Devout + Out: SusanA queer Mohawk minister balances two faith traditions on an Ontario reserve. NOW STREAMING ON CBC GEM
A queer Mohawk minister balances two faith traditions on an Ontario reserve.
Susan lives on a fine line between cultures and expressions.
She is Kanien'kehá:ka (also known as Mohawk).
She is an open lesbian.
She is a United Church minister at the Grand River United Church.
Despite balancing these diverse identities, Susan radiates peace and thoughtfulness. She is living out a new expression of faith in the somber face of the church’s abusive history toward Indigenous and queer individuals.
Susan grew up on Six Nations territory, experiencing a joyful childhood that included the best parts of community, surrounded by family and friends. But she was also formed by her family’s trauma in the wake of residential schools. It wasn’t until she was in her 20s that Susan was able to see the complicated effects of oppression and internalized racism, and began to process what it all meant to her.
Susan knew she was gay at the age of seven — she also knew that it wasn’t safe to tell anyone. But when her friends started dying of AIDS in the 1980s, Susan realized it was important for her to be out, visible and proud.
Now, Susan has been nominated for Moderator of The United Church of Canada — the most senior elected position in the national church.
In the lead up to the election, she reflects on how slowly the Church has moved in its reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people, as well as with queer people. It’s clear to Susan that the church can do a better job, and she feels called upon to be part of that movement. Susan accepts the nomination and steps into the spotlight as the council votes.
As the relationship between the church and Indigenous people continues to heal, Susan hopes that the teachings of love, compassion, respect and kindness will shape new generations of people to be good to one another. In one hand, she holds her Longhouse faith and Indigenous traditions. In the other, she holds a firm belief that there is goodness at the core of the Church.
The point, she says, is to bring people closer together.