Honor and Our Veterans

For some time folk have worked hard to change how we think as community.  To move from Columbus Day to Indigenous Day is an example.  Reframing our worldview though is to change core celebrations National structure knows that if people think of familial celebrations as national then we will do most anything for the nation.

Today’s celebration of honor is one such holiday of nationalism.  One which we need to rethink across the non-Indigenous landscape. I am the first to honor my father, and his, and his, and his for what they did for the wellbeing of family.  Yet, in this landscape of North America, to give full honor is to honor all our siblings who fought for family and community.  So, in our conversations and actions, let us raise up all veterans who fought for the wellbeing of family: People of Sand Creek, Dakota 38 plus 2, Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, Chief Kimiakin, and the thousands of Indigenous whom the US nation have encouraged us to forget.

Gospel Nationalism

Last week’s Center for Indigenous Ministries invitation to develop a Truth and Healing Council is a call to remember vocation and homeplace.  Done well, this work breaks the fetters of Indigenous and non-Indigenous historical trauma and moral injury.  Once free, we may again live the natural inclinations of our created birth—lives of satisfying work, neighborly kindness, healthful care, and love of creation.  More so, this freedom allows us to recognize, once again, the landscape of our birth is actively nurturing us along our human journey.

For Disciples, truth is not so much the when and where we “got off the rails” with our Indigenous kin as it is acknowledging the birth of our institution was on the rails of US nationalism and extraction.  Truth be told, those 19th century rails became stronger when we developed theological “railroad” ties to stake and hold them in place.  

When Alexander Campbell wrote “The Destiny of Our Country” (August 1852 edition of the Millennial Harbinger) and said,

In our countries destiny is involved the destiny of Protestantism, and in its destiny the destiny of all the nations of the world.  God has given, in awful charge, to Protestant England and Protestant America—the Anglo-Saxon race—the fortunes, not of Christendom only, but of all the world.

he blended the call of the Great Commission and the concept of a Chosen People.  In doing so, he sanctioned a notion that Disciples were uniquely chosen by God to bring the Gospel to “all the world.”  There were two reasons for this unique chosen-ness.  First, the Disciples were special because they were primarily of “the Anglo-Saxon race.”  Secondly, they were “American.”  When Campbell writes “God has given, in awful charge, to…Protestant America” he centers Disciple theology geopolitically and stakes Disciple identity to the rail of US nationalism.  Certainly, this belief offends modern Disciple sensibilities.  However, it is helpful to know the racist structure Disciples are struggling to dismantle today, was imbedded during the Church’s institutional birth.

A Truth and Healing Council will help us become better aware of how our long-held theology and institutional relationship with US nationalism damaged the Indigenous landscape; traumatized Indigenous peoples of Canada and the US; and morally injured non-Indigenous peoples.  Out of such awareness, Disciples may begin a restorative process which might lead to a time when our Indigenous and non-Indigenous children live their created identity of satisfying work, neighborly kindness, healthful care, and love of creation.

Residential & Boarding Schools

A Statement from the Center for IndigenousMinistries (DOC) regarding Indigenous Residential / Boarding Schools of Canada and the United States

Over the last several months nearly 1,000 unmarked children graves were discovered at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, Canada.  This unspeakable news is not lost on US Indigenous parents whose children were also forced to attend Boarding Schools. 

There is no acceptable response to the appalling reality that Canadian Residential Schools and US Boarding Schools interred hundreds of Indigenous children in unmarked graves.  Nor to the “why” Christian institutions developed theologies supporting political mandates of separating Indigenous children from their parents.  In the wake of such horrendous news, Christian congregations must begin to critically question their colonial-settler history of place and the theology on which it is predicated: Who are the ancestral occupiers of the land ? How was the land obtained on which the building stands?  How does Christian theology support Indigenous removal? How was God experienced before Christianity?  This surely is not easy work.  However, not do so is to mire our children in the muck of false goodness.  

When Christians reflect on their institutional structures, historically, they soon learn to recognize instances where these institutions participated in the colonization of the Canadian and US landscape.  Understanding Christian complicity in the destruction of Indigenous familial and community structure give Christians the moral authority to compel Church and Government(s) to become accountabile for acts of colonization.  This obligation is all the more relevant for Christian institutions who have recognized their complicity by repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.

Becoming institutionally accountable to the Indigenous landscape allows Christians to move beyond statements of apology, confession, or solidarity (like this one).  Becoming accountable to the landscape shifts Christianity theology to a hermeneutic of indigeneity; where Indigenous well-being is valued over agendas and outcomes; where Christian institutions publicly name their participation in the evil of colonization; and where the Indigenous landscape is known as family.

The Center for Indigenous Ministries (DOC) believes such justice work is possible by collaborating with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to establish a Truth and Healing Council who will: Openly listen to Indigenous voices;  hear how Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s work impacted Indigenous lives, the lives of their ancestors, and the lives of their children; gather historical and current Christian Church (DOC) institutional documents authenticating Disciples colonial-settler relationship with the Indigenous landscape and her People(s); Document and Record the haunting stories and histories arising from colonial-settler relationship; AND create a generational restorative and reparative path toward harmony.

Admittedly, Truth and Healing work is not easy.  Truth will surely expose and publicize the contagion of institutional harm and open wounds of historical trauma.  This is why the work must engage acts of healing,  be watchful for the indwelling of grace, and constantly welcome the transformative love of Creation.

As people of an Indigenous landscape who have experienced false promises, we call on our Church kin to help us become a people of action and change and accountability.  For if we fail, as we noted earlier, we will mire our children in the muck of false goodness.

Center for Indigenous Ministries (DOC)

Lisa Barnett and Crow Eddy—Co-Moderators     David B Bell—CIM Minister for Indigenous Justice