Monday, May 28, 2012

Pine Ridge Christianity

I love the old churches across the Pine Ridge and Rosebud.  My heart aches as I realize our people were systematically torn from their families and roots.  When you see a church in the middle of no where you should know there was a Tiospaye or Extended family living there at one time.  Pine Ridge Agency or Reservation was established in 1889 for the Oglala Lakota led by Red Cloud.  Chief Red Cloud was the great Lakota War Leader and was a prominent Statesman in his later years.  He along with other leaders took a trip to the East coast and witnessed the masses of people.  Some people believe because Crazy Horse never visited the East he did not have a strong view of the future.  Crazy Horse was remembered for his love of Lakota life.  Changes were coming to the Lakota in the late 19th Century and Red Cloud was understanding change was coming rather quickly and he chose to invite the Black Robes or Catholic Jesuit Priests to come to Pine Ridge.  The above church is located North of Manderson where the people of Crazy Horse settled.  This community was nestled along the White River and just south of the Badlands.  Our lives are full of change and when the Pine Ridge was established in 1989 it would seem our leaders wanted to keep the people safe.

I have been known to ask some difficult questions and I was thinking about what happen in the Southwest, tribes of American Indians were forced to swear allegiance to the pope or be killed.  I asked with all that has happened in the Americas with the original people, how can the Catholic Church reconcile the evil that was perpetuated against the American Indian?  One young priest did not have an answer but assured me they were doing a better job.  Another older priest told me they made a lot of mistakes and that is life.  He then went on to tell me the Jesuit High School was being turned over to the Oglala people.  It is true they have many Oglala Lakota staff members and the Superintendant of the schools is Lakota.  Today you can see the school developing a new religion with a Catholic/Lakota approach to lifeways.  They are involved in syncretism or the mixture of the ways, it is something that is calculating and systematic.  My view of the church comes from deep thought and reflection as I have looked at history and have seen what was done to our people in the name of Jesus.  It was wrong and now I believe is still missing the point of the faith in Jesus. 

Jesus was a servant, the church wanted to be served.  Jesus sought to heal people and the Church sought to control people.  The life of Jesus cannot be condemned because what the church has done around the world.  When I think through the issues we are faced with on the Pine Ridge Agency I understand many of the problems have come through the Black Robes and other like minded groups or churches that came to "Kill the Indian and Save the Man".  My life has seen many changes and I am thankful for the liberties I have in America.  I know people do not like for others to blame for their own situations but I have come to an understanding we need a new approach to life and future.

Churches have been in a downward spiral since the seventies.  No longer was it illegal to practice the spiritual ways of the grandfathers.  People could now engage in the ceremonies of old and it started to happen.  I have lived through these changes and now have seen the effect of what the Christians have done across our Reservation.  Did you know the largest market we have coming into the Reservations are the church groups.  WE as Lakota people do not have tourists but Christian Tour Companies.  I have seen these groups come for sometime and there is little affect on the local people because the companies bringing them live in other states and are gaining.  Remember the Life of Jesus.  I am appalled at the idea of bringing young people from other states to work the summers here in a place that has 80% unemployment. 

I have come to a place in my life where I believe the American Indian Christian needs to look within to establish how Jesus will change the Reservation.  I was told recently by two individuals one a Lakota Spiritualist and another a Lakota Christian I am wrong in my approach.  I am seeking to understand how the church has failed in Pine Ridge and you can see from all of the dying churches.  I have been here since 1995 serving as a non paid Pastor.  I have to work to make sure I have some money but our Church has not had enough money to pay for a pastor.  I think it makes me rest with God more because I have to live on faith.  If you have read this far I want to thank you for reading my Ramblings.  I have started to work on some photos and even a website.  I hope my book comes out as I think it would be good to read about every day life in and around the Rez.