Old Habits Die Hard: Lent 2018

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I recently joined a group at my church called Be the Bridge, a gathering of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds coming together simply to process race within the church. Started by Latasha Morrison, Be the Bridge works to create people who press on “towards fostering and developing vision, skills and heart for racial unity.”

The first week that we met, I cried while introducing my story as a Potawatomi Christian, because I don’t often have safe spaces in which to share my story. It’s one thing to write about it, but it’s another thing to talk openly about the struggle. It was like a group therapy session, people from different backgrounds sharing their racial experiences with one another.

In another small group setting, someone brought up Lent, asking what we’re prepared to give up (or pick up) this Lenten season. I hesitated.

Because so much of my journey as a Potawatomi woman and a Christian feels like a strange wilderness (you can read more about it here), Lent is just an extension of that. I could give up chocolate or sugar, but I feel like there’s something more here, something else that’s asking to be paid attention to.

So, I have a different idea for this Lent.

What if we decided to look our habits in the face this Lent? And I’m not talking about the way we eat or how often we watch television.

It’s more subtle than this.

I’m talking about our institutional habits that have been crafted over the years, systemic habits that have pitted humans against other humans, humans against the earth.

Habits such as racism, ableism, stereotyping, hatred, bigotry, misogyny, patriarchy, white supremacy, or damaging religious rhetoric are the things I’m talking about.

If you grew up in religious settings that told you what to believe and how, no questions asked, you know that day after day, those beliefs become habits, and after a while, it’s terribly difficult to break them.

As the old saying goes, old habits die hard.

And that’s what Lent is about, when we’re faced with a wilderness experience that asks us to look beyond our skin and bones and see what lies there, deep inside.

So this Lent, I’m asking us to look at what’s underneath. I’m asking us to check into the subtleties of damaging habits and mindsets, ones that have been brought to the surface of America’s landscape lately.

I’m asking us to sit in the wilderness with Jesus as we ask how we got here and where we are going.

I’m asking us to have really difficult conversations.

One of these subtleties happened for me recently when I was asked, not for the first time, “So how far back?” How far back does your Indian blood go?

As my husband lovingly and passionately pointed out later, I could have simply said, “Me. I am an enrolled member of my tribe, and so you don’t need to ask that question. It’s me.” But in the moment, I freeze over these kinds of questions. I explain who my ancestors were. I explain that I am on the tribal rolls of my tribe, that I can trace my people back to the Great Lakes Region of the United States before the Trail of Death.

But you see, that’s not the answer people are looking for. Because we are trained to ask for a blood quantum. We’re trained to say, “So, your native blood is running out, right? How native are you, really?”

It’s the subtle things, right?

This Lent, we’re not going to decolonize or deconstruct every part of ourselves for good.

But we can begin to break some of those habits and recognize that the things we’ve been institutionally taught have fostered attitudes of racism, hatred and misogyny in America, and in our schools and churches.

So this Lent, I intend to keep my mind alert.

I intend to face my own racism, whether it’s against my African American brother or the white woman who asks how Indian I am.

I intend to watch the women in the church around me, to speak words of empowerment over them in the face of constant misogyny and patriarchy. 

I intend to watch how I interact with my brothers and sisters with disabilities, how I pay attention to their needs and battle stereotypes that are set up against them.

I intend to have conversations with my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, to learn from them, their histories and stories, their experiences in America.

I intend to pay attention to the mental paths my mind takes when I get defensive, to trace those paths back to institutional habits that have been set in place for years.

Then, I intend to pray into those spaces.

And know this, I am one of those people who believes that prayer is a constant position of the body, mind, spirit. That also means I’m pretty bad at sitting still with the silence.

So I want to sit and face my own habits. I want to face institutional racism, misogyny, hatred, religious bigotry, and I encourage you to do the same.

And as you explore these things too, share what you’ve found with us. Use #oldhabits on social media to begin conversations about where you’ve noticed your mental processes going and how you want to change them. Challenge the systems that put them there, and challenge yourself not only to create new mental and spiritual habits, but to challenge those institutions as well. Challenge them for your children. Challenge them for future generations.

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The only way we begin to kill old habits and pick up new, healthier ones is to do it in community, to do it with others in spaces like Be the Bridge groups, in conversations on Twitter or in private Facebook groups, with people we trust, over cups and cups of coffee where we understand that the conversation, as hard as it may be, is far from over.

