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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.


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.



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 ( and I shared my own story with the Episcopal Church and larger community through an EPPN blog post: 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 (

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

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:

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

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

Virginia Theological Seminary Sermon – November 28, 2012
Observance of the Full Communion Accord between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church
Psalm 131 & 132
Zechariah 13:1-9
Luke 19:11-27

Anpetu Waste my good friends. Good Morning, my Lakota name is Wanbli Sina Win or Eagle Shawl Woman. I am Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

I admit had a very hard time relating to the readings of Luke 19: 11-27 as a Lakota Christian.

I know, I know… in a general sense you could say WELL they were speaking of servant-hood. RIGHT? Yeah, I guess so. But to me THIS type servant-hood was done in all the wrong ways. JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION.

I can relate more to the bigger picture in the beginning of Luke 19, where Jesus pardoning a sinner Zacchaeus who displayed COURAGE to climb a sycamore tree over the thick crowd to see Jesus. He was rewarded by Jesus going to his home. Zaccheaus promises to give half of his possessions to the poor, and repay it four times over anyone he has extorted anything from. Luke 19:9, “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

LOST can be interpreted in a variety of ways, as well as SIN and in both passages are seeking salvation in two VERY different ways. Yet the last verse of Luke 19:26 has the KING calling his servants to BRING THOSE ENEMIES OF MINE WHO DIDN’T ME TO BE KING…BRING THEM HERE AND KILL THEM IN FRONT OF ME.

WOW… kill them in front of me. Today we can barely imagine what that must be like. Yet, this has occurred in our history of Church. MOSTLY, these readings reminded me of how wrong man can be. And how wrong intentions and actions can be interpreted.

If you look in history you see this same violence played out, in the name of God, countless times. The Doctrine of Discovery, or Manifest Destiny, in the 19th century gave the government and churches the “inherent right to conquer and rule”. This Doctrine was also the justification for expanding beyond the Louisiana Territory, justified the War with Mexico, and even justified slavery…besides pardoning the GENOCIDE of Native Americans through massacres and executions.

One of the most significant, historical and largest US mass execution was the Hanging of the 38 Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862. As we approach Advent, a time I cherish…I also remember that December 26, 2012 will mark the 150th Anniversary of this day where Abraham Lincoln initially condemned 303 Dakota and Ojibwe Indians to death. Death by hanging for the crimes of theft resulting from desperate people confined to reservations by the government as they faced starvation.

A little known fact is Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple, intervened writing to Abraham Lincoln, as well as coming here to Washington, DC to plead for their lives. Lincoln reviewed the cases and reduced the condemned to 38. HOWEVER you may be a surprised to learn that of the 38 executed, 37 were baptized. As they walked to their death, they sang a Christian Hymn in the Dakota Language.

Hymnal #385
1. Many and great, O God, are thy works,
maker of earth and sky;
thy hands have set the heavens with stars;
thy fingers spread the mountains and plains.
Lo, at thy word the waters were formed;
deep seas obey thy voice.

2. Grant unto us communion with thee,
thou star abiding one;
come unto us and dwell with us;
with thee are found the gifts of life.
Bless us with life that has no end,
eternal life with thee.

Everytime I hear this hymn I think of these men…condemned to death and singing their death song…a Christian hymn as they were BROUGHT TO BE KILLED IN FRONT OF thousands of CHRISTIANS…the day after Christmas, 1862.

But this isn’t the only evidence of an mass killing right after Christmas…On the morning of December 29, 1890… troops from the US 7th Cavalry came to disarm the Lakota on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. One version of events claims a deaf tribesman was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it. A scuffle over rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry’s opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing many unarmed men, women, and children as they fled. By the time it was over, at least 150 Lakota men, women, and children had been killed…some estimates placed the number of dead closer to 300. The dead lay on the plains for 3 days, as a blizzard came. When the snowing ended, they were gathered and buried in a mass grave at Wounded Knee. One of the most chilling images is one of these troopers posing in front of the open grave with their guns. At least twenty troopers were awarded the coveted Medal of Honor for their part in this event.


So yes…everything I was taught is the exact opposite of Luke 19:11-27. As a Lakota I was taught to value:
1) Wacante Oganake, “To help, to share, to give, to be generous.”
2) Wowa-unsila, “Pity, Compassion.”
3) Wowauo-nihan, “To Repect, to Honor.”
4) Wowa-cin-tanka, “Patience and Tolerance.”
5) Wowah-wala, “To be Humble, To Seek Humility.”
6) Woohi-tike, “To be Guided By Your Principles, Disciplined, Bravery and Courage.”
7) Woksape, “Understanding and Wisdom.”

We must remember our values, even in the most dire of times. We must also remember our church has a past. A past that SHOULD NOT be forgotten, a past that STILL LIVES with us today. A past that had led to many contemporary issues Native Americans face today due to poverty.

Like Zaccheaus, we know we are all sinners in some way or another… as we move forward as Christians we also seek SALVATION through the Son of Man and knowledge…and then we are no longer LOST. In contrast, Native Americans would say they were never LOST.

So this week after Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for that we are not ignorant of these events… we can give thanks for our church’s repentance for the Doctrine of Discovery… we can give thanks for those who have COURAGE to open their minds to the truth so they can continue to heal a people still struggling with this outright WRONG done to their ancestors… we can give thanks for our partnerships in ministry in dioceses and with our relationship of full communion with the ELCA through our “COMMON MISSION”. This mission includes a partnership with projects surrounding poverty beginning to address this injustice to Native Americans, and many others.

Psalm 132 cries out “Lord, remember David…and all the hardships he endured…” And so as we begin Advent, we remember those ancestors who displayed COURAGE in the face of death singing their death song. We remember those children, who became my great-grandparents, who continued to uphold their culture to the next generation so that together, as servants of one Creator Tunkasila, we can move forward with wisdom and compassion.

Pilamaya, Mitakuye Oyasin. Thank you, all my relations. AMEN.