harmed to come and teach us.


Fortunately, there are vibrant examples of the church at work in good ways. Sister Magdalene worked in the Osnaburgh area in the early decades of the 1900s. Sensitive to the sufferings of the Natives, she sent letters to the King of England pleading for his help in relieving the poverty in which the bands were living. 38 Her understanding of the gospel put compassion and mercy at the center of her missionary work.

My friend Elmer’s mother was both a Christian and a Traditionalist. I wonder if she doesn’t represent the truer form of Christian mission we see exhibited in Black Elk, a renowned Lakota Catholic leader. Black Elk did not view Christianity and Tradition as rivals, but rather as parts of a cohesive identity. His Christian faith made him a stronger Lakota, providing him with a narrative that helped him resist colonial powers by speaking out against the oppression of his people. It was his view that the Christian story continued the story his people had been telling since time immemorial. In Mishkeegogamang, James Masakeyash, a distinguished elder who lived to be 104, played a similar role. He taught people the importance of listening to the Creator, and encouraged them “to pray in their own language and to pray just like they talk to people.” 39

Lastly, my peacebuilding trickster friend Destani recently told me of the time she invited a Traditional medicine man and an Anglican clergyman to the same dinner table without telling either that the other was invited. Destani saw that these two needed to sit down together before healing could begin. Destani is one of the strongest women I know and witnesses to a mode of being that resists a “Christian versus Ojibway” dualism. I hope her growth as a Christian continues to strengthen her Ojibway worldview and gifts, and that she resists the colonial “Christian” narrative that demands she give up her cultural identity to follow Jesus. {224}


This article may raise alarms, possibly the panic one might feel when facing a troop of wild monkeys on broomsticks. It may illicit fears that I’m advocating syncretism or proposing that the church accept without question all Indigenous cultural practices and worldviews. This is not my intent. Rather, I hope to allow us space to see that not everything about a strange culture should be considered utterly evil. Cultural syncretism is a major concern to me. I am just more concerned that the syncretistic practices of much of the Western church may continue to go unrecognized. Ironically, the voices of our Indigenous siblings may help us see where we have let a culture of greed, wealth, and comfort worm its way into our understanding of how we should live before God. All expression of Christian faith takes place within a culture, so culture does not threaten Christ. Rather, Christ’s body both creates room to see the beauty of our difference and also allows us space to critique and transform cultural perspectives and practices in our particular contexts.

A second criticism may be that my account of the role of Christian churches in the damage done to North American Indigenous peoples is too harsh. Modern interpretations of colonialism far too readily place full blame on Christianity, heralding it as the evil that drove colonial forces to oppress Indigenous communities around the globe. I hope it is clear that I do not buy into this myth. I do, however, believe the church’s story has been co-opted to legitimate oppressive colonial power. But just because Christianity is not inherently oppressive does not excuse us from the responsibility to understand how our story continues to be co-opted and reframed in destructive ways. I honestly want to know: How does the church still join hands with government for its own benefit but does not question it on behalf of those who are stuck in systems of oppression and injustice? We must understand how our good intentions to bring healing medicine can lead to actions that make people sick.


The paradigm of Christian mission among Indigenous North Americans has shifted, but it must continue to do so. Currently, Indigenous communities battle through cycles of trauma, addiction, and dependency. But simultaneously, the gospel remains an affront because the message that has taken root in Indigenous communities still often names Indigenous culture and personhood as evil, or at least pagan. Ironically, a postcolonial Christian mission will reaffirm the dignity and beauty of Indigenous culture and dispel the lie that one cannot be both a Christian and Indigenous. A postcolonial mission rejects as a lie the notion that Christianity looks like a particular culture, a particular people, or a particular way of life. It {225} hopes to see truly Indigenous churches. It rejoices in the great beauty that Christ’s body is a place that affirms the differences that too often give birth to violent tragedies when we pursue purity and sameness. True Christian theology (and postcolonial mission) relaxes its tight grip on doctrines that have shown themselves to be destructive and harmful to our neighbors.

Christian mission means relearning our own story as the church, understanding and apologizing for the ways we get that story wrong, and moving into new relationships that help us to better hear the stories of our Indigenous neighbors.

In 2000, the Toronto Star printed a major story on the people of Mishkeegogamang titled, “The Lost People.” Ironically, it is the “lost people” who have helped me find God in ways I never anticipated. You can only walk the road to Oz so many times before you see that “the whole road to [Oz] must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” 40

May we seek Pimaatiziwin together. May God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. May we together see the completeness and totality of creation imbued with the Spirit of the Creator. And may we have the courage to travel the road to Oz, and listen to the stories of those who may help us better learn our own.


