Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Frustrated! I scream inside my mind. Sadness pulls at my heart. Despair cries to my soul. Do they know what they say? Do they know what to do?

As a mother, I think how must I show them?

As a sister, I hold you in my heart. As a daughter, I whisper in your ear………the time is now!

I think of Jesus as a little boy in Luke’s gospel…running to the teachers in Jerusalem. How frightened his parents must have been. Up for 3 days, tired and scared. Their parents full of anxiety and despair. Finding him in the temple only for him to say “why were you searching for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?”

Oh the children! Such gentle souls. Close to God. Full of faith. I think of them now growing up in this world. The issues are endless. There is never enough time. And I too grow weary. But Christ Jesus calls to my heart and whispers THE TIME IS NOW!

As a child, I grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, near a white border town, full of racial tension. Fatherless. Seven years later, Motherless. Taken in by my grandmother after several failed attempts by my mother to be a mother. Feeling this enormous anxiety to care for my twin sister, younger by 14 minutes, and my little brother who was always pulled in multiple directions by my alcoholic mother. I did what I could. Always filled with anxiety. A child should not have to feel like that. At that age is also time Lakota children have their naming ceremonies. I was named, “Wanbli Sina Win”, Eagle Shawl Woman. I often wondered why I received that name. My sister was called, “Wanbli Wiyaka Win”…Eagle Feather Woman. We are named through prayer either by our grandparents or the medicine men. We were named by our great grandmother, Emma Brave Hawk, a prominent lay leader in the Episcopal Church on our reservation.

Our people say, twins are sacred. Really never meant much to me. I was just a young girl trying my hardest to shield my brother and sister from the harsh realities of a drunken mother and her very lost friends. So it seems my Lakota name Wanbli Sina Win fits perfectly.

Later, my sister and I went on to protest our high school’s homecoming “ceremony”. Complete with high schoolers dressed up like a Big Chief, Medicine Man, and 5 warrior princesses. The warrior princesses chosen by the medicine man with a look in their mouth, a glance in the ear, and a check of their weight. Ending with a dramatic show of her as a gift to the big chief.

Now I know many of you do not know the traditions of many Indigenous peoples, much less that of the Oglala Lakota. And just because June watched something similar on the Kenya television reruns of “Little House on the Prairie”, does not make it so.

So I tell you now this was not a ceremony that ever happened, at any time, by our people. We were raised on Lakota values of…

WA Canto Gnaka, the Lakota word for generosity, means to contribute to the well-being of one’s people and all life by sharing and giving freely. This sharing is not just of objects and possessions, but of emotions like sympathy, compassion, kindness.

WO Tita KUye, or kinship, relating to one of the important values of extended family or tiyospaye. Including the ideas of living in harmony and belonging. Family is the measure of your wealth. They will support you in good times and in bad times.

WA Cinta KA, or fortitude, means facing danger or challenges with courage, strength and confidence. Believing in oneself allows a person to face challenges. Fortitude includes the ability to come to terms with problems, to accept them and to find a solution that is good for everyone.

WO Ksa Pe, or Wisdom: Knowledge and wisdom of the old is very important for Lakotas. It has to do with understanding and living the spiritual values and beliefs in the culture and being able to share these with others. Wisdom means being able to incorporate the sacred way of life into one’s own life and to respect and honor all life. It means being open to the dreams of day and night, when spiritual direction may come.

So I suppose it was inevitable that my sister and I would sit in that school gymnasium our 3rd year in high school. Watching the homecoming “ceremony” with only the sound of a sigh by one…AND then a “YES, I KNOW”. A quiet agreement to a protest that would take 4 years. 4 years of painful discrimination, threats of bodily harm, and the loss of childhood friends. We did it on our own accord.

Often I think, WHY would we embark on such a crusade? Now that I am the old age of 32, I know that quietly the Great Spirit whispered and set us to work. Work that included radio stations, newspaper articles, educational forums, and prayerful reflections. Ending with resolutions from two tribes to stop an event that had it been a priest and nuns would’ve been thrown out before it began. But then, the Lakota are not the majority where I come from. Most often injustices such as these happen to minority, the very people we advocate for. Most times, your own people. Injustice is not a new thing to us. Neither is faith. But most often during this very meeting, I heard doubt. I heard anxiety. I heard anger. I heard “not me”.

While my example is clearly an example of a non-violent protest. It was my entry into the hardships of advocacy as a 16 year old. Today, the issues are heart wrenching examples of human right injustices: war, poverty, gender based violence, health care, discrimination, and migration issues. The overt need for peace and justice through reconciliation weighs heavily. Our provinces have so many of these issues in common. And yet I hear the same doubt, anxiety, anger and “not me”.

During our time here at the 25th Anniversary of APJN, we have had an unparalleled opportunity for direct education and face to face contact from our leaders struggling through the structural processes on our behalf. Fighting for the funding for us to be here. Gratefully and humbly I extend thanks on behalf of all of us, to Claudine, Jenny, Brian, Margaret, the steering committee and our Geneva hosts.

The fact that you are here is not an accident. I implore you to intentionally reflect upon your gifts of ministry, your strengths, and intentionally reflect upon how you can strategically assist APJN and all our provinces move into a critical time with ACTION! Do not be angry at the processes.

Do not be angry at the system or definitions. Because while your mind is clouded……our leaders face violence…… and our beloved children are dying… AND yet they wait in faith.

Do you remember what it was like to be that young and have such faith? I do. Because it happens every day in my life. Even at 32! Too often, the Great Spirit whispers and we do not hear because our minds are clouded with the thoughts of doubt. So I tell you now, it is not an accident that you are here. It is not an accident that you were sent. Can you listen to that whisper in your ear? Can you have faith in that dream? Can you open your minds just the tiniest bit to see God’s signs? I know He whispers to you too.

I know He gives you the signs. Can you stop one moment to think HOW can I do this? BELIEVE “yes, I am called!” Can you have the faith of Christ Jesus as a child? The strength of a sister, to help with the work when you are weary? Or the love of a mother to believe?

Frustrated! I scream inside my mind. Sadness pulls at my heart. Despair cries to my soul. Do they know what they say? Do they know what to do?

As a mother, I think how must I show them?

As a sister, I hold you in my heart. A

s a daughter, I whisper in your ear………the time is now! The time is now! Mitakuye Oyasin – You are all my relatives. AMEN! (Luke 2:41-52)

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