Tirawa, Saves!


In the beginning Tirawa created the heavens and the earth.  Tirawa supplied for the needs of all of creation.  The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from Tirawa swept over the face of the waters.  With this wind the Path of the Departing Spirits, known to the White Man as the Milky Way was created.  East of the Path of the Departing Spirits is our father, Morning Star, and to the west is our mother, Evening Star.


The earth was filled with many creatures at the hands of Tirawa.  There were Creatures that filled the streams and populated the waters.  There were Creatures that occupied the air and perched upon the trees of Tirawa’s creation.  Tirawa filled the sky with his Creation.  The night and day belonged to Tirawa.


All that is or that shall be, is ordained by Tirawa, and the stars are his servants.  From the east Morning Star began to pursue Evening Star in order to make love to her, but she continued to elude him.  She put obstacles in his path, but continued to encourage him.  When they found each other they lay with each other and gave birth to the Pawnee.


The number ten has always had significance for human beings, and this is because Evening Star placed ten obstacles in the way of her suitor.  One of the obstacles was in the chaos beneath them.  There was an endless sheet of water presided over by the Great Serpent.  Morning Star threw a ball of fire at the serpent, which caused the serpent to flee beneath the waves.  As the fire hit the water, enough of the water dried up to reveal earth and rocks. From these materials, Morning Star threw a pebble into the sea of chaos and it became the earth.


When the earth was in its proper place, Tirawa appointed four lesser gods to administer it.  They were East, West, North, and South.  They joined hands at the edge of the great sea on earth and a land mass emerged.


Eventually, Morning Star caught up with Evening Star and lay with her.  Soon Evening Star conceived a daughter.  When she gave birth to the girl, she placed the child on a cloud and sent her to earth.  High above the earth, Evening Star asked Morning Star to water her celestial garden and, as a love gift, he made the first rain.


In the Celestin gardens of Evening Star, there grew a great many plants, including Mother Maize, the greatest of food plants.  Evening Star gave maize to her daughter as a gift to plant on the newly emerged earth.  Soon the Sun and the Moon produced a son, who married the daughter of Evening Star and Morning Star.  Daughter-of-Evening-and-Morning-Star and Son-of-Sun-and-Moon are the parents of all living human beings, as well as the first beings to cultivate maize.

This is the Pawnee story of Creation.  There are countless stories of how this world was fashioned.  Along with these stories of creation we find stories of great floods, how law was found, and what happens upon death.  Story is an important part of the human experience.

Joseph Campbell offers that story is essential to understand the human condition.  Campbell tells us that story is how tradition, belief, and ritual is passed on and how civilization, religion, and humanity is fashioned.  Where would any religion or faith be without the archetypes of hero, mentor, threshold guardian, herald, shapeshifter, shadow, and trickster?

Is not the purpose of the Bible to awaken in us a sense of awe before the mystery of being.  Is this quest of being not the impetus of the wonderment behind the heralded question of why?  The story of Creation is central to understanding the purpose and intent of the very life that I, you, and we spend here in this existence.  What value does life maintain if absent purpose?  What is purpose sans a rooted idea of where we came from?

The story of creation roots us in a way that we may entertain understanding of what, why, and how the universe is shaped and catapults us towards validation of the social order we find ourselves subject to or participating in.  This social order includes religious framework.

The religious frame work to which I have been formed is largely Christian.  To be more precise it is a folky, conservative, evangelical, charismatic Christian faith that I have experienced my awakening within.  The tension of faith, reality, and what lie beyond are real for me.  This folky Christian faith was always delivered with a side of Native wisdom and lore.  I struggled to maintain a foot in two competing worlds, the Pawnee and the Christian.  I was not able to be Indian and… so I hid the Indian within and took it out of the box from time to time.

Story has guided me in life.  It has led me through trials and into the various stages of me being.  Story has taught me songs of love and the dirges of mourning.  Story feeds my soul as it seeks to restore balance within my fettered heart.

In the last few months I have awakened to my Indianness in more profound ways.  I have intentionally explored my tribal history, lore, myths, and rituals.  I have awakened to the historical trauma that seems to bind Native cultures in one homogenous thread of hurt and anguish.  I discovered the soul wound left by this trauma and map out the hurt that connects my name to my grandfather White Plume and countless grandmothers whose names have been lost to history.  The whispers of songs unsung for decades and the fading memories of dances long forgotten disturb the sanctuary of my soul, beckoning me to awake and follow.

