Small Steps Toward Understanding, Appreciation, & Community Through Giving, Receiving and Leaning:
First the learning, and then the giving and receiving:
In spite of the increasingly imposing nature of the houses recently built in Richmond Beach, the nature of relations and connections between those who first lived here and those who live here now remain, at best, fuzzy. While there may be no possibility of actual clarification or even less of reconciliation, it is possible to shed a light that links the past to the present so as to honor those who were here before.
May we learn from this honoring and live here with deeper awareness, gratitude, generosity and wisdom. And, may this effort not cause distress.
This little adventure is a fruit of my pondering the phrase, “If God is Red and I am White….” The phrase is the title of an article I wrote for a conference honoring Vine Deloria, Jr. who died three years ago. It is a response to Deloria’s lifelong work of making a form of Native American thought, philosophy and worldview accessible to those in this country who are not NA. His first national publication was an article in Playboy Magazine, that later became, Custer Died for Your Sins. Among his many books, is God is Red A Native View of Religion.. My response to Deloria was something of an exercise in theological imagination, rather than any kind of declaration of certitude about the way things are. Rather, it tries out a notion that is both the title and conclusion of the book” …that for this land, God is red.” The purpose behind my entry into this aspect of theological imagination is to take seriously the fact of living in a place that not all that long ago belonged to other Peoples, and to reflect on the implications of recent history for present faith, practice and worldview.
That is to say, what difference does that history make to how I see God, myself and the way I relate to others and the Creation now? This is an experiment and a journey to which you are invited.
While much about the past is only dimly and poorly understood, I am using what I know now to move into this exploration. Learning a bit about traditional Coast Salish sites near to my house in Richmond Beach is one of these pieces. There are two important formal sites in parks near to my house whose purpose is to honor the First Nations who came to this place before we did:
The Welcoming Figure in Richmond Beach Park, with its ten-foot tall Coast Salish bronze casting of a cedar carving:
Welcoming Figure carved by artists Steve Brown, Joe Gobin, and Andy Wilbur
This sculpture was built in conjunction with the non-celebration of the 500 years since Europeans arrived on the North American continent. The site was blessed with an Indian Shaker ceremony in 1992, that I was honored to be present for. The art work was created by a team of First Nations
carvers and leaders who arrived at this powerful way of recognizing the First Peoples of this place without mention of European arrival. Rather, in something of an opposite perspective, the sculpture stands tall facing the direction from which the sun shines low on the horizon at the Winter Solstice, to greet those who arrive at this beach that has been for a thousand years a site for traditional visits to collect Knnickinnick, (Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. This plant, now planted in many gardens of the area, including along the retaining wall on the north side of Richmond Beach Road, was used by First Peoples as a kind of tobacco and smoked in ceremonial settings.
The other site, two long-blocks below our house, at the foot of the hill just this side of the railroad tracks, is Kayu Kayu Ac Park, Shoreline WA.  While there is no access to the beach, and everything that grows there has been recently planted – there is nothing indigenous about the spot at all – it is a small and somewhat awkward attempt to acknowledge the presence, past and present, of the First Peoples of this place and to honor them by using their language for the name of this park.
(This next section is what is on the Shoreline Park wed-page about the park. )
Art work to be installed in the park:
“…two pieces of art in the park coming in 2010. David Franklin is designing a dramatic new entryway for the park which will include a metal Coast Salish canoe gate and side posts with canoe paddles. James Madison is creating a free-standing sculpture with a salmon fishing theme for the open lawn area just north of the swings and play area.”
“These two artistic elements strengthen the park’s Native American theme honoring the first people to inhabit the area.
Richmond Beach Neighborhood of Shoreline at Richmond Beach Drive NW and NW 198th Street along the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad mainline that runs along the shoreline of Puget Sound.
“Kayu Kayu Ac park”. It is pronounced Ki-U Ki-U Atch: ki like kite, U like the letter U and Ac is atch like in watch. This name is a common Native American (Lushootseed/ Coast Salish) term that was used to describe the Richmond Beach area as well as the native plant kinnickinick.
The City enlisted the help of Edith Nelson, a Duwamish Tribe Elder who lives in Richmond Beach where the park is located. Nelson consulted with a tribal member who is doing language research of the early Duwamish people. The area where the park is located was a well-known area among the Duwamish; it was called Kayu Kayu Ac.
http://www.cityofshoreline.com/index.aspx?page=161 . Accessed June 20, 2010.
