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Three Books, Three Perspectives

I am asked, “What do Natives want?” A good question for white Americans as we struggle seeking to undue the harm caused by colonization. Or as Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne has worded the question: “What is God’s will for what Highlands can do to restore relationships with Indigenous Peoples?”

I can recommend three 3 books. Likely readers have other suggestions.

First is Renewing Indigenous Economies by Terry L. Anderson and Kathy Ratte that a neighbor recommended to me and that a Northern Arapaho businessman and tribal consultant believes precisely what is needed. The authors say that before European Settlers arrived, Indigenous Peoples had thriving economies and trade systems, but now systems of dependency and federal controls make economic sustainability difficult. Numerous examples are cited where tribes have developed businesses benefiting tribal people including where tribes partnered with nontribal local governments and private enterprises. The authors list specific actions.

Another I suggest is Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn recommended to me by Rodger McDaniel and is being read by a book group at Highlands. I saw the movie version prior to reading the book. The author through relationship with an elder on a western reservation in the Dakotas transcribes their interactions to reveal a view of the relationship to the land, possessions, time and more, vastly different from America’s middle class. The author humbly faces his own cultural judgements. The elder described in this book might say “hogwash” to Renewing Indigenous Economies, but I don’t know for sure.

Another is Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization, edited by Steve Heinrichs. The preface begins with a quote from Pablo Richard, a Chilean theologian, “Instead of giving the Bible back to the colonizers, why don’t we ‘make it our own’?” That sums up what over 60 authors contribute with short stories to re-imagine a world with love, respect, and reparation for Indigenous peoples and ways of being. This book is required reading for a two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation that I begin in January. The stories provide a sense of what Indigenous Peoples want.

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.

Chesie Lee

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