By Sarah Eagle Heart

Cante Waste ya Nape Ciyu zape ye (I greet you from my heart). This morning my Oglala Lakota grandmother called me upset because a group of people in Martin, South Dakota (a town bordered by Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Rosebud Indian Reservation) intend to bring back the “Warrior Homecoming Ceremony” at Bennett County High School. To hear this news is deeply unsettling, as I believed we had come far in cultural understanding, only to see we are back where we began. But then again tribal nations, along with many secular and non-profit organizations, are still protesting the NFL team Redskins. So this leaves me joining with other voices in explaining why.

This so-called “Warrior Homecoming Ceremony” was 57 years old when my twin sister Emma Eagle Heart-White and I began a protest in 1994 (at that time, we used the paternal side of family’s name of Trimble). The “ceremony” consisted of a “Big Chief”, a “Medicine Man” and five “Warrior Princesses” who were chosen as the most popular in a high school racially divided between native and non-native students. The majority of those living in the town were non-native. We grew up in an Oglala Lakota tribal housing community called LaCreek Sunrise Housing, located a mile outside of the town of 1100 people.

We attended Bennett County schools all of our lives. We were very involved in extra-curricular activities, including band, choir and cheerleading. At the time of our junior year in high school, we watched the “homecoming ceremony” drama play out in which the “Medicine Man” chooses a “Warrior Princess” for the “Big Chief” by inspecting her ears, mouth, hair, clothing and weight. The “Medicine Man” wore men’s traditional regalia complete with a roach and eagle feather bustle. The “Big Chief” wore a war bonnet. At sixteen years old, we knew this event was wrong and we knew no one else would do anything about this sexist and culturally degrading event. We knew we had to.

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In early 1994, we began researching ways to protest. We began by telling people about the event. We went on KILI radio and told the story to Indian Country Today. We found that because the community was so racially segregated, neighboring tribal communities had no idea of the event. Soon, tribal groups came to support our protest. By September 1994, the racially divided town was racially charged and we received threats of violence as the homecoming approached. Still, we felt spiritually called to end this event.

We held an educational forum in the town park cumulating with a peaceful protest down main street to the auditorium where the “homecoming ceremony”. We formed a circle around the audience, holding hands the people chanted until we were kicked out by police officers for disturbing the peace.

As college students, we returned to the small town annually for four years to protest. Finally in 1997, Bennett County High School Board voted to remove stereotypical “Indian Theme” from the Homecoming Coronation Ceremony. Bennett County High School Board requested a meeting with us. At that board meeting they informed us of their decision to discontinue the “Homecoming Ceremony” immediately and to phase out the mascot in the next few years. The school still has not phased out the mascot.

It is now 2014, when I tell this story today many are aghast that its actual history in this lifetime. But on the other side, almost twenty years later, there is still ignorance about why this protest happened in the first place. As well as why there are protests against “Redskins” NFL football team today.

In my career I have worked for military assistance programs in Pensacola, Florida; advertising at Viejas Casino in San Diego; and today I work as a Program Officer/Missioner for Indigenous Ministry of The Episcopal Church. I have been very blessed to travel the world personally and professionally to learn about cultural perspectives in Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Venezuela. And yet, Martin, South Dakota will always be my home.

I have witnessed the impact of colonization and the crucial need for healing. While our history as a nation is complex, just as our history as a church is complex, in 2009 The Episcopal Church (along with many other denominations) have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery acknowledging the wrong in Manifest Destiny. Earlier this year, several denominations passed resolutions in support of tribal nations effort to discontinue “widespread exploitation, misuse and abuse of the cultures, symbols, identities, personalities and spirituality of individuals, tribes and nations… by some popular sports franchises”. Today, many denominations have dedicated their work to reconciliation and education, including advocating for accurate American Indian history education in all schools with revitalization of language and culture of American Indians.

