Tag Archives: Native Americans

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY: 9.5 THESIS, by the WTS American Genocide Class

Peace Pole

Photo by Tanner Howard, Final Year M.Div. Student

Introduction by Karen Ressel, Final Year M.Div. Student

How do we begin to address injustices that are so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives and nation? That is the question that looms in the minds of students in the American Genocide class at Wartburg Seminary as we discuss the atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the Americas. We are examining the stark, disturbing, realities that European contact brought to the “New World.” We are finding a different view of history than many of us learned earlier in our schooling. We are discovering that much of our national “history” does not give consideration, much less voice, to the millions of people killed after Columbus landed in America. The idea that we celebrate these national myths on the second Monday in October is ludicrous.

Lest we try to separate ourselves from the violence committed against American Indians in the past, the product of that violence remains in many forms of systemic racism that continues to oppress, ignore, and disregard American Indian peoples.

So, once again, “How do we begin to address injustices that are so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives and nation?” One of the students in the class shared a news article about some cities and institutions that had decided to observe Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day. We talked about what we might do and as a result of that discussion we drafted these 9.5 Theses in hopes of raising awareness and opening a space for honest conversation to break the silence that surrounds past as well as current events.

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day: 9.5 Theses!
Because the arrival of Columbus marked the beginning of an indiscriminate genocidal campaign against Indigenous Peoples, we resolve that the WTS community recognize the 2nd Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

  1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life of repenting. We are called upon to repent of the crimes against humanity committed in the name of Christ against the indigenous people of this continent, beginning with Columbus.
  2. We call attention to the fact that inaccurate and false reporting of historical events creates fertile ground for divisiveness, stereotypes, racism, segregation, fear, and hate.
  3. We call attention to the fact that egregious human rights violations were committed against Indigenous Peoples in the past through dehumanization and countless acts of violence.
  4. We call attention to the fact that human rights violations continue to this very day through systemic means that allow the continued dehumanization of Indigenous Peoples.
  5. We call for the concerted effort to form relationships and partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, learning from them, how we might begin to have a greater understanding of the impact our ancestors’ actions had on them, and their cultures.
  6. We call for standing in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in their struggle against oppression.
  7. We call for re-examination of beliefs and attitudes, both personally and communally, that actively prevent Indigenous Peoples from equal access to education, health care, and opportunities for self-determination.
  8. We call for the purposeful study of the past, to ascertain a more truthful understanding of the atrocities that prevent reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters.
  9. We call for a truth and reconciliation process with the Indigenous People of this continent: to repudiate the doctrine of discovery, to confront the history of genocide against them, repent of past crimes committed against them, and to attend to their voices and wisdom in discerning a more just future.

9.5. How will you observe the 2nd Monday in October?

Signed: Karen Ressel, Jean Peterson, Craig Nessan, Jamie Jordan-Couch, Paul Johnson, Martha HarriSon, Mike HarriSon, Halcyon Bjornstad, Elizabeth Lippke, and Doug Dill

SHACKLED By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

When he was here, “Uncle Bob” named a bit of history:

Centuries ago the insane were shackled, chained to institutional walls – jails, dungeons, oversized crib rails or beds.   Centuries ago?   Did it stop then?

Not so long ago.   Still,  now, in our lifetime!

II   Two centuries ago you could be shackled to a tree and whipped… for no good reason, just because your skin is darker than mine.   Yours, clean, shines, but us dirty folks of my hue thought we should dehumanize, torture, and humiliate you.

Then Good Abe said,   “STOP!”   “Let them go!”   150 years ago.     Did it stop then?     Good Abe said, “Let them go!”   Some were set free, but they did not escape  the misery of slavery. They “owed their souls to the company store,” just a different kind of bondage and   Many were set free only to encounter the Lynching Tree.

