Day 10: Giving Presence & Voice to Indigenous Peoples

{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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Before I began this series, I asked what people wanted to know more of when it comes to indigenous culture. I’m well aware that our educational system has ill-equipped people to have these conversations, and I’m not angry at those individuals if they learn to ask questions and to listen.

But listening is key.

So when I asked what we could learn more about together in this series, someone said they’d like to know how people can practice better relationships with indigenous peoples by giving presence & voice to us.

In the Christian world, I’ve seen this coming up a lot in conversations about our conferences, that are often mostly white. My friend Kathy Khang and others have spoken  out against and asked conferences to reconsider the speakers they give microphones to every year. This is something that the church and other faith circles could pay attention to in the future.

Recently I spoke to a group of teachers at a training session about how to give better lessons for Thanksgiving to their students, lessons that are more honest and factual than what we’ve been taught for so many years. When those moments happen, when indigenous people are asked to tell our stories and to share our experiences, really profound things happen, and those moments could re-shape America.

Because storytelling is such an essential part of my culture, safe spaces in which people can share their stories and simply be heard is a really empowering step forward in giving voice to people who have often been left voiceless. I am grateful for the spaces in which I have shared in the last year and a half, that people have been willing to ask me to speak and have listened. But many do not have that opportunity, and it is reflected in the way our institutions are run.

In recent months, we’ve seen the true colors of a lot of America, and it stems directly from our history against Indigenous peoples and African Americans. If we want to move forward, there is a lot of healing to be done, and it may begin on a one-to-one basis. It may begin in the home, at the table, in the small group at church, in the coffee shop around the corner.

So here’s the thing. If you want to enter into the conversation and truly listen, it’s going to require you to step into pain. This is not a space where we can avoid pain. These stories are riddled with hurt, with trauma, with PTSD. They are stories of hope and healing, but they are stories of immense grief. We cannot separate ourselves from it, so to be an ally, you have to be willing to sit in that pain, at least a little bit, if not a whole lot. It’s essential to understanding, to story sharing.

And so it is essential to our healing as well. It inches us closer to reconciliation and shalom, these things we find a Christians in the gospel that we do not always apply to others who we believe don’t fit the category.

As an indigenous woman and a Christian, my soul is in both worlds, and as those worlds come together inside of me, I realize that they are not different, after all. It is how we see them that is different. It is how institutions have been threatened  that needs to be paid attention to.

May the church and the world learn to listen, and after listening, do what needs to be done–the hard work of making wrong things right.

 

 

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