Working with clergy, tribal leaders, and counselors actively combatting issues related to poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, violence and suicide in Indian Country has taught me something else… ignorance is directly related to these epidemics.

People who are ignorant to our history as a nation do not understand the impact these “Indian Themed” fantasies have on our people. They do not understand “playing Indian” as either an ugly pig-faced “Red Skin” or a sexually objectified “Warrior Princess” not only insults our proud tribal histories and culture today, but also denigrates the self – esteem of our native youth. It shows all indigenous people, we are not human to you. It shows us you don’t believe we deserve respect, nor do you wish to learn an accurate history, because the truth hurts.

Today we live in an instant gratification society where everything is fast paced… and we want everything yesterday. It takes time to learn about history and culture. It takes time to build relationships with spiritual leaders and tribal communities. It takes times to being invited to experience traditional tribal ceremonies.

Yet I’ve seen it done. I’ve seen non-native clergy working in tribal communities with tribal elders to teach all youth tribal creation stories. I’ve seen native and non-native clergy working with tribal leaders and elders to tell accurate histories as a way to reconcile past wrongs. I’ve seen these true leaders working together to better their communities and build partnerships for shared goals. One major goal is to keep our youth alive, help them to celebrate their identity, and teach the youth to walk on their own spiritual path.

We are not living in the past anymore. It’s time to live in the present. It’s time to face the past, heal through education, and walk hand in hand for a better community today.

Mitakuye Oyasin (All my relations).

By Jasmine Bostock, Delegate of the Episcopal Church and Executive Council on Indigenous Ministries Chair

Meeting in Busan, South Korea, October 27-29, 2013

I was humbled and privileged to have been recommended and chosen to attend the World Council of Churches’ General Assembly, and in particular to be a part of the Indigenous Peoples’ pre-assembly work. My time with the Indigenous People colored and shaped my experience of the whole assembly, giving me something of a base, but also giving me a clear way to focus my efforts of advocacy.1376371_10151934894407591_2021434119_n

I was reminded once again in the Pre-Assembly how lucky I am to have a background and involvement as an Episcopalian. I say this because of the Episcopal churches continued commitment to Indigenous Peoples, through staff persons, programming, historic and national apologies, and most of all consistency of commitment to issues that affect Indigenous Peoples. I am careful in phrasing “indigenous issues”, because I strongly believe that if we categorize things as indigenous, or womens, or youth, or any of the other groups that have “issues”, we both create the illusion that those groups of peoples themselves are problematic, and also create the illusion that we are able to separate things out as only affecting, or being important to, one peoples. The belief I hold even more strongly now, after having attended the WCC, is that in being ecumenical and in being Christian, we have made a commitment to walk with each other through the issues most pertinent to us. We have also made a commitment to recognize our interconnectedness.

Here is an example – One of my colleagues from the IPPA, from West Papua, was very concerned about climate change and the way it is affecting her people. Now, if I were to say, “oh, well, that’s a West Papua issue, and has little to do with me”, then I would miss the opportunity to both accompany her on her journey, and become a part of her story, and advocacy, and maybe even a part of her assistance. I would also though miss the transformational opportunity to look within my own context, and community, and consumerism culture, and connect the dots between how what I do, and the choices I make, impact her and her people.

I have always been proud to be an indigenous person, and at this Assembly that pride was renewed. Not only in my own personal sense of culture, and my history, but also in the way we, as an Indigenous group, were mobilized and organized, and able to get things done. Rarely if ever have I seen a group so committed through an entire Assembly to advocating, and continuing to meet amongst ourselves and with the WCC leadership about the place of Indigenous Peoples in the work of the WCC in the coming years.

After meeting with Hielke Wolters, we were advised as a group to form something of an Ad Hoc committee, to continue the work and the relationships we had begun to build while in Busan. I was asked to serve on this committee as one of the representatives from North America, which I agreed to take on. We are going to be meeting in Geneva in January to work together to put together a more formalized Advisory Committee to the WCC, as they work to fill their indigenous Peoples’ Desk. We have been empowered to be a part of planning the programmatic content that the WCC’s Indigenous Peoples’ Desk will be working on, which is an incredible privilege and opportunity.