III- Confined   A lifetime ago (within mine) you could be herded into a train – a cattle car, withnospacetomoveorfreshairtobreathe untilthetrainstopped,then pushedproddeddowncattleramp intostockyardsconfinedbybarbedwireelectrified toopenairputrifiedbypollutedstenchfrom smokingchimneysofgasfurnaces, queuedinspectedlikemeatselectedby wavingrodpointingtoleftortoright toshowersortemporarysurvivalslavelabor identitystrippedsoulsstolen shovedsqueezedintobarrackstosleep? oncrowdedhardbunkboardslabs shelvesinrowssharedwithstrangers fourorfivebodiesinonebox, somedeadsomelikeyoubarelyalive, nightmareshiftssharedbynamelesslabormates… upatdawntorollcallshoutyournumberor startoveragainstandingatattention,thenlaborallday inrockquarryorbeforcedtoshovethecorpsesof peopleyouonceknewfriendskinyourownmother fathergrandmothergrandfatherssisterbrother babiestoo intotheovens burntheirsoulless emptiedbodies turningtoashes yourfellowhumancattle beaten objectified dehumanized de-souled,   just   because   you were   a Jew.

IV- (Nisei)   Early in my lifetime, we took your property and kept it despite your 2nd or 3rd generation good citizenship, then put you away with meager jobs and poor schools for your children, just because your grandparents were born in a land which has become our wartime enemy.

V   Four centuries ago Massasoit hosted my pale-faced forebears from across the sea  — hungry after a long sail from a strange land across the ocean.  His hospitality to rude guests uninvited, your home now overrun by land-greedy pale faces pushing ever westward, shoving Native hosts aside, all the way across this continent with no  respect for Native Nations’ sovereignty, disregarding hosts’ good care for woods and soil and animal species; greedy, pushy, selfish pale-face with no respect for Natives’ humanity.

My  ancestors stole your land shackling our Native hosts’ descendants (of many nations) to untillable soil, tearing down forests housing food supplies.   We ingrates pushing, shoving you to ever smaller, reduced barren dry arid land strips, shackling you to areas which cannot sustain life for any tribe and leaving you invisibly shackled to a tiny patch of land in a dry, barren, arid soil worthless for growing any food or sustenance.

VI   Centuries ago?   “Let my people go . . . “   My skin is black. I am a Jew.   I am insane.   My Grandfather was born in Japan.   My native grandfathers welcomed you     Shackle me –   Let me hang.   Force me to burn my own kin.   Confine me to untillable barren land.   Take our property and keep us silent despite our good citizenship.     Centuries ago?   Now!    Has it stopped yet? No!     “Let my people go!”

Let us go free,   Now!.

TWO POEMS By Kirsten Curtis, Final Year M.Div.

Reflections from “American Genocide” class, Fall, 2013

WHERE WERE YOU GOD WHEN THIS ALL TOOK PLACE?
WHERE WERE YOU GOD FOR THIS HUMAN RACE?

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR HOLY ONES?
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ANYONE?

i am so small
compared to it all

and IT is so BIG
TOO BIG for me

i am so infuriated with the whole
feeling inadequate, ignorant, out of control

a fire has been lit deep in my gut
burning and churning – stuck in a rut
tossing and turning – wallowing in muck
physically, emotionally, spiritually stuck

What do i do now?
How do i cope?
Who do i turn to?
How do i know?

Tears of anger get me through
But who am I angry at
Surely not YOU?!?!?!?!

WHERE WERE YOU GOD WHEN THIS ALL TOOK PLACE?
WHERE WERE YOU GOD FOR THIS HUMAN RACE?

—————————————————————————

I love you God
but I am so mad
at this human race
that at times goes plain mad.

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

Wretched sin took hold
Did not let go!
It has a tight grip.
Death takes its toll.

Millions and millions lost their lives
Why?

For money
For land
For power and control
So one could feel superior
And force the other to feel low

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

What do we do now?
We tell their story.

The first Americans were here before you and me
They were robbed of their lives, their land, and their trees.

They were forced off their land, sequestered and shamed,
Dehumanized, Demonized, Degraded, Demeaned
Viewed through the lens of total depravity.

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

God help me please
To tell others
To promote justice and peace
No more covers
Exposing it all
For all to see
For it needs to be known
Before we can grow
And begin to become whole.

Only you God can help
Help us go forth
Help us and guide us
Like your light in the North.

WHAT IF HISTORY WEREN’T WRITTEN BY THE VICTORIOUS? By Wade Brinkopf, final year M.Div.

