Mohawks visited by Sub-Dean of His Majesty’s Chapels Royal

Wilbert Maracle (left), the last Tyendinaga survivor of the Anglican-run Mohawk Institute residential school, presents Rev. Canon Wright with a gift for the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a “token of friendship.” Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

The historic relationship that began with the forced relocation of the Tyendinaga Mohawks from their Indigenous lands in upper New York State, to lands on the Bay of Quinte provided by King George III, continued this week with a service attended by a present-day emissary of the Crown.

In honour of the recently begun reign of King Charles III, Reverend Canon Paul Wright LVO, Sub-Dean of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, made a visit Wednesday, Mar. 15, 2023, to The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and His Majesty’s Chapel Royal of The Mohawk, Christ Church in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

Wright has served as Sub-Dean of the Chapel Royal and Deputy Clerk of the Closet since 2015; as such, he is the only full-time clerical member of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom. Prior to his royal service, he was ordained in the Church of England and served in the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department

The ecumenical service began with the ringing of the church bell gifted to the Mohawks in 1798 by King George III. Then Wright, accompanied by three Mohawk Canadian Armed Forces members who served in the Afghanistan mission, laid a wreath on the altar in remembrance of Mohawk soldiers who died in service of the Crown.

Christ Church, His Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawks, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

After sharing greetings from King Charles, Wright began his homily by honouring Wilbert Maracle, an 88-year-old residential school survivor, whom Wright said he looked forward to speaking with after the service.

Wright also greeted his “fellow veterans from the Afghanistan mission,” saying, “It is wonderful to see you here as well, as we share in this service of thanksgiving, of remembrance, and service in which we reaffirm our fellowship in the family now of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal.”

The chapel was designated as a national historic site in 1995 and is one of only three Chapels Royal in Canada, elevated by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. It is recognized because it is intimately linked with the establishment of the Mohawk people in Ontario; as one of two Royal Chapels in Ontario, it represents the historic alliance between the British Crown and the Mohawk people, as well as the historic and ongoing contributions of the Mohawk people to Canada.

“There are so many stories of nations and peoples intertwined who have come together in this fellowship that we share,” observed Wright before sharing a passage from the national hymn of Wales, which he noted was his mother’s home country. “Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad… O bydded i’r heniaith barhau… Land, Land, true I am to home… O may the old language endure.”

Wright compared the history of the Mohawks to that of the people of Wales, who experienced a conquest in the years 1277 and 1284 by the Norman English: “For many centuries, Wales was a country that [had] lost many of its national characteristics… Fortunately [Wales has seen] a renaissance in the Welsh language, folklore, stories, traditions… and [it] now has become a confident country in its own right in the United Kingdom.”

He went on, “When I reflect upon and learn about the experiences that this nation of Canada and this nation of the Mohawks suffered through, I hope there will continue to be a renaissance of language, culture, and the community of all Indigenous and First Nations people. And I hope that these Chapels Royal will be places in which that language, culture, and community can flourish.”

Rev. Canon Wright was presented with a carving of a turtle, an important figure in Mohawk tradition. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

“His Majesty the King sends his greeting today, to you,” Wright continued. “He takes a great interest in Canada; he’s visited Canada many times, as indeed our late Queen did. The King has told me of four themes for his new reign… four things he wishes to be his sacred calling… Faith, Community, Commonwealth, and the Environment.”

Wright noted that those four pillars of the King’s reign “are something for which First Nations people have so much experience to offer and are so deeply involved in… This is the fellowship that I am so pleased to renew here today with you… On this visit, I am here to celebrate this partnership, to listen, to learn, and to work towards those things that bring healing and wholeness and renewal and regeneration.”

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte presented Wright with a gift for King Charles III on the occasion of his coronation. It contained a letter that Chief Donald Maracle read to the assembly. It read, in part, “May you always continue to promote peace among the human family [and] uphold the honour of the Crown and the treaties made with our Indigenous nations. May the close bond of peace, friendship, and a military alliance forged in 1664 in the silver covenant chain of friendship between our Mohawk ancestors and the Crown shine bright and continue without tarnish in the eyes of men and God.”

The letter also invited King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, to visit Tyendinaga and the Chapel Royal.

Another gift, this one for the Archbishop of Canterbury, was presented by Wilbert Maracle to Wright “as a token of friendship.” Maracle met the Archbishop when he visited Canada in May 2022. At that time, Maracle shared his experiences at the Mohawk Institute, which was run from 1828 until 1970 by the Anglican Church and the Government of Canada. It was the longest-operating residential school in Canada. The Archbishop was also extended an invitation for a visit.

Wright himself was gifted a turtle carving. Chief Donald Maracle explained, “In our mythology, the turtle was instructed by the Creator to give a place for all creation and humanity on his back… to live together on Turtle Island in peace and friendship and be a comfort and a help to each other.”

In turn, Wright presented the Mohawks with a prayer book from the coronation of King George V and tobacco seeds from the Royal Garden as “a token of our enduring friendship.” He also said jokingly, “As a British person in Canada, may I give you some tea,” as he handed a box of tea to the Chief.

Chief Donald Maracle (left) accepts a gift from King Charles and Rev. Canon Wright (right), who presented the Mohawks with a prayer book from the coronation of King George V and tobacco seeds from the Royal Garden, as well as a box of tea. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

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