I give thanks for, and say mahalo to the Episcopal Church, my church, for giving me this amazing opportunity, and look forward to the work that is ahead of us yet to do.

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My name is Jim Kee-Rees, and I am the Native American Missioner for the Diocese of Oklahoma and Vicar of Whirlwind Mission of the Holy Family in Watonga, Oklahoma.  Whirlwind Mission was founded by The Rev. David Pendleton Oakerhater, and is named after members of the Whirlwind family, that donated land for the first mission.

The Mission is on twelve acres and was designed by Hans Butzer who along with his wife Torrey Butzer created the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  Our Church building represents a Mesa rising up from the plains and a traditional lodge.  A part of our mission is to support the art and culture of Native American Youth in western Oklahoma.

For my presentation at Wintertalk, I focused on our annual Oakerhater Art Camp for Native American Youth.  The camp is sponsored by The University of Oklahoma School of Art and Art History and Whirlwind Mission.  We receive funding through private donations and a local foundation.  We only have so much money, so we have to limit the number of participants to fourteen.

The purpose of the Art Camp is to provide direct experience of Native American Art and Artist, help the youth develop art skills in a non-competitive and supportive environment, and foster group cooperation.  Following this design the O.U. School of Art sends Native American Artists to work with the teenagers.  Over a three day period they learn about drawing, painting, pottery and photography.  The youth also tour Native American art exhibits at museums around the state and attend a class at O.U. on the history of Native American Art.      264175_244557422227490_5444093_n

The Oakerhater Art Camp gives kids a chance to play, learn about art and discover gifts our Creator has given them.  I’m proud of this annual event and so thankful for the members of Whirlwind Mission who volunteer to help each year.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me, cell 405-974-0024 or jkeerees@epiok.org.

Blessings and Peace,
The Rev. Jim Kee-Rees

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I have been a devotee of Brene Brown for almost two years now. I share with all leaders, the importance of being authentic and the strength in being vulnerable. It’s so important in all aspects of life, but especially for leaders.

We are entrenched in world that is combative with leaders. People with pre-conceived ideas and expectations of others…when you can’t live up to their idea of perfect, you are hit over the head with attacking words. I cannot tell you how many times people come to me with their stories of how they were hurt by attacks from those they most wanted acceptance from. Whether it was an elder, priest, friend, family member, boss or tribal leader… I tell these people you need to follow where the Creator is calling you. I tell them, most often these people are hurt and angry. Do not react in kind, but be the person you were called to be.

My hope is that every person, but especially those in leadership roles, seek out healing for themselves. This comes in a variety of ways:  pastoral care, White Bison, Wellbriety, traditional spirituality, spiritual direction, therapy, etc. Whatever works for you. The idea is to be able to be honest with yourself and others. Be imperfect. Be authentic. Be vulnerable. Be you.

Brene Brown calls vulnerability, “The courage to show up and be seen.” She says, “If you’re going to lead a courageous life you’re going to get your butt kicked. Faith is the organizing principle in my life.” Probably would surprise you to know she’s an Episcopalian.

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The other faithful people I know as I travel to various circles are tribal leaders and spiritual leaders. I am honored to meet those with deep faith, when I least expect it. They will tell me their prayers when they hear of my job. Recently, I sat next to Cherokee Medicine Elder Crosslin Smith at the Reservation Economic Summit. It was the most moving 15 minutes of my time as he reinforced the lessons I’ve been learning from vulnerability. He shared a piece of his opening prayer for Reservation Economic Summit, “Stand alone with your spirit. Stand as a creation, not a race. When you accomplish this, you have become one with the strongest thing ever in this world. The spirit that lives in your body. The spirit will communicate for you. It will go back from which in came. In that interchange you will receive a divine blessing and a divine sense. Once this divine blessings is bestowed upon you, you should be a very proud creation. You should be very happy.”