So here are a few ideas for this Lent, always, always with the work of shalom and grace in mind:

  1. Grab a cup of coffee or dinner with someone who is of a different race than you are, and take turns telling your story. Don’t interrupt one another, don’t get defensive if something difficult is said. Come to the table with the understanding that you want to pay attention to institutional racism.
  2. Listen to some women in your religious circles. Challenge misogyny. Get a group of men together and ask them to share stories about the women who have shaped their theologies. If you’re creative, make a video of those stories and share it with your church community.
  3. Read new books by people of color (here’s a perfect list to get you started!), and read new books that challenge what we’ve been taught about our history, like A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Honor #BlackHistoryMonth by listening to black voices around you.
  4. Read the Bible with eyes to see that Jesus was an activist, a rebel, and someone who constantly challenged institutions. Ask what that looks like for you in America in 2018.
  5. If you are part of a church, ask why it is or isn’t diverse or inclusive. Explore what it would mean to start a Be the Bridge group or to simply have new conversations, like how the church was complicit in the genocide/assimilation of indigenous peoples in America. Ask who the indigenous people were who once lived on the very land where your church is planted, and put a sign out front honoring them.
  6. Join this Facebook group, where we’ll have serious, respectful and safe discussions about these institutional habits and how they affect us. 
  7. Give yourself and others grace, because we cannot move forward if we are paralyzed by fear or by how hard this is. It is going to be hard, and it’s going to be terrifying at times. You are not alone.

May this Lenten wilderness call us out of ourselves and into the wholeness of a God who sees color and diversity and calls it good.

May this Lenten wilderness make us uncomfortable enough to ask difficult questions, and patient enough to listen for difficult answers.

May this Lenten wilderness bring more of the truth of gospel to our circles, the heart of justice and shalom always guiding us into a more inclusive faith.

May this Lenten wilderness lead us to deeper love for the created world we inhabit and for one another, precisely because of our differences. May we no longer feel the need to say “we are color blind” but that “we love others because we are not the same.”

May this Lenten wilderness remind us that wildernesses are meant to show us ourselves in the face of a world that reflects all the wild love of God. May we lean into that truth today.

Join me.

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“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
― John Muir

 

Deconstructing American Christian Worship

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I’ve been tired during church lately.

If you’re someone attempting to deconstruct or decolonize your faith like I am, you might feel it, too.

As a Potawatomi woman, I am suddenly going over every word of every song, every word of every sermon, asking if those words are inclusive of my own culture within the views of the American church.

And so we show up at church, asking all the questions, making all the critiques we can, because these things matter.

And we end up leaving exhausted because the church has not yet understood that Jesus really was a poor, brown carpenter and still has something to say to us today. I’m exhausted that I don’t yet understand that in my own skin.

And we end up leaving exhausted because we have to hold our own culture’s truths and tensions with the gospel, and also hold all these cultural, racial, belief-based tensions with one another.

As a worship leader, I pay attention to the room during worship.

I listen to the voices in unison.

I wonder where people are coming from when they sing words like, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

And as I am analyzing these things and trying to worship through my own experiences, I come back to this idea of nakedness.

Theresa ofAvila says it like this:

You find God in yourself and yourself in God.

 

To know the true mirror image of God is to know ourselves fully, as we are fully known.

And that means that while we stay tethered to and learn from and engage with our cultural lenses, we also zoom into our souls, into that naked place, to that deepest part of who we are to embrace Mystery, without analyzing any of it.

We embrace Mystery without analyzing any of it. 

This means that we even have to allow ourselves to step out of the mindset that worship should look, feel and seem a certain way.

To embrace Mystery is to recognize that worship is something fully beyond us that we step into and participate in, and not just in a church building full of people.

One of the most worshipful experiences I had recently was while I was staying at an AirBNB in the Blue Ridge mountains. I took an early evening walk, mittens on and a cup of coffee in my hand. As I turned the corner, I watched  a family of deer run across the street and up into the woods on the other side. Before they disappeared, one of them stopped, turned around, and stared at me for a few seconds.

Sometimes worship happens as a rootedness that we do not expect or even think we deserve.

