(originally journaled: Feb. 8 2015)
“Forgive us, Lord, for stealing the land: Have mercy and set us free.”
… realizing that our own salvation, our own being set free, is tied to those we thought needed saving by pressuring upon them our religion, culture, identity…
Set us free? We are the ones imprisoning those we stole the land from–shouldn’t we be setting them free? Inviting them back onto their land? Returning valuable, useful parts of it? Maybe even to the point of giving up “our own” places?
Are we asking, in this prayer, for the Creator to set us free from our guilt? If so, doesn’t that mean we need to do more than just say, “Sorry.” How can we adequately show we accept our guilt, and want to truly reconcile? Doesn’t that involve restitution? And deep relationship, sharing all we have, including our personal time, energy, active love…
And how do we do that?
Maybe start on a personal level, with small steps. Ask what we can give and do. Listen and respond from our hearts?
Now maybe that would be a really important Lenten practice (repentance…leading to restoration, even to “resurrection and life”…)
How can I start? Today?
(We’ve taken so much more than the land–and yet that taking of the land does represent and underlie all who Indigenous people are–their life, their soul…)
Chief Seattle of the Suquamish: “We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moved on.”
Conquering the land is conquering life–it is darkness and death.
“Show us that reconciling [is] to train us more deeply in the faith that honors everything created by your hand. Help us see that reconciliation leads to deeper knowledge of you.”
So I’m thinking that for real Christians, reconciliation with indigenous people is in a sense a picture, an example, of us being reconciled to our Creator… and it means too, I think, that what we have done to our Creator is really in significant ways similar to what we have done to indigenous peoples. We like, I think, to focus on God’s merciful grace in giving his Son… we like that He chose to take the initiative, to suffer the pain… but should that “free” us from the “pain” of truly repenting (and doesn’t that mean giving up all we hold dear, putting all of ourselves, including our very lives, our heart and soul, in his hands, to do with as he wishes? That’s hard…but is it not necessary? Is it not part of truly loving? He loves us–are we not to love him (and deny ourselves) in return, as he has done for us? Are we willing to do that for others we have wronged, as well?
How much are we really willing to give up to achieve reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples? How far are we willing to go in repentance?…and restoration? What does it really mean? Can lessons in schools, however well-meaning, accomplish that? It’s one thing to intellectually (and even emotionally) understand…but is it not another thing altogether to reconcile, whatever it might take, however long it might take, however much pain and loss we might incur in our own lives (because, after all, aren’t we the ones responsible for so much of their loss and pain?) What, I wonder, does it really mean to “walk in another person’s moccasins?” How far does that go to achieve true reconciliation? (With God, as well as with them). If we don’t go there, have we really reconciled? With them? With God? Can we really expect forgiveness (I know, I know — “freely given with no expectation of anything in return except the freedom of letting it go?”–would we be willing to do that if we were in their place?).
First Nations didn’t practice land ownership in the way we do … so does that mean, since they didn’t claim to “own it” in the way we perceive ownership, that we don’t have to “give it back?” I don’t know how to answer that … but at least we should be willing to share it, and protect it and care for it together … and sharing involves relationship, community, family…
Does “money” solve the problem? No. (It doesn’t improve the “educational system” either… but that’s another issue…)
“Teach us to number our days aright” — we have a very limited time… so we need to do what is righteous.
Our view of land is an “ownership” view–the First Nations view is that people are part of the land–so taking a piece of the land and pushing people off it, and refusing to truly share, is to slice a piece out of the people we cast off that land. (And residential schools, cutting families and communities apart, is of course more of the same).
So much of what any people do is about segregation–me vs you, us vs them..