To stand alone with yourself in honesty and truth, is to be vulnerable and is the ultimate form of courage. Brene Brown says, “I am faithful to courage. I will live in the torture chamber of the question. My mantra is:  if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, then I’m not interested in your opinion.” I agree. Heal yourself. Then tell me what you think in respect, love and truth.

 

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WINTER TALK 2013 – WEWOKA, OK – February 18-20, 2013

Greetings from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation in Nevada where within the reservation lay a beautiful desert lake that holds many of our legends and is the root of the Kooyooe Tukadu people. Within our reservation we have three communities: Sutcliffe, Nixon, and Wadsworth.  There are two Episcopal Churches located 18 miles from each other.  I was baptized and started my upbringing in St. Mary’s located in Nixon.  I currently reside in Wadsworth where I attend St. Michael’s.

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Where my computer is located in my house I can look out my window and see a little white church with a cross on top and a larger one next to a red door.  Each day as I sit at my computer and gaze out the window it reminds me of how much I am blessed and to be thankful for, such as the training I was able to attend in Oklahoma.  I met new people and united with old friends and of course the meals and the staff were awesome.

The agenda layout for Winter Talk 2013 was great; the morning worship services bought peace to ones soul. I know I cannot capture or do justice to the workshop presenters they were fantastic.  I will try in this short synopsis of the following workshops I attended.

  1. Women’s Societies/Women’s Traditions: Nellie Adkins

In our busy lives I think I tend to forget how honored our Native American Indian women were and are to this day.  Although Ms. Adkins spoke of the ways her people did the pottery guild and spoke of the Three Sisters Gardens, it brought me back to our Nevada elders and what a powerful role that our Paiute women played in our community.  I thought of my maternal and paternal grandmothers and the strong role they had in community and the Episcopal Church.  I remember as a little girl going with my grandmother to the women’s church guild where they made beautiful quilts and where a community garden was planted and maintained by the community.  We no longer have an active women’s guild; As Ms. Adkins said these things should be brought back and not forgotten.

  1. Native American Art and Language: Jim Kee Rees

I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop; the energy and motivation that the presenter provided was phenomenal. He spoke of the four directions of Youth Ministry: a) Identity, b) Integrity c) Imagination d) Inspiration.  I once worked with youth in our Tribal School here on the reservation and the first thing that was a shock for me was how our youth struggled with ‘identity’. We need to take a step and look at our communities and to see what our youth are doing and how each of these four directions can help and what we have to do to step up and make things happen in a positive way.  What is it that they believe the vision of who they are how will they be inspired.  I liked the way that the presenter looked outside of our comfortable “Episcopal world” and networked with other agencies.  Looking for grants built on the needs of the community and not the needs of ‘me’.  Because of my love for music and our Paiute Language my vision is to bring our gospel hymns back into our church.

  1. Connecting the Generations through Traditional Activities: Mary Crist & Julia Bogany

The eye opener for me was that I had no idea that there were 350,000 Native Americans in the Los Angeles area and that they had an “Indian Alley” with a little Indian Doll with barb wire on a fence post.  It has been years of talking and still haven’t tried a talking circle with our young women in our community.  Our young mothers struggle with being single parents or in dysfunctional relationships and we still sit and talk about how we can make this happen.  These two ladies inspired me to ‘just do it’!  The ideas of the group becoming stronger and identifying them by making shawls with an emblem on them; also the Mother’s Day retreat and having the Native American Youth Cooking Circle.  Of course the real life video was very emotional but what a healing process that must have been and I imagine is still healing each time it is shown.

