As a teenager, I participated in a high school creative writing class. One late fall evening, I wandered outside my family home searching for inspiration. A vision flashed before my eyes; I saw how the prairie appeared many hundreds of years ago — Native American homes were nestled in the densely wooded gently rolling area, wisps of smoke meandered through the lowland following the course of the creek, and families performed the daily rituals of life at one with their environment. That vision was the impetus of my assignment. Over the 40+ years since, I have thought of that night, reflecting upon the devastating changes forced upon those inhabitants by white settlers.
Over 200 years later, many people living on Illinois farms and small towns don’t consider the wrongs committed when Native Americans were shoved from their homes and land. Some question the validity of why they should be concerned — how does it affect their lives since they had no part in the catastrophe, why should they be a part of atonement? But … if we as a people of Christ are to atone for and reconcile with Native American people, we must first acknowledge the numerous injustices inflicted upon an entire people/culture/society. We are called to not only admit the wrong, but we are called to deeply search for the truth, to know (as best we can) their experiences when everything they knew and loved was torn from them permanently.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) It is time to bring this pain to light. When history is studied with an open heart and mind, then truth can rise, and healing can begin. Now is the time as Christians to continue the process of understanding a culture demolished by settlers, soldiers and others who came before us. Now is the time to own our ancestors perpetuation of land seizure and other wrongs, to ask for forgiveness, and to seek reconciliation. Now is the time to achieve change for ongoing injustices.
Prayer: Lord open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the injustices forced upon our Native American brothers and sisters. Help us to understand and accept the wrongs done. Lead us in ways to atone for our sins. Guide us in steps toward reconciliation. Amen.
(Jana Fox Raymond is a member of the Virginia UMC, LaMoine River District)