Thursday, July 9, 2009


My mom went to a reservation boarding school in Marty, South Dakota. Her mother died when she was a pre-schooler and she was sent to live with her grandmother. The unthinkable happened, grandmother died. As a result, mom was sent to live in the boarding school. I saw a picture of her when she was young and her hair was cut in a clumsy pageboy. Her life in the school was not an easy one. She suffered abuses as did other young ones.

Years later, I asked the women in my Bible study to lift my search up in prayer. I cried out to God as I drove home one chilly autumn night that it was the desire of my heart to know who my birth mother was. Somehow, I felt certain time was running out and I didn't want to miss my chance. I also prayed that if I were to reunite with family, that there was a greater purpose aside from my own desire. I had searched on and off for years, but somehow, after those prayers, things happened quickly.

I discovered one night as I searched the Internet, mom was one of six plaintiffs in a lawsuit for abuses suffered in the reservation boarding school. Although I have heard stories of what she and others endured, if she hadn't been in the school, and the lawsuit never happened, I would not have known she was still alive. I believe her life in the school and the treatment by the nuns was a gateway of the enemy, instead of the good witness of Christ's love it should have been. I still wonder how, in good conscience, grown adults; believers of Jesus, can be so cruel. Mom's example of Christianity was of being put in an unlit incinerator because she spoke her native tongue, because she behaved as she was created.

As a teenager, she was thrown out of the same school, left to manage on her own. The examples she had of non-natives trying to help her, were of people who took something away from her. Greater than any loss of material items, they took love, dignity and understanding away from her. She told me once, after two of her daughters were taken from her, how a grandmother of the tribe had told her one day the daughters would return. This was part of the gateway opened to her that led her more deeply into following traditional Native ways. Four decades later, we returned. There is active healing going on in the family and in Native familes in other reservations whose children have been taken. There is healing in my heart and I know God is joyful to see this restoration begin.

My challenge as a follower of Jesus is to show her or tell her that the things she experienced as a child and really throughout her life are from Christians immature in their relationship with Jesus. I have said to her, not all Christians are the same. To this day, she still cannot pass the school without sounding as if waves of revulsion are roiling within. In spite of everything she has been through, I see a loving woman who has a deep concern for those in greater need than she. Although she struggles to keep every mouth fed in her home, if someone has been kicked out of their home, she will help them. She could have let her life experiences make her bitter. So who is the gateway? Her desire to help those in need demonstrates what Jesus would have us do. She doesn't have a planning meeting or put together a committee, she just gives what she has. What she has is love.

"We love, because He first loved us." What kind of a gateway are you?

I do not have the power to undo what has been done to her. I can tell her about Jesus and the relationship I have with Him. I can be an example of love and so can you. "Native Americans," as my sister Brooke says, "are human, just like everybody else."

Be a gateway of love.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic, Kimberlee! I am following your blog. I will be following you on your journey as a writer and as a Native American. It's July. You will start the MFA soon if you haven't already.