  1. Digital Storytelling: Isaiah Brokenleg

Participating in this workshop and the earlier one on networking gave me an idea on how this can be done.  We already have someone in our Tribal programs that are doing the digital storytelling and what a way to inspire our church group to get involved in this, the equipment is already in place all we have to do is talk and share.  This could provide outreach to our three communities.  Loved the clips Isaiah showed us, very creative.

  1. Asset Based Community Development: Sarah Eagle Heart

I attended ABCD training before and what I liked about this is how we divided into small groups this gave us a chance to share and talk with others on how to build relationships and to organize groups.  I came back from the first training motivated and ready to go.  I ended up being discouraged and felt alone.  I think a different approach was taken in returning after this training. This workshop helped me immensely.  Our small congregation is divided into 1) this is the way we did it and we tried that and it will not work and 2) those that want change based on the needs of the community.  We came back had a meeting, of course feelings were hurt but forgiveness was asked for and we finally have made peace with the two groups.  I learned that when you look at what is the common ground that both groups have then you can start with three questions: 1) if we were going to be the best church in five years what do you see? 2) When were you here, in church, and felt Gods presents? And 3) When were you here, in church, and you felt the best?

I do wish some of sessions were a repeat because I think the Advocacy 101 would have helped me and I was torn as to which to attend.

Pesa Ummeno,

Jeanette Allen

ImageDear Relatives,

Cante Waste ya Nape Ciyu zape ye. I greet you from my heart. As we approach Easter and springtime amidst the many various Lenten disciplines I’m sure you have devoted yourself to, I pray you and your loved ones are well. Lent is a time of reflection and learning, it is fitting that most of Lent I’ve spent my time devoted to sharing the experiences of Indigenous Women with Violence, nationally and internationally at the United Nations, through the Lens of Doctrine of Discovery.

Last Thursday, women across America celebrated the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This law includes programmatic support for Native survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault; with constitutionally sound tribal jurisdiction provisions authorizing tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian defendants involved with intimate relationships on tribal land. Prior to the enactment of this law, federal laws did not authorize tribal law enforcement or tribal courts to pursue any form of prosecution or justice against these perpetrators.

This law was passed with a myriad of passionate voices joining together calling their elected representatives, tweeting and Facebook advocating their stories for protections for LGBT, tribal, campus and immigrant victims as well as taking the next steps to improve our nation’s response to rape and prevent domestic violence homicides. The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) called our membership to a coordinated action (http://episcopal.grassroots.com/act-now) and I shared my own story with the Episcopal Church and larger community through an EPPN blog post:  http://episcopal.grassroots.com/thoughts/details/protect-me-protect-my-sister. Wopila! Thank you!

Currently, women from across the world are at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 57 (UNCSW) advocating on the theme: “”Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.“ They are sharing their stories, providing workshops, teaching best practices, and lifting each other up through this movement. The Episcopal Church works with the Anglican United Nations Office joining Ecumenical Women, an international coalition of church denominations and ecumenical organizations which have status with the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations (http://ecumenicalwomen.org/57th-commission-on-the-status-of-women/).

I have attended United Nations events since 2008 and it’s my great honor to be able to connect devoted and dedicated indigenous advocates at the United Nations. The Office of Indigenous Ministry has partnered with the Native American Council of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati to co-sponsor delegations to the UNCSW and also the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) for the past 3 years. Together, we have accomplished action that follows our pursuit for reconciliation, justice and peace.

Last May, we coordinated a joint advocacy effort on the UNPFII theme:  “Doctrine of Discovery” with a panel including: Sarah Augustine from Mennonite Central Committee, Cheryl Kennedy Chairwoman of the Grand Ronde Nation, Law Professor Robert Miller and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church. This panel was sponsored by the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, the World Council of Churches, the Mennonite Central Committee, the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, The Grail (an international women’s movement), the Gray Panthers, U.F.E.R. – International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, Suriname Indigenous Health Fund, the NGO Committee on the U.N. International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Salvation Army, the World Christian Student Federation, and Office of the Chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations. For more information on this panel, please read http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/05/07/ecumenical-panel-kicks-off-un-forum-on-indigenous-issues/.

