Perhaps you are like me: a white girl who grew up in the American Midwest suburbs. We played Cowboys and Indians in our sprawling backyards and learned about the ways the Indians helped the Pilgrims. We cheered for sports teams and drove through towns named after tribes. We built pretend tepees in our basements and watched reruns of the Lone Ranger and his friend Tonto.
Perhaps you are like me: someone who grew up to see all the contradictions of what had been taught and what had actually happened. We learned about white missionaries who abused and marginalized the very people they claimed to help. We learned how the government stole land and slaughtered buffalo and moved the First Nations people into smaller and smaller spaces.
We learned about the many ways the White Man massacred and oppressed and betrayed in the US, in Canada, all over the world. We saw what happened then and what has been perpetuated today.
Perhaps you are unlike me and you have known about these atrocities all along. Perhaps you know this firsthand as a member of an indigenous tribe. Or perhaps this is the first time you’ve heard anything on the matter.
Whatever your experience or understanding, One Church, Many Tribes does its title justice. Richard Twiss writes about his own experience as a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate and introduces us to other indigenous tribes along the way. He writes with candor about the many travesties faced by indigenous people all over the world and the ways this has played out across the generations.
He weaves together stories of people who have tried to preserve their traditions and their faith in spite of other Christians. He advocates for their inclusion in the Body of Christ. In all of this, he points back to the divinity and majesty of our Creator, whose love is all encompassing for every people, nation, and tongue.
Twiss was the co-founder and president of Wiconi International, an organization providing education, encouragement, and support to Native American families, up until his untimely death in 2013. For all of his ministry, he painted a vision in which the First Nations people play a vital and vibrant role in how we understand God, creation, and community. It is this vision he presents to us in One Church, Many Tribes.
In all this time the non-Native evangelical community has yet to say to the Native American Christian community, “We need you.” -p.59
Is it possible to honor the indigenous heritage and possess a flourishing faith in God? Twiss gives us a resounding yes.
I encourage you to pay particular attention to the chapters addressing reconciliation. As you read, I ask you to consider what part you might play in reconciliation with indigenous tribes. If you are non-Native, you may not have directly contributed to their oppression but are there ways in which you allow it to continue today? Do you need to listen? Can you help build a bridge toward understanding? If you are Native, Twiss has specific words for your role as well. We all must do our part when it comes to true reconciliation.
This isn’t easy to do. If we’ve learned anything from our book selections this year, it’s that relationships are messy and our own motivations (conscious or unconscious) are complex. We each contain multitudes within us.
And yet we are called to love one another. This moves us to take off our blinders. We risk conversation and community with those who are unlike us, whether it’s ethnicity, gender, culture, marital status, economic status, or sexuality. As we learn to listen to one another, we see we’re not as different as we first thought. Or, if we really are that different, it doesn’t matter as much as we first thought.
We see the face of Christ in one another and remember why we love: because He first loved us. When we remember this, it is easy to see Twiss’s vision come to life. We are one church, many tribes. Thanks be to God.
Come back Wednesday, October 28 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.
Our November book is Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles.
- Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision– Randy Woodley
- God Is Red: A Native View of Religion– Vine Deloria Jr.
- Ceremony– Leslie Marmon Silko (fiction)
- Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide– Andrea Smith
- Black Elk: Colonialism And Lakota Catholicism– Damien Costello
- Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together– Steve Heinrichs
- American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty– George E. Tinker
- Ask an Indigenous Theologian (Response) (Rev. Dr. Randy S. Woodley)– Rachel Held Evans
- Native Americans: Portraits from a Century Ago– The Atlantic
*Recommended by Leigh Kramer and Emily Miller
Are you reading One Church, Many Tribes with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments. On a separate note, we are starting to pick our 2016 book club selections. If you have a suggestion, we’d love to hear it!