Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Wounded Knee to Dancing the Way--my day about the American Indian

If you know me, it's no secret I am in love with INDIA.  Bollywood movies, making chai...and well KOLKATA are just some aspects of it that I enjoy.  Though I wish my blog was more organized or comprehensive, I am going to go ahead and explore a (seemingly) random group of people/issue that has been on my heart.  Another kind of "Indian..."

I invite YOU to learn w/me too--click on the links! comment!

I am having trouble placing the origin of this urge, but I lately it has grown stronger.  I have been wanting to learn more about Native American history.  To hear some TRUTH--about the way of life, culture, and traditions of tribes, about the tragedies and triumphs.  History just makes me so sad AND angry.  My first brush-up with these feelings (besides when I watched Disney's Pocahontas) in recent times was when I saw an exhibit in Denver, Colorado that gave a story of how treaties were blatantly broken and an entire people group exploited over a century (series of photos w/story here).

Since then, I heard from students through the UMD Alternative Spring Breaks program about their volunteering on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  However, I really failed to ever REALLY capture the story of just what happened the indigenous peoples in America.  

I am not an expert in a day, but here's what I did on Monday and learned:

I began my day with watching an HBO movie called Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  It always helps me to SEE what things were like rather than just have the dates, names, and facts written out in front of me.  Through the acting, I could begin to sense what people were actually feeling.  The movie chronicles the Sioux victory at the battle of Little Bighorn, the subsequent attempts to have peace treaties with the white men, and then the massacre at Wounded Knee.

Three main things I pondered after the film--NAMES, LAND, and TREATIES.  Basically, how much identity can be wrapped up in a name and the sadness of how people had to change the name given to them to a "biblical" name.  Then how this applies to learning names--even the hard ones--for me to make MORE of an effort to remember people's names and not be so lazy just because it seems hard or foreign.  The concept of land--I just really liked how one of the main characters said there was no word or phrase in any tribe's tongue about OWNING THE EARTH. Finally, treaties--they can be a bunch of bull #*&%--they can't make peace and create equality, someone has dominance and has the most freedom to break it.

I then spent afternoon exploring the National Museum of the American Indian.  I started with general information about each tribe's culture & beliefs, moved down a floor to learn about histories of each tribe, and then to the floor about "where we are now."  I took in A LOT of information.  For me at museums, I like to read a lot of the text--I don't really look at a ton of the stuff.  Anyways, I also stopped at a learning station to learn about CORN and saw a short AWESOME multi-media film introduction.  I ended my journey in the gift shop & food court--skimming some books and eating delicious vegetarian options from the various regions of tribes.

I took careful notes on how Christians/Christianity was involved amidst it all.  It was probably the most detrimental force for the spirit of the Indian.  Religion was forced on them and used to oppress the people --to devalue their belief system and take away their cultural identity.  There was no attempt to incarnate the gospel with cultural understanding--just judgement.  Boarding schools were instituted by the government and run by the church to assimilate indigenous children.  I eventually found SOME respect for the American Indian by Christians when I read about people who translated the Bible into different indigenous languages and then invited people, rather than force them to hear about Jesus.  It just saddened me how so-called Christians misrepresented the Word made flesh and Creator by not only making the indigenous assimilate, but also how they DID NOT stand in solidarity with them against greedy governmental forces.

Any chance for hope or redemption?


I searched not because I needed to see how "Christianity" is redeemed, but how God is redeeming this to himself.  One thing that came to mind was a speaker, Cheryl Bear, I remember from a conference I went to followed by a performance by the First Nations dance group, Dancing the Way. (WATCH HER SHARE HER STORY followed by THE PERFORMANCE ABOVE).  She shares about her struggles with identity as a First Nation Christian and also about how her and her family travel to every first nation community in the U.S. and Canada to heal past wounds and represent the true Jesus in a way that people of that culture can embrace.  

I also read up on this non-profit on the Pine Ridge reservation that some friends have worked for called RE-MEMBER.  I just LOVED how they described their mission (click to read).  I found it interesting they titled a section on their site "non-evangelical mission," which some Christians may look at it and say THAT'S DOESN'T INVOLVE GOD'S WORK or HOW COULD THIS SERVE PEOPLE, BUT NOT BE EVANGELICAL OR EXPLICITLY CHRISTIAN-BASED?! And I would side with what Re-Members says and say it is still part of God's redeeming work: "RE-MEMBER's approach to outreach ministry is based on our understanding of our Christian responsibility, mandate and desire to feed, clothe, shelter and heal those who are marginalized by society. We do not travel to the Reservation to preach, proselytize or convert."  They seem to have a heavy focus on building relationships.  I know Jesus preached, but I also know he set out a model of BEING with the marginalized and how his gospel story of being God and then  BEING INCARNATED among us is quite a BIG and sufficient model of Christ's kingdom.  HOWEVER, you do not have to be Christian to volunteer with Re-member and I also respect people of all faith-backgrounds working together.