The Episcopal Church also supported two conference papers at the 11th Sessesion of the UNPFII including: The Doctrine of Discovery: The International Law of Colonialism, and Conference Room Paper on the Doctrine of Discovery, presented by the Haudenosaunee, the American Indian Law Alliance and the Indigenous Law Institute, North America. To learn more about our coordinated effort, please read here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/doctrine-discovery-resources.

This year, the UNCSW delegation has included women from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Women who have devoted their ministry to advocating on Environmental and Violence issues through the Lens of the Doctrine of Discovery, coordinating with Ecumenical Women, Anglican Women’s Empowerment, The Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion, and Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas – FIMI/International Indigenous Women’s Forum – IIWF. This year’s delegates all have experience working with Violence Against Women in their communities and they will post their stories throughout the week at http://anglicancouncilofindigenouswomen.wordpress.com/.

This week I reflect upon the strength and wisdom of the White Buffalo Calf Women, who brought the sacred pipe and teachings to the Oceti Sakowin (the seven council fires) of the L/N/Dakota people, and the story of faith by the saint Perpetua and her companions. I thank the many individuals who continue to connect around common goals through faith and spirituality to advocate on behalf of our indigenous people and the many people around the world struggling with violence.

Pilamayaye, Sarah

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To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Any reflection on the fifth Mark of Mission, the mark that speaks to the stewardship of creation, would find a perfect foundation in the words of the Psalm 104.  Psalm 104 is an ode to the earth as God’s creation.  But more, it is a lyrical theology of God’s continuing presence, participation, and purpose in the earth and its creatures. I invite you to read the psalm in its entirety.

“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

“All [creation] looks to you to give them food in due season. You give it to them; they gather it; you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.”

This is the glory of the Lord, suggests the Psalmist, that the earth should be a resource for all of God’s creatures to have what they need to live—to be filled with good things, that the Lord may rejoice in “his works”

So if all the earth is intended to reveal and enable God’s wisdom, God’s love, God’s nurturing purpose, then the first point with respect to the Fifth Mark of Mission is to recognize that this sacred purpose is the integrity of creation that we have been called to safeguard.  Creation has integrity as long as it serves the life-sustaining and nurturing purpose that God intends for all creatures.  Our concern for the stewardship of the earth is not for the sole benefit of humankind, but for all that God has made.  Said another way, with words that are growing in popularity, our concern is for Environmental Justice for all life.

Environmental Justice, therefore, is not about determining what is most profitable or even most beneficial for us as humans or as nations but what is most beneficial for the whole system of God’s wisdom as revealed in the earth and all life.   Environmental Justice calls us to a broader vision of sustainable economic practices.  Justice calls us to be transformed in our relationship with the earth for the glory of God.

This takes change. When I think about being transformed in my relationship with the earth, I think of how I consume.  Psalm 104 speaks of God filling us with good things.  Perhaps where I need to begin my transformation is in how I understand what it means to be filled.  I would invite us to reflect on the connection between being filled and having enough.  To be filled is to have enough.  And yet, our hearts and our stomachs have been trained to always want more. When is enough enough?  Or is enough never enough?  This is a question for reflection that leads to transformation:  what is enough?

Climate and environmental scientists speak of a rather grim future.  It may be that the earth has reached a tipping point that is beyond recovery.  Nevertheless, I choose to hold fast again to the words of Psalm 104: “[God sends forth God’s] Spirit, the world is created; and so God renews the face of the earth.”

God’s creative and loving purpose is never beyond the tipping point.  Therefore, it remains our calling to serve this purpose through transformed living with expectant hope that the Spirit of God will bring renewal to the earth.  Will we move with the Spirit’s direction in our choices for a sustainable and just economy for all creatures of the earth?

