Pondering Native Americans and “Thanksgiving”

Beyond Guilt

This post was written as a follow-up for a Salon meeting tonight, Nov 29th, 2010. The salon invites folks to ponder giving thanks in light of our history with our First Peoples. It is a lot like the one on “Harsh News”…because it is another group taking on the same question. In this case, I offer basically the same array of five responses, but then in each case I have inserted a poem, liturgical text or brief comment of my own composition.  The list of five possible responses is followed by suggested actions that may flow from the reflection that is hopefully coming out of the event.

First… to suggest an array of responses to this painful and difficult news about injustice and oppression in our history:

-Stunned Silence –> “…wait, without hope…” T. S. Eliot                                            “East Coker III”

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope                                                                      For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,                                         For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith                                                But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.                                                   Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:                                                       So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Denial –> “mots” – more of the same; status quo

An unfortunately popular world-view arising primarily from ignorance, lack of information about, and / or experience of First Peoples, and which is highly unlikely to nurture the necessary qualities of vision and wisdom which permit new awareness of that which is not already within one’s range of view.

Guilt –> Repentance

God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you,                                    opposing your [presence] in our lives.                                                                                          We have denied your goodness in each other,                                                                             in ourselves, and in the world you have created.                                                                            We repent of the evil that enslaves us,                                                                                             the evil that we have done,                                                                                                            and the evil done on our behalf…                                                                                           Forgive, restore, and strengthen us… (Enriching Our Worship I p 56)

Now quit your care and anxious fear and worry;                                                                           for schemes are vain and fretting brings no gain.                                                                     Lent calls to prayer, to trust and dedication;                                                                           God brings new beauty nigh;                                                                                                         reply, reply, reply with love to love most high;

To bow the head in sackcloth and in ashes,                                                                                    or rend the soul, such grief is not Lent’s goal;                                                                           but to be led to where God’s glory flashes,                                                                               God’s beauty to come near.                                                                                                           Make clear, make clear, make clear where truth and light appear;

For righteousness and peace will show their faces                                                                      to those who feed the hungry in their need,                                                                                       and wrongs redress, who build the old waste places,                                                                  and in the darkness shine.                                                                                                    Divine, divine, divine it is when all combine!

Words: Percy dearmer (20thC) Music: Quittez, Pasteurs, French carol; harm. Martin Fallas Shaw (20thC) Sequence: Cathouse Pandemonium, Ltd

Grief –> lamentation, to cry out in distress with Others to God

A Psalm of Lament, 129:1-2, 4-5

Greatly have they oppressed me since my youth,                                                                          let Israel now say;                                                                                                                           “Greatly have they oppressed me since my youth,                                                                       but they have not prevailed against me….                                                                                        Our God, the Righteous One,                                                                                                            has cut the cords of the wicked.                                                                                                        Let them be put to shame and thrown back,                                                                               all those who are enemies of Zion..

The advantage of lament is that it opens us to each other, rather than closing in on, and around our heavy guilt. We are able to look out and see, rather than to be overwhelmed by our status of guilt. It is not that the guilt, if that is what it is, is not important; rather, it is that guilt, as such, does not often lead towards transformation and openness to the other. Too often guilt simply strengthens our defenses and resistance towards the other with whom reconciliation is needed.

Make a pilgrimage to SEATAC on the Light Rail, and experience a traditional Welcome Song sung by the Duwamish People at the Airport Station. Then, give thanks for the continued presence and contribution of the Tribes of the State of WA, named in the artwork over the escalator to the airport. (No security clearance or ex-rays required!)

Love –> be changed, be transformed by new openness and awareness

We, i.e. our First Nations Committee,  don’t want to trivialize what is actually a very long and challenging process by suggesting that people may be zapped into pseudo-constructive action without acknowledging that a huge amount of work/ learning /healing / transformation needs to take place in between an awareness of grave injustice towards Native Peoples and present desires to do something about that injustice.

The kind of “love” advocated here is anything but easy or simple. This love                           is very costly, difficult, and at times, uncomfortable. It has none of the comfort of an idealized or romantic notion of innocence.  Rather, always tinged with  reminders of tremendous suffering and injustice, this is a kind of love that does not give up even when it fails, as it often does.

If your response to his evening bids you to some action, please consider…

◊ Reading Playing Indian, by Philip Deloria (non-fiction), Green Grass, Running Water (book and film) Thomas King

◊ Paying attention, reflecting (blogging, journaling, tweeting, FBing etc.)

Go home tonight and do that much. Write for ten minutes on what you learned tonight, or what you wondered, or what grabbed you, or whatever your heart is moved to write. And then, listen to yourself. What are you learning, thinking and feeling here and what do you want to do about it?

Pay attention to your own “heritage”. What is it? If you don’t know, try to find out. If you can’t find out, then harvest one from your experience, and desire. Then honor that, and try to figure out why you need to have a “heritage.” And thus, why it matters when “we” get in the way of the heritage(s) of other people.

◊ Praying … for all people, for specific people, for what is on your heart, for the World!

“We need for them to….” (Elsie Dennis)

◊  Write to Congress about the need for federal recognition of the Duwamish Tribe   http://www.duwamishtribe.org/index.html

◊ go to the “Fry-bread for Justice” fund raisers, at the Duwamish Longhouse

◊ help at or contribute to Chief Seattle Club,  http//www.chiefseattleclub.org/

◊ write in support of the United States supporting the UN Declaration, etc.

http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html the declaration
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/declaration.html an update

◊ go to pow wows, especially with a pow wow etiquette workshop before hand [We – First Nations Committee, Diocese of Olympia – will be offering some of these in the spring and summer. See the “bookmark”.]

◊ go to Native Ministries Consortium Summer School at VST July 11- 2, 2011


◊ go to SAM…. and other museums…to see the things and to learn what can and cannot be learned both from what is there, and what isn’t, and how!!

◊ take part in / be present to and observing of somebody else’s celebration, e.g.                  The Feast of Guadalupe, – an occasion that both indigenous, and Christian –                        St. Mark’s Cathedral, Sunday, Dec  12th, 4 pm                                                                                                                                                   http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=461109276057#!/event.php?eid=165149330189840

About kathrynrickert

Possibly from watching the movie Bambie at the age of 6, I have had a life-long awareness that saying ONLY nice things, does not make the world just or kind. Thus, my 2009 doctoral dissertation..."Talking Back to God" , is one of the main aspects of the work I do. Always interdisciplinary, seeking connections across borders that are usually marked with DO NOT ENTER, I seek to pay attention, pray, think, create,and imagine using biblical laments, Christian worship texts, and the ordinary stuff of everyday life.
This entry was posted in God at Gatherings, food, drink and holy stuff, God at Work, God in Creation, God in Relationships, God in the Media, God in the Streets, God on the Inside. Bookmark the permalink.

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