I am unable to embrace the faith that fashioned me; the Christian faith that brought me comfort and carried me to the peace of my mother’s people.  I do not hate Jesus, the creeds, the Table, or the baptism(s) that washed my sin.  I am not sure that I can be my whole self within this faith.  The faith that was delivered to my father’s people at the expense of culture, ritual, and lore.  To my father’s people Christianity is a colonial faith that taught them that they are not human.  The fearfully and wonderfully made creation does not include Tirawa’s children.  The blessed children began as a wondering tribe from Judah.  Tirawa is false and so are his children.

This is my beef with Christianity, is that the normative to which the faithful seeks to adhere to does not include Tirawa and his children.  The cultural Christ saves in context but he still covers the “gods” encountered with his blood and the salvific act of redemption always moves us from where we are to another place of where we ought to be.  That place (in the US) is abundantly white and privileged.  It leads me to wonder, is the Bible capable of holding the ethos, ethics, and determination of all cultures?

At one point in my life I would have said yes. The Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is contextual and therefore meets all where they are at.  The problem with, for me, this is that Jesus always disturbs who he finds and leaves them unsettled.  Jesus comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comforted.  What does this mean for Tirawa and his children?

If I embrace Jesus and this gospel of his, am I also to reject Tirawa and the ways of my father’s people?  What then do I do with the abusive gospel that torments and hurts Native America?  Can the Jesus that “civilized my people also be the one that saves me?  I receive Jesus and I embrace the wonder working blood along with the spilled blood of Wounded Knee, the Long Walk, and the Trail of Tears.

Don’t forget, Tirawa made the heavens and earth as well.

In Response to Faith and politics: The New Wars of Religion.

This past November (2007) there was an article in The Economist titled “Faith and politics: The New Wars of Religion.  “that religion has re-emerged in public life is to some extent an illusion.  It never really went away…religion has returned to the stage as a much more democratic, individualistic affair: a bottom-up marketing success, surprisingly in tune with globalization”

I think about this article often as I am on the way out of seminary and possibly entering ministry.  Sometime in the future I shall be called to shepherd a congregation.  I enter this vocation with the conviction that I am called to serve, accept, and love everyone.  It may be difficult to uphold this at times. Even in the most difficult of times I am never excused from the obligation to serve, accept, and love all. To look into the face of the other. To be in proximity to Gods wonderful creation.

In the recent past I have been part of inter-faith dialogue and have been benefactor of its wisdom. A lesson I learned in these discussions is, we must condemn violence in our neighborhoods, in our country, and in our world.  There is not place for violence in the Gospel message that Christianity is rooted in.  We are not immune to the apathy and blank stares of inaction.  We slow down to see the train wreck and gawk at its carnage, making sure not to get involved.

We will protest the dehumanizing slave labor in foreign land and stand idly by as millions of people [legal and illegal] next door to you struggle to exist. They live hand to mouth, where the slightest emergency wreaks havoc in their fragile balance of work and life.

Religious leaders in this country are poised to be the visionaries/prophets of a new America. An America where one is not identified and divided by what they own or possess.

Possessions bind us to this world. Why is it that when faced with difficulty we go shopping or seek to own or consume things? We fear to be intimately woven to this created world. We are uncomfortable with intimacy, especially the intimacy that is involved with being human. Stuff cannot come between any citizen of this world.

Religious practice is on a rise.  The southern hemisphere is now the center of the Christian practice.  We are witnessing the power base of Christendom with black, brown, and yellow faces.

We must continue to work towards reconciliation with each other.  This is not possible as we point fingers and look at each other in mistrust.  Pride only breeds another generation of violence and bloodshed.

A lasting peace cannot be reached in the oppression or marginalization of any group.  Look to the colonizing efforts of Great Britain, France, and Belgium in the early 1900’s.  Division leads to resent and resent breeds anger.  Anger, if left unresolved, begets violence.

It is my hope that my fellow colleagues in ministry, of all faiths, will commit to dialogue.  We must set the example of tolerance and understanding.  We must sit together and denounce this violence.  It is my understanding prophesying or teaching ought to denounce violence as the way to exist.

If we can set together at the table and talk, then we can live together in a culture that is not fearful of the unknown.  We must invest in each other as a people, as a society.  If one is scared, than we all are scared.  Dominance and power are not a place to be peaceful.

All the “Red Campaigns”, relief efforts, and “storms” will never achieve peace until they emerge from an invested seat as we speak up for each other.