I begin this post with a CONFESSION to American Indians. I confess not because I have directly sinned against them by taking their land, breaking lawful governmental treaties, imposing sickness and diseases, ravishing their women, robbing their men of their manhood and purposeful work, erasing their cultural heritage and languages, or by destroying the hope and generational inheritance of so many of their children.
I confess because I understand the implications that individual sin has on a corporate body and community of people. Sin has negative consequences on the sinners and those they sin against. I confess because I am a beneficiary of all those sins, and I am therefore guilty in the corporate sense.
I thank God for his grace and mercy in covering even this grievance where the negative consequences are still evident today.
Secondly, I offer a call to REPENTANCE. In addition to the sins identified previously, I repent of the lies I have believed about Indians. I repent for accepting the messages presented to me from early childhood of Indians being salvage people, animals, or anything less than human beings made in the image of God. I repent of the stereotypes that come to mind when I think of Indians (ex. scantily dressed, disheveled hair and appearance, and standing next to a teepee). For starters, I choose to replace those images with those like Kimberly Owen’s beautiful face, her mind, her tenacity, her commitment to family, and her faith.
I repent of passively going about my life with no regard for the American Indians who I do not see. I choose to educate myself about their stories. I choose to share their stories with my daughter and others as I have the opportunity. I choose not to ignore the American Indian’s heritage, legacy, and contributions to this great land we now call America. I choose to pray for American Indians as the Holy Spirit leads me.
I repent of the lies surrounding the Pilgrim and Indian story of Thanksgiving, or at least acknowledge that we perpetuate only one part of the story in America, the Pilgrim’s progress and perspective. European settlers came to America viewing it as The Promised Land, symbolic of Joshua and the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan. “America was the promised land, offering religious freedom and economic challenge, while holding untapped riches and resources for the hundreds of thousands who came (Cooper, Moody, 1995, 82).” When Pilgrim’s are painted as righteous settlers of God, justification for oppression requires that Indians be painted as enemies who oppose Him. However, the Bible does not authorize Holy War on Indians. Nor does it advocate using violence as a means of converting people to faith in the one true God, YHWH. Therefore, I repent to choose to honor the Indians as human beings created in the image of God, to tell their stories and culture when given the opportunity, and encourage others to do the same.
Finally, I offer a word of THANKSGIVING to our Indian sisters and brothers. Although Europeans settlers entered your home as uninvited guests who have long sense overstayed their welcome and drained you of your family’s resources, you have been and continue to be gracious and hospitable hosts. For that I say, “Thank you.”
I want to embrace our American Indian brothers and sisters whenever we have the opportunity, especially in the church. I do not want to stereotype or pigeon hole into one category, though it seems to me that environmental ethnics is one area where we can really learn from, edify, and honor our American Indian brethren.
“For an Indian, the role of man traditionally is to live in harmony with mature. For most Americans, the role of man is the mastery of nature. The contrast, of course, is great, resulting in significantly different outcomes in one’s thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors (94).” With this mindset, I believe the Indians have an accurate view of God’s original design for mankind in connection with nature. When God gave the command to fill the earth, subdue it, rule, and put the seeds of the earth to good use, God pronounced all of this responsibility as “very good” (Gen 1:27-31). In other words, God was commanding his image bearers to take responsibility for his earthly creation and manage it as He would so the land would pronounce in abundance and maintain order so every human being and creature would have what they need to live and glorify God. Any human practice that works against this purpose, destroys God’s good creation, or curses the land is a result of The Fall of humankind and the result of sin (Gen 3:17-19). As redeemed people, our American Indians have much to teach us about subduing the earth and its inhabitants in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. Let us learn from them.
Do you have a word of confession, repentance, or thanksgiving to order to the American Indian people group?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012