The mirror image of myself in that deer was nothing but worship, a moment to recognize my own sense of belonging in this world. In the space, beyond my culture, beyond the fact that I am a Potawatomi woman, that I am a mother and wife and worship leader and writer and friend, I was simply one soul looking at the soul of another creature.

We were simply acknowledging one another, and in that, acknowledging Mystery, without analyzing any of it. 

So we erase the lines that make rules to tell us when and how to worship. We expand our thinking outside the walls of the church and realize that “occasionally it is not the open air or the church that we desire, but both” (John Philip Newell).

And this is difficult when you’re on church staff, when you’re trying to figure out how to run a church with various cultures, to honor diversity, to honor the life of Jesus. I get that. But leading others in worship means we lead them out of themselves, and we also lead them out of the mindset that worship must look the way the American church thinks it should look.

And soon we find that deconstructing our worship patterns is actually a return back to that nakedness, to that mirror image between us and God, between us and the world, between my own culture and yours.

And then we find that worship has done its work, because the glory of God happens when this created world is fully alive to beauty, to love, to all of those things that we have such a hard time finding because we are so constantly trying to analyze the questions and critiques as they come to us every week in church.

Because of and despite our questions and critiques, the Mystery is still there, still engaging, still asking us to look and respond, to be present with every aspect of ourselves, to the honor and glory of God.

Amen.

 

OneWord 2018

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Every year, thanks to the brilliance of OneWord365, I choose a new word as a guide to lead me through the coming 365 days.

It usually comes to me in the most unexpected way, at the oddest times. This year, I was sitting at my kitchen table when I quickly wrote a few thoughts down in my journal. Self-discipline is hard for me sometimes, and I go back and forth with trying to find new rhythms. At the same time, I honor the fact that different life seasons call for different life rhythms anyway, and since we are a family who works from home and figures out how to homeschool our kids, every season is a little different, and we hold grace in that.

So my word for 2018 is instead.

In the practice of self-control, of self-discipline, of working toward new rhythms, I plan to practice the work of instead, without shame or fear.

Instead of my phone– a book.

Instead of anger– gratitude.

Instead of hate– love.

Instead of silence– resistance.

Instead of war– peaceful protest.

Instead of noise– silent listening.

Instead of manipulation– communication.

Instead of buildings– wilderness.

Instead of fear– dreams.

Instead of yelling– whispering.

Instead of greed– contentment.

Instead of inside– outside. 

Instead of reacting– watching.

Instead of convenience– the work of my hands.

Instead of self-deprecation– self-worth.

Instead of tweeting– playing.

Instead of resting– restoring.

Instead of hotels– tents.

Instead of holding it in– letting it go.

Instead of sameness– diversity.

Instead of a closed-off religion– an open one.

Instead of a faith of sureness– a faith of questions.

Instead of English– Potawatomi.

Instead of colonization– nativeness. 

 

I feel my shoulders relax already. When we look to the year ahead and ask honestly where we are and where we are going, we give grace to find the tiniest tools to help us along.

This year, for 2018, the word instead will guide me– into new adventures, into deeper presence with myself, others, this created world, and God.

In Potawatomi, the phrase for Happy New Year is mno web pongek, which means “it is good/happy/ to start something new/throw something out/ in the year” — isn’t this beautiful?

We get the chance to both pick new things up and throw out what we need to throw out without shame in 2018. We get to do that and acknowledge that it is good.

What word will guide you through 2018?

What will you start or throw out?

May we do it always in the knowledge that we are loved, and that we are covered in grace instead of anything less than that.

I leave you with this Tennyson poem to guide you with his words into 2018. Go in peace, friends.

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

 

 

 

Christmas Eve: don’t miss the beauty of the Before

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In America, and many parts of the entertainment world, people really like dramatic Before-and-After experiences.

We watch a home go from a hoarder’s filled mess to a dream home;

We watch the un-groomed man or woman become fashionable;

We watch a special nanny whip disrespectful kids into shape;

We praise the salvation experience– before we were heathens, now we are saved.

We love the drama.

We’re addicted to the adrenaline of the outcome.

Today is Christmas Eve, and if you’re a Christian like I am, we celebrate that today is a Before-and-After experience, too.

Before Jesus and After Jesus.