Small steps are better than no steps.
All of this background is to explain why I am inviting you to join in a another small step by helping to prepare some bookmarks for a give-a-way that will take place at the end of the Native Ministries Consortium Summer School in Vancouver on July 23, 2010.
This past weekend, the Ethnic Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia held a workshop on Internalized Oppression at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA. Over a Friday evening and a Saturday, this group of 30+ Episcopalians from various congregations in Western WA explored “race”, “prejudice” and “racism”, and “power”. The workshop was led by the Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor and Suzanne Krull, of the Anti-Racism Training group from the Diocese of Alaska.
Without any attempt to summarize the training, the conclusion of such events always leads those who are not First Nations to ask: “So, what can I do?” This little project invites you to learn something you did not already know, and then to express that learning by participating in a very small give-a-away as one thing you can do.
So far, you have learned something about two FN sites in Shoreline that in small yet actual ways do something to acknowledge, past and present, First Peoples in this land. And, now you have this opportunity to learn something about how traditional communities, past and present, use giving and receiving to bind themselves together. First Peoples are not some superhuman groups to be put on pedestals, but rather are our neighbors and friends from whom we can learn and collaborate. This kind of giving and receiving is something we can learn.
In Euro-American contexts we tend to think that the person with the “most stuff” is some how “richer” than those with less stuff. In many tribal communities, including those indigenous to Puget Sound, “power” and connection was and is demonstrated by the capacity to give away more things/ stuff than others. So, while I do grasp how the give-away is a form of power, I am more interested in the capacity of the give-away to bind us together.
The Summer School of the Native Ministries Consortium of the Vancouver School of Theology is 25 years old this year. It meets for two weeks each summer and welcomes many First Peoples from all over North American, and more than a few non- native people who come to be present to and learn with and from First Nations peoples. I will be back there again this summer for the 4th time. One of the things I have learned from these summers is that one does not show up to such an event without something to give away. And, the reason is not simply because it is embarrassing to be the recipient of such tremendous generosity, but because we always come to love people there and that loves calls for this giving. (This is certainly true not only for North American First Peoples gatherings; this is also true when meeting people from almost any other part of the world, especially the Middle East.)
This giving and receiving, where both aspects are important, works like that chain from the Epistle, Colossians 2:19 where we become “knit together in love” by these things that stand in for our respect and love for each other. The conclusion of the Internalized Racism Workshop included the giving and receiving of calico quilting squares.  Following a reaffirmation of our baptismal vows as indicative of the significance of the workshop, each person was invited to come forward to receive one of these squares. Inside each square was a card, on which we wrote our commitment as to what we would do with what we learned. I said that I would use my square(s) to make something to give away at NMC and that I would invite other folks into the process as a way of sharing the learning. The idea is that I would like to give something that is not only from me, but that represents other people in my community and life. And that desire to give something that comes not only from me, but from “my people”, is something formed by my experience with First Peoples.
So, after all of this, you are hereby invited to join this project. I have the three black and red quilting squares. I have a vague idea of looking for some very small pieces of driftwood from the beach in front of the Welcoming Figure, that we could drill a little hole in and attach to the bookmark. Then I will see if there is some manageable way to tell a very small piece of this too-long story on a black and red book mark that comes from here in Shoreline and is given to people up in BC.
 Kathryn A. Rickert. “If God is Red, and I am White: Honoring Vine Deloria, JR.” Journal of the Indigenous Theological Training Institute, publication pending (2010?)
 http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2238/3956370159_bc7234e051_m.jpg . Accessed June 20, 2010.
 Edna Gunther. Ethnobotany of Western Washington: The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants by Native Americans. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1945, 1988, 44. According to Gunther this plant had the following name in the following tribes: Chehalis kaya’ni, [S’] Klallam kinnikinnick, Makah, kwtca’, Skokomish sklewat, Squaxi s’qaya’dats.
 http://www.pugetsalish.com/downloads.aspx The name k’ayu k’ayu is confirmed on this Coast Salish Lushootseed Language web page, with the name of Zalmai Zahir, April 6, 2009. Accessed June 20, 2010.
 The reason for giving these squares is that Ginny Doctor’s tribe, the Onodaga, of upper New York State, was promised “cloth” in exchange for their land as part of their (1974) treaty with the U.S. Government. That cloth, now, unbleached muslin, is the only part of the treaty which has been kept.