A Quick Poem-ish I wrote
There is no name
           There is no word
Speak it into existence
          Silence it into extinction
Murder the flesh
          But not the spirit
It still cries out
          Echoing--echo, echo!
One cannot contain it
          One cannot wish it away
One can only...hear it
          Remember it
Speak it into existence
          Before silence brings extinction
They have names
          They have words
Stories of massacre
          Some of triumph
They still cry out
           Present-voices heard
They cannot be contained
           Or declared inanimate
We can only LISTEN to them

So now what?
I don't know.  I think the tug on my heart was to LEARN MORE first.  Then SHARE some of what that was and to CONTINUE to remember the stories I've heard.  I hope you explore some too! I will look for opportunities to become involved and keep an ear turned toward the issues indigenous people face today.  Feel free to comment, add some knowledge/wisdom, suggest good books or movies related to this, ask questions...whatever!  :)

Monday, April 4, 2011


dreams are great. they are a place where your subconscious can work things out...where you can be in a different world...where you can interact with and hear from God...a temporary existence elsewhere. i could go on forever--but if you know me, you know i like to talk about them & their significance, strangeness or just plain silliness, or sometimes (unfortunately) darkness. but tis not the case of last night.

i had a dream for the first time with my biological mother in it. we had fun going around new york city--just traveling on the subway. my brain even included her mental illness in her projection--not trying to make her "more perfect" in any way. she was a beautiful person. i was glad to have met her,

in my dream.

one day it will be a reality.

i dwelled on it all day until all the details had fallen out of my memory--all except for her spirit of adventure and a sense of/love for freedom--which are the things i've felt within me all of my life...

<3 <3 <3

Monday, December 6, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I Hope They Don't Screw This Scene Up!!!
I was just downstairs watching television and to my surprise, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Narnia's 3rd movie installment, is coming out WAY earlier than I thought (this Friday!).

The main point is I want to have one last place to treasure one of my FAVORITE/most MEMORABLE scenes from all the Chronicles of Narnia books in case the movie ruins it (so here's your *SPOILER ALERT* if you haven't read the book).

In the book, there's a scene where the character, Eustace, has an encounter with Aslan.  Up until this encounter, Eustace is turned into a dragon as the result of his irresponsibility, childishness, selfishness and greed (he put on a golden bracelet that cursed him and he can't take it off).  It takes Eustace becoming a dragon for him to value his friends and learn to consider the needs of others.  

After a while, he just wants to be a boy again and NO ONE was able to help him.  He desperately cries out and begs Aslan to help him.  There's A LOT of symbolism in this scene that one can apply, but my favorite part is how Aslan helps Eustace become un-dragoned.

Aslan tells Eustace that the change will be painful. He goes on, using his claws to scrape the dragon skin off of Eustace's body as he becomes a boy again.  I hope they include this scene, and do it well!

This scene just reminds me of how as God helps us to get rid of our sins, it hurts.  Sin is not just some ball you hold and can toss away, but it can become part of you, or in this case, a SHELL of you.  The removal of it is therefore FELT.  Although painful, this is the only way we inhabit our own true skin.  Finally, it's NOT something we can do ourselves.

Eustace (illustration from the book)

This is the only scene I remember from the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I hope the whole movie turned out well!  Let's hope it stuck to the book better than Prince Caspian did!

That's all I got for now, short and sweet instead of a deep-analysis.  C.S. Lewis is awesome.

Friday, September 10, 2010

even though this love is hard to come by...




 1 Corinthians 13 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bidhan Nagar

I know there has been a huge natural disaster in Haiti recently that has caused many deaths along with much more strife.  May God send more and more of his people to aid those who are suffering there. Pray for our brothers and sisters that are involved in this tragedy.

I would also like to draw attention to a disaster that is not in American news.  In Kolkata, India where it's estimated 600 families (2,500 people) have been displaced/became homeless because of a fire.  They also lost all their possessions (dowry, sleeping mats, cooking utensils etc.).

The cause of the fire is "unknown," but it is almost certain that it was on purpose by developers in order to use the land for "improvement" or even expanding stuff for the railway station the slum was near.

A good friend of IV's Global Urban Trek has been ministering to the slum and many teams have worked there.  I'm pretty sure most everyone I went on the Trek with this summer visited this slum at one point or another.  Please, above all these people could use your PRAYERS.

Also, if you'd like to donate to our friend, Mahadeb, he will use the money to help the people any way he can.  Just email me or comment or whatever if you'd like his address to send a check to.

Here's an article if you'd like to read more:

The title of the slum is the title of this blog and it's also called the Basanti Colony.

I shall continue to lament... it's one of those things that's hard to go about my day-to-day knowing that people I met and in a city I love are suffering like this--especially when it's suspected to be no accident.