Before salvation and After salvation.

As much as the world ached for the Savior, we can’t forget that it was still a world in which God was present. Too often, we demonize what was Before, and we say that the After picture means true victory.

Sometimes, this is absolutely accurate.

But let’s not forget the life blood still pumping in the Before.

Let’s not forget the heart and soul of people struggling to be truly kind and good in the Before.

I’m reminded of America’s history here.

To the European colonizers who came to make something great out of this land, the After picture was the true pride and victory of what we now call the United States.

But remember, friends– what was here in the Before?

Groups of indigenous people, thriving on our land, tending to the earth.

We were still hurting people who sometimes fell into war and malice.

But we, as people of the Before, were still humans searching for and listing to the voice of the Creator.

Let’s remember that our opinions of the Before are not always accurate, and let’s trust that sometimes the After actually takes away our humanity, too.

So on Christmas, while God dwells in the After of Jesus, God always dwells in the Before, too.

As an Evangelical, I grew up, with my community, painting salvation stories really clearly– I was lost, now I’m found.

It’s the ultimate Before-and-After.

But lately, I’ve had to break myself free from that paradigm.

Because too often we begin, as people of the After, to demonize those of the Before. We belittle their existence and experiences, and in doing so, the grace of God to truly be with us–our Emmanuel.

So as you watch Before-and-After experiences unfold, remember that both may not always be what they seem.

After all, Jesus taught, as an adult, that his very presence exists in people you’d least expect– children, the poor, widows and orphans, the alien. They are people that the world pushes impatiently into transformation.

If he teaches that, maybe the Before experiences are worth paying attention to.

At my in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve, I’m watching snow fall and cover everything in its wake.

As I watch this tiny spot of the world transform into the After, I can’t help but look out and say a word of gratitude to the Before, to yesterday, to the snowless moments that prepared me for this very instant of awe.

Merry Christmas, friends.

May you find glory in the Before as well as the After, and in every space of transformation along the way.

 

Remembering Our Single Parents This Christmas

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I’ve been doing what a lot of Americans do during the Christmas season: watching cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. Recently I watched one called My Santa, a movie about a single mother who falls in love with Santa’s son. While I wouldn’t recommend you spend an hour and a half watching it like I did, it reminded me of the difficult time so many single parents have at this time of year.

I was a child of a single parent at one time, and right now I’m solo parenting for a few weeks. Every time my partner goes on a trip, I’m reminded of that time when my mother had to care for three kids and work full time. I remember that she was tired, and while the holidays are still really sweet memories, simple memories—I don’t think as a child I picked up on the stress that she carried constantly. What I remember is that we listened to Nat King Cole and Harry Connick, Jr. while we decorated the tree. What I remember is gratitude that I was loved.

After my partner had been away for a few days, I shared a thought on Twitter about how hard it is to be parent, and at the end I said, “Please tell me I’m not alone in this?”

A flood of responses came in, parents of all ages telling me that I am not alone, that parenthood is hard and beautiful, that our children are a handful and that’s absolutely okay.  I was given permission to breathe a little instead of telling myself over and over that everything was fine and I shouldn’t be stressed because I have a good life. I was forcing gratitude on myself so that I couldn’t admit that it’s just hard sometimes.

And because we don’t like to admit it when things are hard, we don’t let others admit it, either. We often make it more difficult for our single parents, especially in a society that prides itself on consumerism and the idea that kids can ask for whatever they want from Santa and will get it.

It puts single parents, who are often struggling to make ends meet, in a difficult, exhausted position, not to mention the fact that they are missing out on the partnership that gives them the opportunity to receive their own gifts on Christmas morning.

It snowed here in Georgia recently, and that morning, I noticed a lot of birds flocking to our empty bird feeders that hang from hooks out front. So I refilled all of our birdfeeders out in the yard, and watched as birds flocked to the newly filled feeders, stocking up on food before the snow began to fall and the temperatures dropped. I watched, with great honor, the creatures I had the chance to care for. I was in awe that I had the energy to care for creatures other than my two boys and our puppy, because while I’ve loved our time together, it’s been exhausting.

I remember single parents who do not always have the ability to step back and rest and care for others because they are exhausted and this season requires so much from them. I remembered that the years when I had a single mother, we struggled but found grace in the kindness of others who took the time to care for us, whether it was our  landlord or family friends.