Here I invite us to reflect on the how this calling becomes an expression of the religious life.  If we make seeking God’s justice and purpose the foundation for our transformed relationship with the earth, we will have as our goal a religious life.  Environmental Stewardship, therefore, becomes an expression of our religion, what we bind to ourselves in service to God’s Mission in creating and in creation.

Stewardship of the Earth as religious expression: it has an interesting ring.

This past summer, the Chinook (King) Salmon run in the Yukon River was the weakest in history.  There were so few fish making their way to spawn that the State of Alaska closed the fishery on the Yukon River.  The reasons for the low numbers of fish are still being debated, but it seems clear that one real possibility is that the resource is being depleted through over-fishing by commercial fishing boats in the waters off shore.  I would be greatly criticized for suggesting this reason in Alaska where commercial fishing is a major economic system and powerful interest.  (What is enough commercial fishing?)

Despite the closure of King Salmon fishing on the Yukon River, a small group of Yupik subsistence fisherman, who depend on Chinook salmon for survival, chose to follow their tradition and caught several King Salmon.  They were arrested and charged with violating State Fish and Game regulations, a violation that bears significant fines.

Recently, these Yupik fishermen filed a suit against the State claiming that the closure of the Chinook fishery on the Yukon was a violation of their religious freedom.  What an extraordinary claim!  The suit expresses that subsistence fishing of Chinook salmon is integral to the full expression of their identity as Yupik people who live a subsistence lifestyle.  For generations upon generations, these fishermen and their communities have been fed from the abundance of God’s hand.  There has always been enough salmon, and the expression of their religion was based on maintaining and sustaining this abundance.

It will be interesting to see if their claim for environmental justice will be sustained, or if the interests of limitless consumer demand will continue to claim the hearts and stomachs of the world. If so, when will there be enough?  When will the people open their hearts to the Spirit’s work of transformation, justice, and renewal?  Perhaps the answers are found again in the words of Psalm 104.  When we look to God we are filled, when we demand we are left empty.

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During one of our meals, Kaze Gadway, youth minister, Spirit Journey Youth, from the Diocese of Arizona asked me “What do you think God wanted you to know or learn from WinterTalk?” I could have chosen to summarize information from the many workshops that I attended, sermons I heard, cultural night, and even from the presentation Cohen McCall and I led together on domestic violence and dating violence intervention advocacy. Instead, I answered that I thought God wanted me to still know that my Native ministry family was still here for me, still caring, still supportive.

WinterTalk provides a wealth of sharing of information. We each have expertise. We have knowledge that we can share from event planning to what the Gospel is saying to us to Asset Based Community Development to digital story telling.

WinterTalk is a time of retreat and renewal and affirming our relationship with one another and with Creator. We meet and re-establish friendships with those we may see just once a year. We meet new people. We make new friends. We learn new information to share and use. We are a network of Native people and supporters. We are a family.

 

To Respond to Human Need by Loving Service              

Our response to God’s love and forgiveness in our lives is simply to turn and share God’s love with others.  The compassion that Jesus places in our hearts urges us to care for the people in our lives. For many of us this is easier said than done and we don’t know exactly what we can do. So I will share two stories from my own life that might help us all to consider how we can live in to this call for loving service.

gallaghersSome years ago I was attending a meeting at my seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My oldest daughter Emily had attended college in Boston and lived and worked in Cambridge while she was in college, so she tagged along with me. She visited friends while I was in my meeting. One evening we were returning to the room after dinner when a homeless man came up and asked for money. He recognized Emily and they chatted and caught up for a few minutes. At the end of their catching up he asked about money again. She turned out her pockets and showed him that she had nothing right then. He reached in his cup and gave her a quarter. As we walked away I remarked that she was the only person I knew who could get money off a homeless person. I asked her how she knew the man and she explained.

