I just finished watching “Hank Williams First Nation 2005” on youTube, a $300,000 independent film. Once I started it, I couldn’t get away from the characters presented. I had been watching YouTube offerings on the Indian experience, particularly on the Indians before the European coming when there were an estimated 50 millions Indians in North, Central and South America.
When I went to visit my son, Ben, in Albuquerque last year the presence of the artwork and colors of Native American Indians caught my attention and hasn’t retreated. I also had the opportunity to happen upon an Indian gathering at the U of New Mexico with the great variety of costume and children proudly wearing their tribal garbs.
Since then I have spent some time researching the Native American experience and their rich tribal histories before the arrival of the Europeans. As a Christian who believes that Jesus is the Savior of the world, I meditate upon several things. One, the long wait for the Gospel to arrive. For any Christian, this is troubling. There should be no such thing as a long wait to hear about Jesus. Two, the development of their religion apart from an explicit Gospel presence. What did they learn from General Revelation and steward? Three, the suffering that came upon them from Europe was immense, primarily the carrying of the diseases new to the Indians that some scholars estimate killed 90% of the 50 million population. The world had begun to shrink, and as worlds collide, as they eventually must, suffering is inevitable. Four, I wonder about the calloused indifference of those who came and believed that even what was settled rightly belonged to the new settlers. To read the diaries of those coming to these new shores is to bump up against descriptions, values, attitudes and beliefs that stun the moral conscience. Five, I continue to wonder how “Christian” people could so readily break treaty and impoverish native tribal peoples.
I know this sounds like just another American piling up scorn for his own country. In this case, not so. I am just curious. We are not that far away from the late 1800s when so much that offends the conscience was passed off as normal. I was born in the 1940s the age of the cowboy and indian movie and TV show. But it was not really far removed from the actual times of the moments portrayed. My grandfather’s father lived in those times. And so, too, with Indians born at the time I was. These things are not far away but active and alive in memory and consequence.
I also wondering about Indian identity now. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship under the ministry of the recently passed Richard Twiss intentionally focused on including Indians in their ministry focus. See here. Please take the time to listen to this interview with Twiss. Twiss starts speaking around 5:49″. You can listen to him speak on other YouTube vides. Just put him name in the search engine.