So during this holiday season, let’s remember our single parents. Let’s remember that those of us who have partners shouldn’t take it for granted. Let’s practice sensitivity over judgment, and follow a few simple rules in honor of the single parents around us:

Don’t Assume.

This isn’t a time to wonder if a parent is single because they are divorced, or because they had a child out of wedlock, or because their partner died. It’s not a time to wonder how much they’re putting in the offering plate or why they seem so exhausted around their kids. This is a time to hold space and to give as much grace as possible. It’s a time to listen instead of talk. It’s a time to embrace the idea that our souls are connected to one another because of our humanity, and that is enough.

Let go of consumer culture.

One of the best things we can do for our children, for our culture and those who are less fortunate in it, is to pull ourselves away from the constant consumer culture that involves Black Friday sales and expensive shopping malls. For those of us who love gift-giving, consider shopping at antique malls or thrift stores, making homemade gifts or sharing an experience with a loved one. If we can change our culture, maybe we can make space for the single parents in our midst to do what they can for their own families with our full support.

Offer Holiday Help.

If you know people in your life who are single parents, reach out to them. Let them know that you see them, that you’re aware of the difficulties they face during this time. Offer your time so that they can wrap some presents or have an afternoon to themselves, or invite them over for a holiday meal. Drive around and look at Christmas lights together. Bring them into your spaces, put yourself in their spaces, and learn what it means to be community to one another.

 Be Kind to Strangers.

As a general rule, right now everyone needs to be kind to everyone else. This goes beyond social, political and religious circles. We cannot afford to continue living in such a toxic, dual mindset that seeks to divide anywhere we can divide. Actions and attitudes like this begin in the heart and trickle out to everyone around us, creating waves of chaos and hurt.

Often, our children get caught in our fights, and this holiday season, we need to make space for our children to simply be children, and for our single parents to have peace to care for them without worrying about being judged by their neighbors or a stranger on the internet. So we practice kindness in the grocery store, in the airport where a single parent is traveling with their children. We buy someone a cup of coffee. We practice it at the park, standing in line at the post office to mail packages.

Maybe if we put on Christ-likeness this Advent season, we’ll take on the work of being blessing to those who are tired and in need of that kindness, and we will remember that God chose one single woman to bring the Savior into the world in the most beautifully humble way.

May we remember that as we care for the single parents in our midst this holiday season, as we thank them for the hard and beautiful work they do every single day. 

Day 30: After Native American Heritage Month

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A friend of mine said that she wants to get rid of all these themed months that are meant to celebrate people of color or indigenous people. I totally get it, and the point is that we should be celebrated everyday, right?

Still, people like themes. They like to have something they can pay attention to, something that can catch their attention. The problem with our crazy, high-paced, scroll-through-your-social-media-feed society is that things are here one minute and gone the next. It’s hard to get anyone to really pay attention.

But I’m asking you to.

I’m asking you to recognize that tomorrow, on December 1st, it’s still Native American Heritage Month. It’s still a time to celebrate and illuminate and pay attention to issues that indigenous peoples deal with everyday in this world and in this country.

I’m Potawatomi, and I’m still learning. I’m indigenous, and I’m still trying to understand things, still trying to stretch myself to make sense of it all. And so I’m asking that you leave room to grow, too.

We see people stretching to understand parts of our nation’s history that is often buried. That’s progress.

But there is also a world of people who are ignorant of the issues of indigenous peoples. There is a world of people who don’t understand that we are different tribes, different peoples, different individuals. So we still have a lot of work to do, and that work cannot just be done by Native Americans.

It has to be done by everyone.

So as Native American Heritage Month ends, I leave you with an open invitation.

Ask questions.

Be curious.

Challenge colonial America.

Challenge the American church’s inclusivity.

And may we move forward together into a better future for indigenous peoples.

Day 28: Indigenous Artivism

I heard the word artivism for the first time on CBC Radio’s Podcast Unreserved. 

I loved the idea right away.

It’s something that indigenous people have done for a long time–using art as a means of resistance.

Today I want to celebrate that again, with the release of my friend Tall Paul’s new music video, Someone Great Who Looked Like Me. 

