Will one Act of Repentance make up for more than 500 years of mistrust and abuse? Of course not, and there are key issues of justice that still need to be dealt with, but it is a start and you have to start someplace.
All that we go through in life offers us something to learn. Because we live in relationship with one another, we must use what we learn to help one another. This thing called life is amazing. Our Sacred Father is in everything, made everything, controls everything and loves everything.
We do take more than we need. We love to own collections. We desire more money than we need for survival. We believe that materialism is the pathway to happiness. Upon reflection we might do well to consider whether we are taking more than we need from the earth’s resources to the detriment and even survival of other life species.
In the old ways of the Cherokee, a young man at the age of 14 would go on his spirit quest. His father would lead him into the forest just as it was getting dark. He would tell the boy where he was to sleep and then walk away into the woods. The boy would sit there and hear all of the sounds that nocturnal creatures make at night.
A burden was released from me. I was grateful for the courage of my friend. I felt the healing of his words that day and I tell this to others to remind them of how our actions often need forgiveness and the courage to accept not only forgiveness but not to do the sin again. Blessings (Onkuntewagen) and humility (temakelensu) to all.
There are nearly 150,000 people in Illinois who identified themselves as at least part Native American on the last census. There were only 1,000 people who shared my last name on the entire continent. The real figure for Indians in Illinois is probably closer to half a million or more. Some attend the same church you do. They might even be your Pastor, your Superintendent, your Sunday school teacher, the one who sets God's table for communion, or that unique voice coming from two pews behind you. Let's face it: our IGRC family is part Indian.
Stones are part of our traditional experiences whether Christian or Native. Faith calls us to believe that we are capable of things that we had not believed before.
If we as a people of Christ are to atone for and reconcile with Native American people, we must first acknowledge the numerous injustices inflicted upon an entire people/culture/society. We are called to not only admit the wrong, but we are called to deeply search for the truth, to know (as best we can) their experiences when everything they knew and loved was torn from them permanently.
As I write this, the song “will the circle be unbroken” runs through my mind. This is true when it comes to or lives. We are part of so many circles. Family, church, friends etc….we are part of the circles. I look forward to being within the circle, to worship, to share, to celebrate and to comfort. We are all brothers in sisters in Christ, we are all related and we are all in the circle.
The man looked down then up at me, “I’m sorry my parents didn’t treat them Indian folks better.” I felt the Holy Spirit welling up in me, realizing the importance of what he was saying not for me but for his son and family. I smiled and said, “Wanishi ta (Thank you very much) for saying what you did and for remembering the story and that we’re all related.”
Carol is only 10 years old, but she's already taught me much about love and acceptance. I can hardly wait for our youths to meet Carol--along with others like her--in the Lake Traverse Reservation. And I hope our youths love them all even before they've met them.
We envision Indians and non-Indians coming to the site to remember what happened at Sand Creek. We envision scholars and students, pastors and church folk coming to learn the truth of history and to continue raising the important questions lest we repeat the sins of our forebears. It is time for more than words.
The best way I know how to bestow worth is to convey in word and deed the worth God, through Jesus Christ, has placed upon them. “For God so loved the world.”
The message of the death and especially the resurrection was a marvelous message for the Cherokee. In response to that message, Cherokee was the first language the Bible was translated into in the Western Hemisphere.
With what name shall we call our God, whose majesty triumphs over all the earth? Many names have been suggested. All fall short of God’s glory. Some reveal at least a portion of God’s character by describing one or more of God’s attributes. One of those names is Creator.
There were many traditional stories that taught life lessons. They were filled with respect for the plant and animal brothers and sisters as well as for all humans. The Creator breathed his breath of life into us all. That makes us all equal and necessary to each other to live and survive. We must live in relationship with one another.
As I read the history of the Potawatomie people, I learned that my families’ move to Trivoli Township took place during the time that the Potawatomie peoples’ lives were changing as well. Their way of life was transitioning in ways that was devastating, yet in the midst of their own uncertainty, they reached out to Isaac. I believe them to be a witness to that which is good.
The scriptures seem to be telling us that ancient wisdom about stones is not unusual and doesn't seem to change from generation to generation. After all, "God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." Even Jesus knew about them when he was met with resistance to his disciples' teaching and said, "I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout out." And in the I Peter reference, Jesus was considered a living stone and we -- through the scripture -- are challenged to become living stones allowing ourselves to be built into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood.
Lent is a season of repentance and preparation for renewal with God and God's purposes. Through the years of connecting with our Native American ministries, I have discerned that at the core of Native American spirituality is a deep reverence for the Creator and all that the Creator made: the earth, all forms of life, the rocks, the sky, the sun, the stars, the heavens. They bring a depth of understanding to the Christian faith that should evoke a sense of humility and guide our responsibility for the whole of creation.
Cover me with ashes, the thick-smoke soot of the earth. Make my breathing like the journey from death into life -- second by second, prayer by prayer.