When Emily lived in Cambridge, she talked to the homeless folks, treating them like she would want to be treated. If she had an extra sandwich or an extra dollar she would share it with the guys on the street. She looked them in the eye and called them by name. She didn’t rush past and ignore them but instead greeted each with the dignity they deserved as a child of the Creator. They knew she wasn’t being a do-gooder but rather was a fellow human being who cared for them. She didn’t have much extra as a college student, but she had plenty of love and concern and made them feel like friends, and like they counted for something. God invites us, as individuals, right where we are, to serve others by treating them as we would treated, by respecting everyone we encounter in our day. Each of us can do that. We can serve the Creator by serving others.

When serving in a parish years ago, I was talking with the children during Advent in a family service. We were talking about getting ready for Christmas and I asked them how their families prepared for a new baby. They made all sorts of suggestions. One little girl shouted out that every baby should have a baby shower. She said that was really important. She repeated herself several times to make sure everyone had heard her. Some of the adults were struck by what she said.

Afterwards a group of folks decided that we should have a baby shower – a baby shower for baby Jesus. We had a women’s shelter that took care of new mothers and they were in great need. The shelter sent us lists of items they needs. The children took the lists and handed them out to everyone who came to church. No one was allowed to walk out of church without something to bring for the shower.

At the end of the Christmas pageant that year, as a Christmas carol was being played, the children, still in costume, went to the back of the church. Little one carried diapers and bottles. The older ones pushed strollers and carried car seats. All sorts of baby necessities were laid at the foot of the crèche. Baby Jesus had a great shower that year.

One little voice can spark a whole movement, a whole ministry. One little insistent voice can be the nudging of the Holy Spirit. We can often disregard the small voices, but God doesn’t miss the need around us. As a whole community we can come together and take on the care of those around us. Each group and people is called to a different kind of service according to the needs around us. But God will find one small voice that can change the whole world, one insistent child or adult who can see the need and point us all in the right direction.

Ending with this song –

A Mother’s Lullaby

How could anyone ever tell you that you’re anything less than beautiful?

How could anyone ever tell you that you’re less than whole?

How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle?

How deeply you’re connected to my soul?

Wintertalk 2013 Keynote address for Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 in Wewoka, OK

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“Why don’t we each write a story about how the youth live the five marks of mission,” suggests Bishop Carol Gallagher. “Then youth ministers will see how practical the five marks can be.”

With delight, the five of us in the room begin to write, reading our stories to each other and sharing some suggestions and editing advice.  The Holy Spirit is alive and well as our excitement flows about how our Native youth respond to our mission to:

·         Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

·         Teach, baptize, and nurture new believers

·         Respond to human need by loving service

·         Seek to transform unjust structures of society

·         Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

We have more than enough stories to illustrate each mark. And each of us tells a story in completely different ways. The energy in the room spins around and around in a circle of collegiality.

This is our third meeting of the previously named Youth Manual Team. We still only have isolated bits and pieces of good ideas without a coherent format. When we chose to use the Marks of Mission as our outline, everything fell into place.

I admitted that I didn’t use anything in the previous meetings in my actual youth work. With that confession on the table, all of us talked about what would be helpful for our existing youth groups.

Our homework assignment now is to find links to the five marks that we can include in the resource guide.

Working in the small group invigorated all of us.  But our melding with the larger group at Wintertalk 2013 made it a time of blessing.  Sitting at different tables at mealtimes enabled us to catch up on what is happening to the Native faith community at large. Beginning and ending our day with worship blended the Christian and Traditional words, songs, and chants. This gave us power to remember who we are and where we come from.
A special treat came as Bishop Steven Charleston gave his talk on four approaches to Native Youth Ministry. In fact, we had several Bishops and other Native presenters talk to us the way it really is in our Native cultures.

What can I say? Even through a snow storm descended on us the last day, I left with gratefulness that our Native people have something to say and the skill to proclaim it.

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