 

Tall Paul is an Ojibwe artivist from Minnesota–he uses his hiphop music to bring indigenous issues into America’s view. I asked him a few questions about his video and his passion for music.

The video shows some pretty meaningful places. Can you tell us about some of them?

The Haskell Football Field is, or approximately is, where Jim Thorpe had his first exposure to the game of football. It’s also where he got his first ever football from a mentor of his by the name of Chauncey Archiquette. They both attended Haskell boarding school in the 1890’s. An interesting thing I learned about Chauncey is that he’s credited with inventing the zone defense in basketball. The inventor of basketball himself, James Naismith, credited him with that. A statue of Jim Thorpe stands not far from the entrance of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. Jim was a member of the inaugural NFL hall of fame class in the early 1960’s. This is the scene in the video where I’m wearing a replica of Jim Thorpe’s Canton Bulldogs jersey. When I’m wearing the suit I’m at Jim Thorpe’s mausoleum and memorial in Jim Thorpe, PA. In short, his remains are there because his last wife agreed to lay him there in exchange for the town being named after him, the town having been looking for a tourist attraction. He had no previous connection to that town and most likely had never even been there before.

 

Why did you decide to write this song?

I wrote this song because Jim Thorpe and his legacy inspired me as a native youth athlete. Growing up I had been curious if there were any famous native athletes at any point in time and when I found out about Jim I was amazed. For him to be native (Sac and Fox) and frequently mentioned amongst the greatest athletes of all time by sports historians and fans who really know about athletics impressed me. I felt a connection to him and his story.

 

What do you think music can do to show non-natives in America today who we are?

Music is a powerful form of communication and even education. So many people are drawn to various genres of music, especially hip hop, and lyrics carry a lot of weight with them. When native musicians make music we’re able to convey ourselves from our own perspectives. Any time a non-native listener hears our music I think they’re bound to learn more about us just through that art form. Of course that requires the artist to have a message in their music that is educational in some way. But when that happens, it’s pretty much automatic that someone who doesn’t know about us is going to learn about us at least a little bit.

 

If you want to know more about Jim Thorpe’s legacy, watch this video:

 

Honor the indigenous artivists in your midst today, friends. We’re still here, and our work is to educate others and to thrive in our own indigenous cultures.

You can order Tall Paul’s music here. 

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Day 27: Pocahontas Isn’t Your Joke Anymore

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When I was little, I had a Pocahontas Barbie Doll. I thought she was beautiful. She had olive skin, dark, straight hair, and a beautiful buckskin dress with a teal necklace around her neck.

I watched the movie, sang the songs. It was a cherished part of my childhood. But the reality is, much like most of what I was taught in history books, it was a lie. The true story of Pocahontas, or Matoaka, is not what the movie portrays, and is far more gruesome–far more true to the reality many indigenous women have faced throughout history. 

So as an adult, I learn. I know better. And other indigenous people are working to do the same, to educate. And so it’s time.

It’s time we stop using the name Pocahontas in jokes, costumes, and everyday fairytales.

It’s time we hold leaders accountable when they make jokes using her name, when they show the world that their ignorance is justified.

It’s time we tell the truth and we begin with our children, while they are young, while we can change the future.

Today, President Trump stood in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, honoring Navajo code talkers. He called them “special,” he patted them on the shoulder, smiled and nodded, joked.

“You were here long before any of us were here,” he said.

“We have a representative here in Congress…they call her Pocahontas,” he said, referring to Elizabeth Warren, like it’s a fun family nickname to throw around during holiday get-togethers.

This isn’t about her, though. It’s not about what she claims, what percentage Indian blood she has. It’s about his countenance, and the countenance of so many who don’t give a second thought to disrespecting indigenous culture and story.

I’ve been called Pocahontas. I’ve had my hair in braids, and someone thought it appropriate to drop a joke because of it.

The difference is, they weren’t the President.

And the problem with that is, if we can’t fix this in our everyday circumstances, in our schools, in our history books, in our movies and costumes, we can’t fix it in our leadership.

It’s time.

It’s time to lament, to wail and mourn over the ignorance and hateful rhetoric.

It’s time for the church to stand up against powers of oppression and claim that it will be willing to set itself under the teaching of the oppressed.

It’s time for Americans from every party, every religion, every corner to face our history’s honest past and make a way forward with that knowledge.