  1. Marj Heinrichs and Dianne Hiebert, with the people of Mishkeegogamang, Mishkeegogamang: The Land, the People, the Purpose: The Story of Mishkeegogamang Ojibway Nation (Kelowna, BC: Rosetta Projects, 2002), 18.
  2. Mino-Pimatisiwin (also spelled Mino Pimaatiziwin) is an Anishinaabe word meaning, “good life.” Cherokee theologian Randy Woodley compares it to the Hebrew concept of shalom. For a longer discussion, see Woodley’s Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012).
  3. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 200.
  4. Dianne Hiebert, “Missabay Community School Handbook for New Teachers 2005.”
  5. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 18. The land was part of British North America’s Rupert’s Land, which covered a massive swath of wilderness in the middle of what is now Canada.
  6. These details and others can be found in the text of the Treaty on the Government of Canada website at A summary of events surrounding the signing of the treaty is provided by Rob Bundy in A Place Called Osnaburgh: The History of the Old Post and Village,, accessed October 3, 2014. {226}
  7. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 201.
  8. In Pikangikum, a community four hundred kilometers northwest of Mishkeegogamang, Natives adopted the style of dress of their Mennonite missionaries when they became Christian.
  9. Bundy, 47.
  10. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 201. Mennonites had started a mission at Slate Falls (a Native community one hundred kilometers west of Mishkeegogamang) in 1958. The mission’s Mennonite minister visited Osnaburgh House each summer until 1963, when a Mennonite mission was launched there.
  11. Ibid., 249.
  12. Ibid., 250.
  13. Hiebert, “Missabay Community School Handbook.”
  14. Ibid.
  15. Dave Diewert, “White Christian Settlers, the Bible, and (De)colonization,” in Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, ed. Steve Heinrichs (Waterloo, ON: Herald, 2013), 128–29.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid., 130.
  18. Alexander Sutherland, Superintendent of the Methodist Church, August 1889 (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, RG 10 Series R 7733). Quoted in Diewert, 129.
  19. Melanie Kampen explores the connection between the Western conception of sin and the practice of colonization in her MA thesis, “Unsettling Theology: Decolonizing Western Interpretations of Original Sin” (Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo, 2014).
  20. See Leonardo Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997), 115.
  21. See Woodley, Shalom and the Community of Creation, 123–24.
  22. Harley Eagle (Mennonite Central Committee: Anti-Racism & Indigenous Relations Director), personal communication, March 13, 2013.
  23. Robert J. Miller, Discovering Indigenous Lands: The Doctrine of Discovery in the English Colonies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 4. Miller’s quotes are from the 1823 Supreme Court ruling, Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543, 573 (1823).
  24. Vandana Shiva, “Earth Rights are Human Rights” (lecture, Fragile Freedoms Lecture Series, delivered at The Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg, MB, March 28, 2014).
  25. Reginal Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 3, 75.
  26. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 236.
  27. There are historical records of Puritan preachers referring to Indigenous host nations as Amalekites and Canaanites. See Robert Allen Warrior, “Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians,” in Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Identity in the United States and Canada, ed. James Treat (New York: Routledge, 1996), 99.
  28. Fred Kelly, “Confessions of a Born Again Pagan,” in From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools, ed. Marlene {227} Brant Castellano et al. (Ottawa: The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008), 31. Available online at
  29. For a longer discussion, see Gene L. Greene, “The Death of Mission: Rethinking the Great Commission,” NAIITS Conference, Portland, Oregon, June 7–9, 2014.
  30. Diewert, 129–30.
  31. See Andrea Smith, “Decolonization from Unexpected Places: Native Evangelicalism and the Rearticulation of Mission,” American Quarterly 62, no. 3 (2010).
  32. For further discussion of what this might mean, see Greene’s paper, “The Death of Mission.”
  33. Vandana Shiva, Making Peace with the Earth (Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood, 2012), 30.
  34. Walter Brueggemann, The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).
  35. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 30.
  36. Former chief of Mishkeegogamang, Roy Kaminawaish. Quoted in Heinrichs and Hiebert, 253.
  37. Ibid., 258, 266.
  38. Marj Heinrichs, Handbook for New Teachers, Produced for Missabay Community School (Rosenort, MB; Kelowna, BC: Marj Heinrichs Communications, 2002), 13.
  39. Heinrichs and Hiebert, 239.
  40. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence,” speech delivered at the Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967.
Deanna Zantingh is in the Master of Theology program at Canadian Mennonite University. She is also Camp Director in Mishkeegogamang First Nation and a staff member of iEmergence Canada, a non-governmental organization focused on holistic community and youth leadership development in Indigenous communities.

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