Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honoring Creator

Because I have been raised off the reservation, outside of my culture, I have spent many years leaning from my family, researching, and examining how expansive the role of American Indian identity is for urban Natives.

One branch of identity is familiarity with Native Ways. Since there are over 500 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States which means certain criteria have been met to fit tribes into a category, identity must be important to more than Native Americans.

Add Native spiritual practices into this mix, unique to each tribe because of geographical location, plants and food available such as wildlife used for sustanance, different stories of Creator (not to mention different names), and it's easy to see why identity is tantamount to understanding each other.

Such a place for understanding was the setting for the All Colors Together Gathering in Millersburg, Ohio this weekend. The gathering was a hub of dialogue and teachings on how different we are, yet we are all human. For the most part, we were a group of Native Americans or indigenous people who follow Jesus, listening and learning from each other how best to minister to our own tribes.

We spoke of and learned about historical events and how they shaped the nation we live in today. We learned the tribal history for the state of Ohio and together we considered where to forge new territory, to create new connections of support for our own people who are hurting and in need of healing.

One beautiful time of healing for myself happened on Saturday. For the first time, in my regalia, I danced my prayers to Creator. My face was turned up to the sky. The drum was beating, words of praise for Creator were sung, smudge curled in whisps, and my native brothers and sisters with non-natives as well, planted our feet on the earth and moved clockwise around the arena. The fringe on my regalia swayed with each step, each movement, and I felt alive, every nerve ending, every brain cell, every breath I took was sweeter and more authentic than any other time. I was finally whole. It only took four decades. I have been praying for this moment for many years. In my spirit I had my mother with me and all my brothers and sisters back home on the rezand in other places of the country. Talk about praising and worshiping the Lord in spirit and in truth!

There are some people in the world who will lable me as non-native because I follow Jesus. It is sad the division still occurs today. I know I am Yankton Sioux, Creator fashioned me that way. He doesn't make mistakes. I have known this in my head and now for the first time, I believe it and know it in my heart.

Next week: going deeper

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