In 1950, when I was 5 years old, my family moved to Bidwell, Ohio where we bought an acre of land with a house built in the 1860’s. My father built a chicken house and a concrete block hatchery building. We eked out a garden in clay dirt fertilized with chicken manure. When I was 9, we got indoor plumbing. We had achieved the American dream. A few years later my mother ceremonially burned the mortgage to celebrate that this land, this house, this farm was ours. By 1966, the dream had ended. Corporate farming had put my family out of business. This is my story, but it’s not everyone’s story. I need to acknowledge my past and family’s culture before I can stand with those with a different past and culture. The Riverton Peace Mission (RPM) seeks to become more focused and has selected addressing the needs of our unhoused neighbors who are Indigenous as a current priority. To do that, we need to learn what are the stories of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, or else we impose our own notions of justice. What are their dreams? What are the barriers to achieving their dreams? How can we best stand with the unhoused persons to achieve their dreams? We know that European-Americans and Indigenous people have very different perspectives about land being property. Shelter is essential to survival. Yet, how we get there respecting human dignity and culture, not further traumatizing people but support healing, is complicated. We must listen to the voices of those who are now unhoused – whether by choice or by necessity. What are their barriers to receiving justice? RPM is drafting survey questions for the unhoused now. Let us know if you have suggested questions and/or can volunteer to obtain responses.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice. Chesie Lee