DAY 5: To Those Who Belong[ed] to the Land

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}

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Have you ever wondered who used to live where you live?

Recently I attended a training for a group of teachers at a Waldorf school in my city. I was asked to begin the meeting by acknowledging who used to live on the land we now inhabit, and it kept coming back to me, more and more sure every time: the land does not belong to us, but we belong to her.

We are visitors on her shores, we are people who will come and go from her presence. While we are here, we are to care for her.

On Indigenous Peoples Day I challenged everyone in my social media circles to find out the history of the land they currently inhabit. I asked them to look up the people groups, the indigenous peoples who once lived there, to honor their memory, their presence, those ancestors.

I live on Muskogee Creek land, and we often go hiking near the rivers here in our city. I lay tobacco down on the water or by a towering pine tree and I thank whoever came before me. I thank God that I get to walk in the rich history of such a place, and I feel the pulse of the dirt beneath me telling its story, reminding me that many came before me and walked those same paths, stared into that same body of water.

It changes everything. It reminds us of how small we are. It reminds us that we belong to a long line of people, and it reminds us of our dark history, as well, of the times when those people were removed from their homes and pushed out to unknown places.

I challenge you today to find out who lived where you currently live. These are resources I’ve been given, and I’m so grateful we have things like the internet today to trace back time. Google can usually get you there.

First, watch this video. 

Now read, discover, learn, then head outside to the nearest patch of wilderness and let the land speak to you. It heals and tells stories that we cannot even begin to imagine.

You can even purchase a Tribal Nations Map here. 

And next time you’re hosting an event in your city, acknowledge that others came before you. Thank them. Remind the people you’re with that the land doesn’t belong to you, but that you belong to the land, that you get to rest with her for a little while. This is how we honor those who went before us.


 

My book, Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places, comes out in TWO DAYS! You can pre-order a copy today on Amazon or Paraclete Press, and head to the first chapter. It’s called Creation, and it tells stories about transformation, about finding the glory of God in the work of living and being present to a created world. I hope you’ll read my stories and prayers and find your own stories in them.

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Artwork by Suzanne Stovall Vinson

 

 

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