In the 1980’s, I chaired the Minnesota Conference of the UCC’s Capital Campaign to build All Nations Indian Church in Minneapolis. This was the first urban church (not on a reservation) in the country for Native Americans from many different Nations. As a mission church, the goal was to recognize traditional Indian values in Christianity. The building became a reality in 1987. If you want to know more, you can go here: http://caimucc.com/all_nations_church.html
The founding pastor, Rev. Harry Stroessner, and I traveled the state for 3 years, presenting the story to UCC churches and tribal councils. During that time, I learned much about Native American spirituality from Harry and his wife, Bonnie, a full Ojibwe Indian. I came to have a deep admiration and respect for the Native American view of our earth, our place in it, and of the Great Spirit. One of the stories I learned was what I shared in the morning meditation and is repeated here.
Some time ago, in Northern Minnesota, a mining company was trying to get a permit for a new open pit zinc mine. The operation would encroach on the lakes and streams of the reservation of a small group of Native Americans. The following is the statement of an old woman, a member of that tribe, to the mining executives at a town hall meeting. She said:
“I have lived with the beauty of Mother Earth for more than 92 years. When I was a girl, I went with my grandfather to catch fish in the lakes and rivers. We plucked blueberries from in the clearings where the bears ate them too. Every fall, we gathered wild rice on Makwa Lake, listening to the song of the loons in the morning mist. Now that I am a grandmother, I take my 11 grandchildren and my 10 great grandchildren to the places my grandfather took me.
The earth isn’t just rock and dirt and trees and water. It’s one body, one heart, one spirit. It offers us life and beauty, and if we listen, wisdom. And it asks nothing in return, not even gratitude, because giving is the whole reason for it’s creation.
And why are we created? To receive, to honor and to protect. What you talk about here is not just the wounding of that beautiful giving spirit. What you talk about here is your ignorance, is the wounding of the spirit of us all. We are not separate. To kill the water, to kill the fish, to kill the trees, to kill the birds, is to kill ourselves.”
To those words, I say Amen.