I watched the film adaptation of Dee Brown’s “I Buried my Heart at Wounded Knee” the other night. I am saddened by what has been perpetrated upon a beautiful culture. I am saddened that the government still robs many nations of their sovereign right to exist. I am saddened that we celebrate genocide as we coldly point fingers and watch it live in Africa. We are removed from guilt. We are removed from participation. We are a free nation, free of guilt.
I love the romantic idea of the open plains, with native folks dressed in feathers and buckskin. A people singing songs, majestically as they hunted buffalo and traded trinkets with each other and the noble white race. I wish they had a theme park where “Indians” roamed the plains and we got to watch them practice their majestic ways. We could even harness this shite and make a new religion? All “Indians” have long hair and ride horses. Right?
This was not the image of “Indians” that I grew up with. My grandfather was full blood Pawnee & Kaw. My grandmother was part Cherokee. My father is mostly “Indian.” I have a white mother. I look nothing like an “Indian” yet I am over a third “Indian.”
I so desperately wanted to look “Indian” as a kid. I hated my white skin as a child. I was taught that I was “Indian” in spite of the apparent absence of the look. I had short blonde hair. I had lilly white skin that reddened with exposure. I tried to point out my check bones and the fact that after the sunburn left me I was indeed darker.
What does it mean to be “Indian”? Does one need to be born on a reservation? Understand and engage “Indian” culture? Dance? Drum? Sing? Can one just be “Indian”?
What does it mean to be something? What defines me as “Indian” or not?
In our history there was the “One Drop Rule” that applied to African-Americans. It was used to terrify as it segregated and oppressed an entire people. This rule however does not apply to “Indians.”…
Being judged solely on the color of my skin…Leaving a little white boy breed to be an “Indian” alone in a world that he did not fir into weeping at the margins of a world he was told that he did not belong.
This nation seeking to “civilize” a people meant that they were looked upon as being inferior. There religion, their way of life was not up to snuff. I t was not civilized. Civilized, what does this mean? I say we are still subject to this model in the American church.
I have read Dee’s story many times. I have sat with the elders as they shared the stories of our people. I understand the history of our people. I yearn to be free of labels and embrace the Spirit within me.
On November 02, 2002 I went to Alvera Street in Los Angeles to attend the Dia De Los Muertos celebration. I had been deeply studying mysticism of tribal religions in university. I was struck with the complexity of emotions involved in the “simple” instructions of these earthen religions. I hungered to be near those that could teach me the ways of my people. I wanted to sweat. I wanted to vision. I wanted to be free of the oppressive system of corporate instruction…
The curandera grabbed my hand and recoiled. She rambled on in Spanish, with me only catching only parts of what she said. I walked away with both of us strangely connected, strangely looking at each other, strangely uneasy.
I have always fought for identity. I think it is the very root of my soul. I also believe it stems from being a twin and having to fight to be an individual and not lumped into a specific other. Identity is important to me and moves my faith in stages as I understand or identify with people, places, moments…life.
I fight to be Christian and…I once sat mesmerized by a sermon Alistair Begg preached where hw boldly proclaimed that “We could not have Jesus and…” There was no Jesus and anything else. I do not agree with him any longer. I can have “Jesus and”! I am still working out the convictions. But I am certain there is room for “Jesus and” in my life and in the life of a “Christian.” The problem being that “Jesus and” looks different dependent upon the culture, context, and moment it arrives/exists in. You cannot pin it down and therefore you cannot teach it, preach it, or be it exactly. “Jesus and” arrives with out notice and leaves when needed. It is and is not. “Jesus and” binds us to the other and in this there is only God. That is what “Jesus and” holds for me now.
I do not believe that there is only one way to understand Jesus the Christ. I do not believe that God only reaches out to one culture. This goes against all that Jesus preached in the Gospels. Can I be “Indian” and Christian?
Can I be a minister of the divine gospel of Jesus the Christ and caretaker of the “Indian” rites and rituals that connect us all?
Is there room for “Jesus and” in your faith?