From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Daybook Episcopal News Service Sept 24, 2004
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Sun, 26 Sep 2004 16:49:30 -0700
Daybook, from Episcopal News Service
September 24, 2004 - Friday Forum: Voices on Topics in the News
* Native Episcopalians join in celebration of first national American Indian
September 24 is observed in many U.S. states as Native American Day. This
week on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution
sponsors a First Americans Festival, celebrating the opening of the National
Museum of the American Indian.
[Photographs accompanying this article can be found at:
Native Episcopalians join in celebration of first national American Indian
By Jan Nunley
[ENS] When the Washington National Cathedral hosted a service of celebration
on September 19 for the opening of the Smithsonian Institution's new
National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) [www.nmai.si.edu], it was not
only to honor a long-overdue recognition of the many contributions of the
indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere to the rest of the world.
It was also an acknowledgement of how closely the Episcopal Church and the
First Peoples of the Americas have been tied for the past 425 years-since
the first Anglican services were held on a Northern California beach in
Entering the cathedral to the singing of the White Oak drum group and the
blowing of a Hawai'ian conch shell, Native and non-Native alike joined in a
call to worship from the four points of the sacred circle. Indian groups
represented in the service included the Cherokee, Native Hawai'ian, Micmac,
Mohawk, Ojibwe, Navajo, Pascua/Yaqui, Poarch Creek, Potawatomi, Shinnecock,
Tlingit, and Ute nations. Celebrant for the festive Eucharist was Bishop
Michael Smith of North Dakota, a member of the Potawatomi Nation of
Oklahoma, with Alaska's Bishop Mark MacDonald as the litanist and a
Bishop Suffragan Carol Gallagher of Southern Virginia, a member of the
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the first Native woman in the worldwide
Anglican Communion to serve as a bishop, was the preacher as well as a
"We are people who have been blessed by the creator," Gallagher said
following a Gospel reading of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. "This might seem
to most Americans to be an incredible contradiction. But Native people
understand-we know what it means to be blessed.
"We have surely been poor; some people might have pitied us. We have
certainly been hungry and thirsty; our people have suffered much over the
past 500 years and many are still without the basic needs of life. We have
been described as meek, merciful and pure in heart; often, we have been
called this when people really meant we were foolish, childish and ignorant.
We have been insulted and misunderstood and persecuted, although we have
always been people of great love and wisdom. We have been tortured and
killed because we cared for our children; we protected our mother earth and
we honored and treasured the gifts we had been given-even when we had to
whisper and hide, even when our people seemed at their end. We have honored
and treasured the gifts we have been given-and it is to people just like us
that Jesus was speaking.
"Today, we pause to celebrate the opening of a museum. But we can make a big
mistake if we think that this museum is just about the old ways-the things
that are past. We make a big mistake if we think that today's celebration is
about beauty and art alone. Actually, today is really about
blessing-blessing lived out loud... The blessings we have received are not
able to be contained in a museum alone, they must be shared in every
encounter, every meal, every moment... We are responsible to our people, we
are called by God to be a blessing wherever we go," Gallagher concluded.
A Native place
"Welcome to a Native place," emphasized the publicity for the NMAI, the
first national museum devoted to Native Americans and the first to present
their stories from their own viewpoint rather than that of anthropologists
The museum's main message is that Indian life is not all artifacts and art,
but that the descendants and cultures of the Western Hemisphere's first
inhabitants are "still here," despite five centuries of disease,
dispossession and domination by other cultures and peoples in their own
Anglican and Episcopalian influences within Native communities are scattered
through the museum's initial exhibitions of Native philosophy, history and
identity, in ways not always apparent to the casual observer. But the
exhibit makes it clear that the churches' relationship with Indians leaves a
mixed historical legacy, and the Episcopal Church is no exception.
A display case contains Bibles and other Christian literature translated
into various Indian languages, including a Book of Common Prayer translated
into Mohawk by Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader who served the Loyalist cause
during the American Revolution.
Well-known Episcopalians are also integral to the struggles of Native
Americans for recognition and respect, particularly in the "Red Power"
movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The "Our Lives" exhibit refers to the
efforts of Native leaders such as author, historian, scholar, political
scientist and activist Vine Deloria, Jr.-son and grandson of Episcopal
priests and a member of Executive Council in the late 1960s-and American
Indian Movement leader Russell Means, who was baptized at the same Episcopal
church, Holy Cross in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, which sheltered the victims
of the Wounded Knee massacre in 1873 and played a major part in facilitating
negotiations between AIM and federal agents during the Wounded Knee
occupation in 1973. (Means' main Indian opponent, Oglala Tribal Chairman
Dick Wilson, was also baptized at Holy Cross.)
A new music CD released in conjunction with the museum's opening, entitled
"Beautiful Beyond: Christian Songs in Native Languages," features music
written by Hawai'i's Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the
Hawaiian Islands and a confirmed member of St. Andrew's Cathedral,
established by King Kamehameha IV's queen, Emma, in 1867. There are also
selections by singers from the Church of the Holy Apostles on the Oneida
reservation in eastern Wisconsin-the direct result of the Episcopal Church's
first mission outreach efforts in the early West.
"It's important for us to celebrate and support these historic and momentous
steps forward, for the dignity, respect and honoring of so many Native
American Indians who have gone before us in the struggle to survive,"
remarked Janine Tinsley-Roe, the Episcopal Church's missioner for Native
American Ministries. "My hope and prayers are for the continuation of the
remembrance, reconciliation and healing we've seen here in Washington this
week, so that indigenous people all over the world may not give up hope.. We
in our ministries have an important role to play in these times of
transformation, with God's help."
--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service. More
information about Anglican and Episcopal mission among American Indians can
be found in the book "400 Years" (Forward Movement: 1997) by Owanah
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