14 August 2011

Daring to Remember

On a sacred piece of land nestled in the valley town of Mission, British Columbia, the moon began to rise above distant snow capped mountains. It was opening night of the first annual Creative World {an arts + justice festival}. As the sun began to set a humble native elder came to the stage to welcome the descendants of her people’s cruel invaders—on the very site of one of the residential schools where children were taken from their parents and stripped of their identity and dignity, forced to assimilate to European culture. In addition to being victims of conquest, many of these children were subjected to horrific verbal, physical and sexual abuse by so-called “Christian” people.

This land is home of the Sto:lo Nation. A meek and enduring tribe whose land has just recently been returned to them, after years of displacement and dismembering of their culture and families. Much like the experience of native people all over the world, European colonialists conquered the indigenous people of Canada and systematically stripped them of their home, culture, spirituality, language and even family. Events of this nature today would be condemned as crimes against humanity and genocide; but then they were sanctioned under the guise of Christianity.

This is our heritage as white Americans. This sordid history composes our roots. And in disillusionment we distance ourselves from it all; wanting to “move on” while our red brothers and sisters beg us to remember. The victimizer wants to forget his crimes; the victim wants to remember. Remembering is how we grieve and heal. Remembering is the first step in reattaching the dismembered.

Our global history of white superiority and conquest not only lays claim on our identity and defames the One in whom we believe and worship, but has generational repercussions of division and destruction of the entire planet. We need one another and yet the boundaries we’ve imposed will be our demise.

The global disenfranchisement of native people is at the core of the obliteration of the earth. Destroying them we are unaccountably complicit in the destruction of the planet. Our weapons may look different than they did in the 18th and 19th centuries, but they are weapons just the same. Yesterday’ colonialist disenfranchisement of a people and nation is today’s overconsumption and capitalism.

It’s true we’d rather not look back on our shameful history or reflect honestly on our power and choices today. When we do it’s tempting to become disillusioned with our identity, heritage and faith. Even just the slightest gaze, is too much for us to handle. We want to detach from this reality and continue to live the illusion of the “American Dream.”

And so we have become a mobile, exploitative people. Only when we dare to take a long hard look at where we’ve come from and acknowledge the shame and guilt will we find a healing path into the future for all inhabitants of the earth; a path that is rooted in place where we learn how to love and care for all the symbiotic inhabitants of that place. Then we can enjoy the life and creation that God called “good.”

Contrary to our genetically modified Gospel, Christians are a people of the earth—from dust we came and to dust we will return. Our Biblical ancestors were spiritually tied to the land and it’s creatures. The Patriarch Jacob was known to have said in the wilderness, “Surely God is in this place!” God is here, in God’s creation, and we have not known or understood. We are destroying the very gateway to heaven. Some experts warn that if we continue to consume at our current rate, it is only a matter of a short bit of time before we annihilate Planet Earth.

We have eyes but haven’t seen and ears but haven’t heard that God is in this place. But our native sisters and brothers have seen and have heard. They know. We must give them our attention. We must listen to them. We must learn from them.

Joining with Jesus’ prayer for unity, our union with native people, will be a part of the entire created world’s salvation. May we be the answer to our Lord’s prayer. May the remembering and coming unity begin with us.

(image::”Unity Pole”)
(photo credit:: Chris Heuertz)

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