During Cru’s biannual Staff Conference my wife Renee and I had the opportunity to help recognize the land we were on, and to honor some local elders in Fort Collins, CO. From my script I wrote with the help of many conversations with Native leaders I know: [Friday Evening Full Session]
In Cru’s effort to become a multi-ethnic organization, a culturally aware organization, and increased cultural awareness and intelligence we must recognize where we are, in this space. At one time the Apache, Comanche, Ute, Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho called this land home. But, by the 1830’s these tribes were being pushed off what is now Larimer County. During the 1840’s settlers moved into Cheyenne and Arapaho hunting grounds, and removed the tribes to the territory between North Platte and Arkansas via the Laramie Treaty. The Treat of Fort Laramie ensured the Native people retained this territory but once gold was discovered encroachment by the settlers and gold seekers raised hostilities. The result was the Sandcreek Massacre where U.S. Soldiers, while the men where out killed and mutilated Native American women, children, and elders. That was the story of the land and “stories are alive in space, not dead in time” according to Pastor Jim Bear Jacobs. I want to emphasize this night is not a time for apologies, but a chance to lament. To Lament as Nehemiah lamented in Nehemiah 1:4-11. Mark Charles has challenged many people to model our lament after Nehemiah’s journey. Mark holds this to be true that reconciliation means to “lament till God moves, touches you, speaks to you… Christian reconciliation is grounded NOT in repentance or forgiveness, but in indefinite [unknown length of time] lament of our permanent and irreconcilable brokenness (retweet).” Jimmy McGee, our speaker a few days on this stage suggested, “Lamenting says there is a sorrow I can’t discard until reality changes.” Lament is a long, uncomfortable, and costly journey. Lamenting needs to be part our daily prayers, our spiritual activities, our riot times (not quiet times according to Renee), and is often absent in Church liturgy.
We wanted everyone to know were we stood and where the conference was occurring was on stolen land. This definitely did not fit in any category of most if not all non-Natives in attendance. There has been positive feedback, but what we fear most is when after the recognition and honoring the people, the conversation stops and believing everything is fine. In many ways this is only the beginning of confronting the past atrocities of Native people. The Declaration of Independence still refers to Native Americans as “merciless Indian savages.” The term “All men are created equal” does not include Native Americans, African Americans, and women. The 13th Amendment did not erase slavery, but redefined it as incarceration.
- African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites (http://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet)
Native Americans and Hispanics don’t fare much better when it comes to incarceration. The Constitution is working as Mark Charles would say, it is looking out for the interest of white land owning men.
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