August-International day of indigenous peoples
Joel 8: 28 & 32
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said.
On the Margins-Reflection by Lynn McWilliams
When asked to write this reflection my mind immediately went to my Great Grandmother, Lena. I only met her on a couple of occasions when I was quite young. It was many years later that I learned that she was part Native American. Born in 1881, it was the easier thing to simply ignore that part of her lineage. While she obviously saw it as the best way to proceed in a world where prejudice and bigotry could exist in abundance, it must have left a hole in her life. In a culture where conversation frequently turned to heritage she could not have helped but feel that there was a piece missing in the personal puzzle of her identity.
Each of us has our own personal story, one that stretches beyond the pages of our generation back into the past. Our identity is somehow inextricably linked with those who have come before. Around the world indigenous peoples have often been marginalised by waves of invaders both military and economic. In many places today like India, Africa, and Latin America indigenous peoples continue to be exploited often because of the natural resources which are part of their heritage.
While the shadows past and present can be very long, there is hope too. Last Autumn my colleague Stephanie visited Guyana. There are many challenges both cultural and economic which face that country and its people. Yet, when one looks at the children who are part of the Bilingual Education Programme who are learning English, but not at the expense of their indigenous languages, there is an overwhelming sense of the resilience of human beings. When we focus on our common humanity as the family of God it becomes a game changer.
Black Elk of the Lakota Sioux once said, ‘The Holy Land is everywhere.’ Perhaps we could add that the holy people are everywhere. Once we see a holy land and a holy people everywhere and in everyone, there are no longer the divisions which marginalise. We become one people, one humanity.
At the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit.
And that center is everywhere. It is within each one of us.
Black Elk of the Oglala Sioux, whose case for canonization has recently been introduced.