Native Americans: The Forgotten Minority

I have to say my summer reading has been transforming. Spending time with Jesus in the gospels is incredible. His love and power continues to amaze me and challenge me to stand in the gap between a righteous God and those who are poor of spirit and marginalized. Tolstoy had a wonderful short story demonstrating how caring for the poor and marginalized is caring for Christ. Action seems to be the demonstrative word.

Jim Wallis in his book “On God’s Side,” argues this reality well. However, there is a section discussing American Exceptionalism that caught my eye this morning. I don’t believe in American Exceptionalism, in other words, America has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. I don’t buy that, nor will I ever, but I believe in America and what it stands for: Democracy and freedom for all.

Wallis discusses why he loves America and what embarrasses him about America. He loves patriotism, how beautiful our country is, and our values. “I especially love our best national values: freedom, opportunity, community, justice, human rights, and equality under the law for all of our citizens of every race, creed, culture, and gender, not just for the rich and powerful.” I agree with this, and stand with Wallis on this statement.

He then states what he doesn’t love about this country. “What I don’t love is when my country violates its values and ideals and behaves badly, as when we supported the white South African government for far too long, as well as too many other dictatorships around the world. I don’t love when my country acts out of greed and only for power, or with blatant hypocrisy, or like an empire.” I also agree with this statement. Wallis continues by discussing civil rights, “I also love our American social movements: abolitionists who fought to end slavery, civil rights activists, suffragettes, labor organizers, human rights campaigners – these are my heroes.” Although I agree with him here, he leaves out a group that has been sentenced to concentration camps for over 150 years, Native Americans.

There are Indian activists, but where is the active dialog on what to do with reservations? Years ago there was a termination movement for eliminating rez’s across the US. Is that what needs to be accomplished? Where are the multifaceted leaders, like the civil rights movement of the 60’s, that can stand up for dealing with the atrocities that are inflicted by the government on the Native Americans, and the horrible acts occurring as Indian on Indian violence? Alcohol, Rape, meth, heroin, and gangs are prevalent on reservations, which are nothing more than ghettos, yet we don’t see a national debate on what to do with the Native American.

I agree with Vine Deloria when he identifies Indian Affairs as a relationship between the US government, Tribal government, and the community. But I think he stops to soon, at least in regards to how he defines community. The community is not just the Native community, but white and red. There needs to be a new dialog, one that brings together the stakeholders to deal with this horrific exploitation of people. As Paolo Freire recognizes in the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” there needs to be a humanizing dialog between the US oppressor and the oppressed, the Native, both have been dehumanized by the process of oppression.

We don’t see Jesus in the gospels sitting down with the Roman government to come to an agreement on how to deal with the Jewish issue. That was not his purpose. However, He did tell us how we are to act as the church. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall called the children of God.”

And that is my thought for the day!


3 thoughts on “Native Americans: The Forgotten Minority

  1. Roger,
    Don’t know you…but thought I would share a comment on the Native American situation. Having grown up in SD…but having little or nothing to do with the Native American’s there I came to realize their plight several years ago when our church made trips to Allen, SD and worked with the folks at the Pass Creek Church Of God! The way I see it is that the government gives the Native Americans just enough to survive without having to take initiative for themselves (which is not helping their situation). As one of the tribal policemen told us during one of our early work camps. Most of the men on the rez that are 17 years old or older have absolutely no reason to get up in the morning. Unemployment is 80% or higher. Many years ago when the government took the people off their land and herded them into villages they did a great disservice to their culture, pride, and way of life. At this point…I don’t have a lot of answers…but jobs and giving people back a sense of pride in working could potentially go a long way.
    Mark Nielson

    • Hi Mark
      The students I take to SD are from Warner Pacific College and we stay at Passcreek also. Small world. What I’d like to try and do in Allen is small business training.

      • Roger,
        I just happen to be an alum of WPC! Graduated in 1975!
        Jim Teague was one of my roommates and we remain friends and keep in touch yet today! Even though we are all getting OLDER!

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