It’s time we do it to honor the life and true story of Matoaka.

It’s time.

 

 

 

 

Day 25: Living on Indian Time

{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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I really love the holiday season. I always have. I love gift-giving and snow and Christmas songs and hot cocoa by a lit tree.

But I don’t love the stores so much at this time of year. And I feel horrible for those UPS workers, for the people delivering packages up until Christmas day and even after.

I think we lose something in the hustle and bustle, in the Black Friday fights.

This holiday season, we’re slowing down. It’s something that’s characterized in indigenous culture. That’s why there are jokes about Indian Time, about people who move on a different time frame than what most of America requires.

A few years ago when we decided that we wanted our family to move at a slower daily pace, it was a decision that I knew would run against the grain of so much of American society. Still, it’s what we choose. For a long time, my husband, whose family is of German descent, also chose it. He taught me, in a way, to learn more about my own desire to live a slower life, and over time made space for me to learn about my own Potawatomi culture’s ideas about daily life and time. Since then, we choose it every day of our lives, choose to live a slow kind of life, to take our time, to be present to one another.

It’s a characteristic of indigenous culture, but it should be a personal characteristic of all of us. And especially at this time of year, when things are hectic and crazy and our kids are focused on that day when Santa comes with gifts galore, we get to choose to stay sensitive to ourselves, to one another, and to the world around us.

It takes work to be present. It takes work to live a slow and steady life.

It takes work to make space, and much of that work fights against a culture that is always going, always wanting, always saying there isn’t enough when we know that there is.

So this holiday season, put yourself on Indian Time. Give yourself to the slowness. 

You won’t be sorry.

My book, Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places is on sale at Amazon today! It is a collection of stories and prayers from my life, and I hope that if you buy a copy, they help settle you into a slower kind of living, a practice of being present to your own story and to the stories of others.

 

 

Day 24: Native American Heritage Day

{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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HERITAGE: N. SOMETHING THAT IS HANDED DOWN FROM THE PAST, AS A TRADITION.

I’ve been thinking about what this word means today. In 2009, Obama created Native American Heritage Day, to be the day after Thanksgiving, also known to most as Black Friday. While we are celebrating who we are today, many are completely unaware that today stands for something, that today is a day to honor and celebrate indigenous peoples in the United States.

But that’s also what this whole month has been about. It’s odd, though, that we need to have a month as a nation to decide to pay attention to a group of people who are often ignored. It’s odd that when November is over, the world goes back to what it was, and Americans who may have put effort into learning something about indigenous peoples go back to a time before.

But for some who are paying attention, what is seen cannot be unseen. For some, everything changes.

That’s the thing about heritage. 

We hold what has been passed down to us–and that’s everyone, no matter what culture or people you’re from. You carry what your ancestors carried and pass down to you. And so today, I’m thinking about what it means to be Potawatomi.

And what I think is that my heritage is my own.

It does not belong to old western movies that portray us as savages.

It does not belong to new age culture that takes our sage and burns it or creates a hippy culture from our dreamcatchers.

It is not what it has been described as in history books and at the first Thanksgiving meal.

It does not belong to a culture that sees us as poor, abusive people who can’t get a grip.

And it does not belong to those who think we are the wise sages of our time.

Our heritage simply belongs to us.

Every tribe, every culture, and every individual within those cultures. We each hold the things that are passed to us, the stories and the values, the truths, the language. And we take those things and let them become a part of us.

When I wake up in the mornings and say mno waben to my boys, it means something. It sinks into our bones and reminds us of who we are–our heritage.

When I burn sage in my dining room and remember what it means to be still, I’m letting my ancestors remind me of who I am, letting God remind me of the gifts I’ve been given.

And so, my heritage is mine alone, and though I publicly celebrate it today on social media, I celebrate it every day, and every day its significance in my life and in the lives of my children grows, so that when they are adults, they too will pass it down, and our heritage will never end.

It was assimilated and beaten out of us, but it returns with each new generation, and flows into the unique DNA of every person who belongs to a tribe of people who are indigenous to Turtle Island.

And so, even in our pain, even in the constant misconceptions, even amidst discrimination and appropriation, we are still here, and we continue to move forward in the beauty of who we are and who we are called to be.