Getting to Know Indigenous Peoples

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Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions be healed, we may live in justice and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN

To honor Indigenous People’s Month, I invite us all, to explore music and prayers from Native Americans in the Episcopal Church, to explore the full and complex history of this land, and to remember Indigenous Peoples are here among us today and not simply a part of the past. 

Exercising a deep spirituality grounded in respect for and care of creation and others, Indigenous Episcopalians enrich the church through myriad roles in lay and ordained ministry, modeling wisdom, resilience, and forbearance.  They offer music, prayers, writings and leadership to guide us all. 

Worship

How we pray and worship is how we Episcopalians express our beliefs and priorities rather than through a set doctrine or covenant.   Because of the importance of worship to us, this month we  use worship music to help us enter the space of the spirituality of Indigenous Americans.  I invite us all to listen closely. 

This Sunday the voluntary before the start of the service is based on a melody from a member of the Crow Nation called Sitting Eagle.  In 1909, an early ethnomusicologist, Thurlow Lieurance recorded Sitting Eagle while in Montana. His transcribed melody became an instant success, appearing in many versions, including this one for organ.

—The sequence hymn for the Gospel in October is Heleluyan, is from a melody from the Muscokee Creek Nation.  

History

During a September visit to Newtown Battlefield we acknowledged and repented of the vicious attacks on Haudenosaunee who helped American Revolutionaries and those who assisted the British.  This is part of our ongoing effort to tell a more complete story about human history on this land apart from the myths usually offered to us.  Let us look bravely in humility.

The Present

Indigenous People are here among us and not only a part of history, though history is important.  Hear these words:

“I’d like visitors that come to Bryce Canyon to know that Southern Paiutes are still here. We’re not ‘these people,’ ‘these people once lived here,’ ‘these people once thrived,’ ‘these people survived in a harsh environment.’ Those types of statements, to me, are not true because it’s who I am, and I am still here, we are still here.”  -Charley Bulletts, Kaibab Band of Paiutes

Benediction

To conclude, I offer this Benediction from the Rt Rev. Steven Charleston, former Episcopal Bishop of Alaska and Native American of the Choctaw People. 

Neither the watchful eye nor the healing hand will be far from you. Your path will find its own way and your mission will be fulfilled. The angels will go before you and the ancestors will walk at your side. What you have planted will prosper and what you need most will be supplied. The work of your heart will bless all you love and the wisdom you have shared will fall to fertile minds. You will be hopeful in difficult times and joyous in every good moment that can be shared. You will give what you have just as you have received what has been given. Contentment will be a reward for you as peace of mind has been your inheritance. Your prayers are being answered and will always be answered in ways marvelous and mysterious. Draw in a deep breath, a breath you have earned, here on the shores of faithfulness, beside the endless sea of compassion.