Recognizing Native Americans

Psalm 139: 1-4  - O Lord, you have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. 3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.

This intimate knowing of us by the Creator is reassuring and frightening at the same time.  God knows everything we do, what we’ll say before we say it, and even what we think.  But our God who knows us so well, must know the not so wonderful things we do and say along with the good.  That can certainly give one pause.

We just celebrated the Sunday set aside by the UN to recognize American Indians in our culture.  The history between American Indians and the whites is a lurid story of promises and treaties broken time after time with terrible suffering leading eventually to being compelled to live on reservations   

Their numbers decimated by alcoholism, drug addiction, broken families, suicide, and lack of employment opportunities, there still is no end in sight of their suffering. What keeps us, people of privilege, from standing up for their cause?

Hear the words of Chief Luther Standing Bear - “Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life - that to the white man is an 'unbroken wilderness.'

But for us there was no wilderness, nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly. Our faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.

For us, the world was full of beauty; for the other, it was a place to be endured until he went to another world.

But we were wise. We knew that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard.”

Is it possible that we as a people have become so disconnected from our surroundings and nature that we have become hard hearted?  How long must the injustices to American Indians go unaddressed?  The same goes for our African-American brothers and sisters. What does God see as God searches and knows us? 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations."

We have an opportunity to redress the wrongs perpetrated by earlier generations through legislation and support of programs that help our struggling brothers and sisters in Christ.  This Sunday our UCC Neighbors in Need offering, of which 1/3 will go to the Council of American Indian Ministries (CAIM), will be received. 

Let this be the first step we take in trying to right a long overdue wrong.