Between the years of 1860 and 1890 CE the United States of America embarked on a campaign of western expansion; ‘manifest destiny;’ colonization of a land already inhabited by the indigenous peoples of North America. “By conservative estimates, the population of the United states prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand.[1] In the years surrounding 587 BCE the Babylonian empire marched on the city of Jerusalem. With their people slaughtered, the city laid to waste, and the temple completely destroyed the people were cast into exile beyond the borders of their homeland; into the ways and places of the Babylonians. In the deep emotions of Psalm 109 we can still hear their voices lamenting in the synagogues and on the streets. In what way can we hear the voice of the first nation peoples in similar ways? In the book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” Dee Brown brings to life the voices of the first nation peoples. Their leaders words are spoken into a new existence as one by one, their homes are destroyed, their people are slaughtered, and their homeland is taken away. Their voices are a song of lamentation woven intricately together with the voice of an exile!

Psalm 109; Prayer for Vindication and Vengeance;[2] 1 Do not be silent, O God of my praise. 2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. 3 They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. 4 In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them.* 5 So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Whose voice was first sounded on this land? The voice of the red people who had but bows and arrows. … What has been done in my country I did not want, did not ask for it; white people going through my country.… When the white man comes to my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him.… I have two mountains in that country – the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountain. I want the Great Father to make no roads through             them. I have told these things three times; now I have come here to tell them the fourth time.

MAHPIUA LUTA (Red Cloud) of the Oglala Sioux

6 They say,* ‘Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand on his right. 7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin. 8 May his days be few; may another seize his position. 9 May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow. 10 May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of* the ruins they inhabit. I was living peacefully there with my family under the shade of the trees, doing just what General Crook had told me I must do and trying to follow his advice. I want to    know now who it was ordered me arrested. I was praying to the light and to the darkness, to God and to the sun, to let me live quietly there with my family. I don’t know what the reason was that people should speak badly of me.

GOYATHLAY (Geronimo)

11 May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil. 12 May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children. 13 May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation. 14 May the iniquity of his father* be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out. The earth and myself are of one mind. The measure of the land and the measure of our bodies are the same. Say to us if you can say it, that you were sent by the Creative Power to talk to us. Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If  I thought you were sent by the Creator I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I chose. The one who has the right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my   land, and accord you the privilege to live on yours.

            HEINMOT  TOOYALAKET (Chief Joseph) of the Nez Perces

15 Let them be before the Lord continually, and may his* memory be cut off from the earth. 16 For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the broken-hearted to their death. This war did not spring up here in our land; this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land from us without price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things. The Great Father and his children are to blame    for this trouble.… It has been our wish to live here in our country peaceably, and do such things as may be for the welfare and good of our people, but the Great Father has filled it with soldiers who think only of our death.

            SINTE-GALESHKA (Spotted Tail) of the Brule Sioux

17 He loved to curse; let curses come on him. He did not like blessing; may it be far from him. 18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat, may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones. 19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself, like a belt that he wears every day.’ 20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord, of those who speak evil against my life. 21 But you, O Lord my Lord, act on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me. There was no hope on earth, and God seemed to have forgotten us. Some said they saw the Son of God; others did not see Him. If he had come, He would do some great things as He had done before. We doubted it because we had seen neither Him nor His works. The people did not know; they did not care. They snatched at the hope. They screamed like crazy men to Him for mercy. They caught at the promise they heard He had Made.

            RED CLOUD

22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is pierced within me. 23 I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads. You have driven me from the East to this place, and I have been here two thousand years   or more.… My friends, if you took me away from this land it would be very hard for me. I  wish to die in this land. I wish to be an old man here.… I have not wished to give even a            part of it to the Great Father. Though he were to give me a million dollars I would not give him this land.… When people want to slaughter cattle they drive them along until  they get them to a corral, and then they slaughter them. So it is with us.… My children have been exterminated; my brother has been killed.

            STANDING BEAR of the Ponca’s

26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love. 27 Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it. 28 Let them curse, but you will bless. Let my assailants be put to shame;* may your servant be glad. 29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonour; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle. 30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. 31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death. I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A peoples’ dream died there. It was a beautiful dream … the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

BLACK ELK, on the massacre at Wounded Knee.