Friday, December 18, 2009

simple sorrows and simple joys

"Even Angels Cry"

I whisper,"You don't have to worry, we'll survive"
Forced smiles underneath the brittle, frozen light
No proof that you're alive
Cold fingers find the curve below your tired eyes
No comfort in familiar places, not this time
You hold it deep inside

Oh sister, if you wake up in the night
Walls are falling, letting in the light
No need to worry
Baby, even angels cry

No flood warnings, still the waters rise
Flowers through asphalt, Diamonds in the pockets of your eyes
Turn your face and hide
I saw a woman with ribbons in her hair
Old and lonely, so beautiful I had to stop and stare
The well will not run dry

Oh sister, if you wake up in the night
Walls are falling, letting in the light
No need to worry
Baby, even angels cry

Oh sister, if you wake up in the night
Walls are falling, letting in the light
No need to worry
Baby, even angels cry

Cry Sister, if you wake up in the night
Walls are falling, letting in the light
It'll be alright
Baby, even angels cry

Baby, please don't worry
Not tonight

<3 <3 <3

it's okay to cry.
make sure you don't miss the simple beauty of a woman with ribbons in her hair, old and beautiful

Even Angels Cry--Jars of Clay (listen)


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Arise and be all that you dreamed...

Call me a nerd, but I'm a sucker for creative stories that go with music.  One might deduce from that statement that I am a fan of Broadway musicals or Bollywood films.  If that be the assumption, one would be CORRECT! However, that is not what I stopped working on my paper that's due tomorrow to blog about.  It's about a particular song on the new Flyleaf album, "Momento Mori".

For this album, the songs can stand well on their own, but they make much more sense if one reads the entire album booklet.  This is because there's a story of a "commander" of the "passerby army" that shares journal entries with "his dear ones" from the war with the "dread army" (you may be able to infer what some of the imagery and parallelism is, if not, that's too bad because i'm not going to include it in this blogpost)(okay, basically people who are followers of Christ are in the passerby army and those who are not are in the dread army...and I think the commander is someone like Paul while the King is Jesus...there are more characters, but I won't get into that)  Each "journal entry" by the "commander" is a song on the album.

Not gunna lie, some of Flyleaf's songs are creeps...too creeps for me to enjoy. BUT I do enjoy their music (not just for its evanescence/paramore sound) because everything relates back to God/a relationship with Him, sometimes not being afraid to mention darkness.  In other words, sometimes it requires a certain mood to get into them. Not all songs are "emo", like "All Around Me"...but one can find quite a few. Also, one must like headbanging a bit ;)

ALL THIS BACK-STORY, to share with you what is written in the booklet for this song called "Arise":

"This will be the last letter that I will be able to write to my sons and daughters before we enter by far the fiercest battle this conflict has seen.

Dearest children, my favorite ones,

You are mature now and you can handle hearing about the things I'm going to tell you, so brace yourself and be strong.  Many in the passerby army have been injured, killed, or captured, but none of us have surrendered to the dread army! I believe that we have already won as it has been prophesied, so don't lose heart! I know that everything good around you seems to be lost, but please stand firm! We have all committed to give our lives to bring peace, faith, hope, freedom, and above all love to the world because we believe in love, above all things! Don't give up on our world! It has enough hope in it to die for! If I do die here, it is so others will live.  Remember, a seed can't become a seed-bearing, life-giving tree unless it first dies and is planted in the ground.  Always know that whether I live or die, you have been called to fulfill your purpose and further our mission! I've watched you grow together as a family and you are more selfless now than you have ever been.  Because of this, your heart is now right for reflecting glory.  Momento Mori, my favorite ones, because your time on this earth is brief.  Arise and be all that you dream.  Encourage each other and remember to sing over each other, over your family, and over yourself, "Arise and be all that you dream!"

--- Love Eternally, The Commander."

That message coupled with the song's lyrics AND instrumentation causes me to move into a place where I feel like I have hope and purpose.  I know that Paul writes to the church in this way.  I'm by no means saying this song is a substitute for God's word, but rather it is a reminder and another way to connect to God in times when it is hard to crack open the Bible.
Anyways, this song also reminds me about Jesus' victory over death.  Jesus' resurrection is one of the hardest things for me to fully wrap my head around... not just because of the action, but its implications for my life and for this world.  I think this song reminds me of the resurrection because it represents where the world is now.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, evil has been conquered, yet it still exists in this world AND/BUT because of the resurrection we have hope knowing that Jesus has already defeated evil.  That sounds confusing... it is. It's also strange that that's what I think about because I think the "commander" is pointing to Jesus' death on the cross and how we also share in His death.  In fact, the album's title is "remember, you must die."

I can see I need to get better at putting my thoughts in a blog-form.  I do know one thing though... I would be very sad if you read this whole thing, but did not listen to the song in its entirety, so I will post a link to it again: ARISE AND BE ALL THAT YOU DREAMED ... I'd also be sad if you don't listen to the other song below ;)

( on a side-note, if you like what you hear, my other favorite song from this album is "Again"-- "her heart breaks with every injustice, she prays like everything depends on God, but then lives like it all depends on her. even though she's strong,there are times when she tries to carry all the weight of the world on her own and she ends up crushed, brought to her knees. as she cries out for relief, she will finally let go, surrendering all the burden by believing that everything has a purpose and will work out for good...its only here that she finds air to breath again" )

So there you go, I have a broad taste in music...but today you get a glimpse into one genre I enjoy.