June 22, 2015
Brothers and Sisters,
Today was a very motivational day for me not only did I get to share my faith with the people of Portland in the Park blocks, but as I made my way home I was caught up in a conversation with young people from all over the Northwest. They are from tribes all over the ones that I talked to were from the Cowlitz tribe, at first they were weary of me. They told me that a lot of the time people like me (white) did not really care about them, but rather belittled their culture and their customs that they held so dear.
I pressed in on them because I wanted to hear their stories. They were from the ages of 14-16 years of age. The boys knew their native tongue and the girls showed me a song and the dance that paired with it. I was so amazed at their openness. It was very unique to me. They shared with me their feelings which were a lot of concern and a lot of hurt. They told me they still get the questions of “Do you still live in a teepee?” and questions of the socio-economic standing.
They shared with me about their concerns that their cultures were disappearing in fact that is why they are here according to their leader. She told me that this camp was meant to connect people with their roots. It got my heart searching a little deeper and I found myself wanting to know more. I guess it is that anthropologist in me. I want to know how people work, how they think, what they believe, and how they keep their traditions alive. I was curious and once I showed my desire to learn and especially to listen they opened up.
I learned about land rights, I was even spoken to about the Trial of Tears. Have you ever heard that story? It is a dark part of American history. I think it is well worth looking up and understanding. You can see the pain written on their hearts when discussing it. I will not go into detail here, but I can link to someone with more understanding than I.
I also was talked to by their leader about her tribe in California, how they stood up to the American Army. They also go to have their land because of it. They were the Modoc tribe. I have thought about this a lot. What does it mean to be a Native American in this century? How do you uphold your tribal customs? How can I be of use? How can I learn more?
I even got to talk to three young men about their faith. One of them told me he was a Christian, but he believed his family came first. The other two did not really adhere to a faith, but were more interested in their tribal customs. I thought it was a beautiful thing, and I wanted to share more about the Gospel but I was consumed with their willingness to tell ME about their lives and their history. They would laugh my questions off like young men do originally and then they really spoke to me. One young man who was sixteen showed me the outline of the original tribal lands his tribe held before the mid-1800s and how it shrunk to less than a third of its size by the end of the 1800s. I mean it was once in four states and now is centered in one.
So I pray about these young men and women. I told them to take what they learn and bring it back to their homes and grow their tribes through leadership. I encouraged them to tell others about their tribes. I hope I created a safe environment where they knew I genuinely cared about them and by extension of my father in heaven love them. At this point I do not know how Jesus fits into this story, but I know he does! He fits into all of our stories. He is so faithful to mend brokenness and bring goodness to bad situations. It takes time to heal a long list of pain but he is there in the midst of it all.
I am praying over peacemaking, and how to reconcile this issue. I do not have all the answers, nor do I know all the facts yet. But I shall strive to be more informed.
Sincerely in Christ,
M. Elyse Urban
For more information on the Trail of Tears
More information on the Modoc Tribe
More information on Modoc Tribes and Klamath Tribes (water rights and other land issues)
(These are but a few of the tribes represented in the small group I was talking to)