One or the Other? How About Both…

I was reading an article about a band I’ve never heard of before and I am so happy that I found this article! Jonathan Maracle, of Broken Walls, sums it up so precisely, so succinctly, so beautifully. He speaks freedom for my people.

Have I lost you?

Let me back up.

I am Native American.

Shocking I know.

With my very pale, ‘pale face’, oober curly hair and lack of accent it is hard to tell. But Native I am none the less. To keep it easy for you, I will tell you the tribal name on my ‘papers’. I am Gros Ventre (pronounced grow ‘vawn’, like yawn, but w/ a ‘v’). It means…well…big butt or pot belly. This is why my hips are doomed to be the wide load they are. It’s in my genes.

I’d rather have the darker skin, but alas, hips is what I was given…point is I got me some Native blood in these veins.

Being Native is hard for many. We were slaughtered, mercilessly. Small pox was a ‘gift’ given to thousands in the guise of warm blankets during long, cold winters from government sanctioned agencies. Our lands were taken sometimes cunningly, violently and other times through dishonesty and trickery. Our food was taken with the loss of our lands and over-hunting. Our religion was also attacked. We were ‘sinners, heathens, savages’.

And there is more so much more. That will have to be another post, if I could ever attempt such a post…

We simply were not wanted. We were in the way.

You probably know some of this. You may not. Either way, it happened.

It happens still.

My Mother was raised to tell others she was ‘French’, not ‘Indian’. There was a certain stigma associated with being ‘red’.

My Mother is young.

I was raised that it was ok to tell others you are Indian, but lets not necessarily ask.

Then came the 80’s and 90’s. If you were Native, you were now a novelty. People wanted to call you friend so they could tell others they had a ‘real’ Indian as a friend. Still you were set apart. Slightly positive, but shallow. There is not much substance in novelties, they all pass their time.

Change yes. However it is slow and there is still stigma.

Today Natives are taking back their pride for who they were and who they are now. We are not the same. I’m not sure that is a possibility, or that it should be.

It seems that our ‘religion’ is a main focus. There is guilt associated to call God the Great Spirit or The Creator. White people* will look at you funny, even though the Bible begins with: In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. (Genesis 1:1). Seems like my people knew who God was before the missionaries came to tell us.

Don’t get your panties all in a huff. I am not saying we had it all right. But I am saying neither did the missionaries.

Missionaries came and changed us in what seems to a lasting effect. In a bad way.

We were shamed into Christianity. Forced into it. Beaten into it.

They took our children, put them into boarding schools. They were forbidden to speak the language. To wear the clothes. To eat the foods that nourished generations. They were not allowed to sing, to dance. The children were not returned to the reservations. To their parents. They were ‘assimilated’ into ‘society’. At the lowest levels mind you. Some made their way back to the reservations on their own. They found sadness, loss, broken souls, they found more tragedy. Some of them became lost themselves.

In fact a great many People became lost.

For years.

For generations.

We could not practice our ‘religion’ and did not accept the Christianity. Could not accept it.

Do you accept someone shoving a piece food down your throat? Certainly it’s doable, but it is not enjoyable or truly accepted. You might even die from the experience. Like many of the Native American’s did.

No where in the Bible I read does it say that if a person doesn’t choose God they should be beaten, shamed or forced into it.

No where.

The Bible I read says the opposite. You should be patient, loving and praying for others to learn about God. Talk about God and what the Bible says then let the person make up their own minds to accept Him. Or not. It is not the job of people to make others believe and follow Jesus. That is the Holy Spirits job.

God’s cool like that. He gives you a choice. He wants you to be educated and He wants your love, but He will not force it from you.

Missionaries had a lot wrong back then. There is much damage my People are recovering from.

Today I read this article and I am set free. I have a new understanding of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’.

There are so many Natives who do not trust. Do not judge or blame. You may know the history, but you probably haven’t lived with its repercussions.

When it comes to Christianity and Natives, it was taught that to be accepted by Jesus we could not be WHO we were. A Lakota man in the article told Jonathan, “I always knew Jesus was the Way, but I could never accept Him, because they always told me I had to quit being Lakota in order to know Jesus.”

Oh! My Heart! My heart bleeds at this. The ‘white’ part has shame, guilt. The ‘red’ part has pain, sorrow.

They lied. They lied. They lied.

That is what was told to us for hundreds of years. The mindset because of that lie is “God doesn’t like us the way we were created, but we need to be like them to have a good connection with Him.”

Oh My Heart!

Our children learned that it was wrong to dance, to sing, to be who they were. They learned they were not accepted. Not just by whites, but by God. Their God, the One Great Spirit. Make no mistake, ‘their’ God and ‘Christianity’s’ God are one in the same.

Sure things looked different, but so does Jewish from Christianity from Baptist. Sure not all of it was headed in the right direction, but then not all of todays religions are either. Hello 2012, we’ll be seeing you soon…

Jonathan then responded: “God loves us for who we are, and for who He created us to be, and He can work just as well within our culture as He can within anyone else’s.”


That one, he speaks the truth.

At last.

Truth is what we need. So much.

The Creator, made us, just the way we are. He also made us the way we were. We may not have been perfect, but He still loved us. The Creator, God, The Great Spirit makes no mistakes.

Doesn’t matter if you’re white, Native or…or, (pick one and insert here…) Italian, God can work anywhere. With anyone. He’s amazing like that.

And now it is OK to be Native and it is ok to be a Believer. The two can be one. The two can be whole.

The two are loved. Equally. Beautifully.


*Ok so white people may not be PC, but it’s much easier to type than to list all the nationalities of ‘white’. Take no offense, I am not using this derogatorily nor do not separate myself from this category. I am Native and I am also White. A Heinz 57 if you will…


About Sheila's Thinkerings

Happily married wife, happily mommied mom. I am far from perfect but I don't mind. Also I am a wee bit crazy, it's true. Just ask anyone who's ever met me...
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1 Response to One or the Other? How About Both…

  1. Tanya says:

    I Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee – my dad is reading the book and sounds like there is a movie made for it too, if you’re seeking a shortcut. From what I can tell, it’s the story of how Native Americans were treated when the white man came. Very eye opening.

    As for the religion part, it’s the crazies that make me feel shame. I was doing a bible study at the lunch table at work one day and felt embarassed when someone came to join me. I was afraid I was ashamed of God, but upon further relfection, I came to realize I am ashamed of the crazy over the top out of their mind insane Christians that condemn everything that isn’t cookie cutter like them. I am ashamed that someone may think that they need to fear having lunch with me because maybe I’m one of the crazies and will spill out religious insanity, tell them they are wrong and condemed to Hell for what they say/do/think. Everyone has their own path to walk and I’m quite certain I’m too busy trying to follow my own path to worry about how someone else is doing on theirs! Shame on those who condemn, I say leave it to God to make the judgement when the day comes. What is that verse? Let he without sin cast the first stone.

    Good Blog, my friend!

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