Photos and writing by June Friesen,
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October and is an official city and state holiday in various localities. (Definition from Wikipedia)
When I heard about this celebration this year (sadly I had not heard of it before) I immediately went online to find out the historical meaning of this day. I do not know if I had really never heard of it before, or if I had heard the words but really never thought about it–merely ‘heard’ the words.
Growing up I was very familiar with the Indigenous people in various ways. I remember them coming to our farm and selling my father wooden fence posts. He taught me that they were always of good wood and they made especially sturdy fencing corners. I also was gifted with many of the items above, which were mostly made by the Navaho nation in the early 1950s.
As I have pondered these thoughts these past couple of weeks, many thoughts have gone through my mind. I have some very special friends among the Indigenous peoples, especially here in Arizona with whom I have shared various experiences. I have been privileged to worship in their churches, attend their revival/camp meetings on their lands, and sleep and eat in their homes with them. I have many specials friends among these people. So, I became very curious as to this special day and I have to admit that as I now understand it, I will embrace it fully. Let us look at a couple of Scriptures, as I was once again reminded of these verses:
John 3:16 16 For here is the way God loved the world—he gave his only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.
(The Passion Translation)
Romans 1:14-17 14 Love obligates me to preach to everyone, to those who are among the elite and those who are among the outcasts, to those who are wise and educated as well as to those who are foolish and unlearned. 15 This is why I am so excited about coming to preach the wonderful message of Jesus to you in Rome! 16 I refuse to be ashamed of the wonderful message of God’s liberating power unleashed in us through Christ! For I am thrilled to preach that everyone who believes is saved—the Jew first, and then people everywhere! 17 This gospel unveils a continual revelation of God’s righteousness—a perfect righteousness given to us when we believe. (The Passion Translation)
A song that comes to mind from my earliest childhood Sunday School days is this:
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; Red, brown, yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
When I got a little older a Sunday School teacher added a verse:
“Jesus died for all the children, all the children of the world; Red, brown, yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight; Jesus died for all the children of the world.”
As a child, my spirit was sensitive to anyone who looked different than I did. Yet I remember so clearly how I really believed in my little ‘child’s heart and mind’ that every one of us all over the world mattered to God. In the photos above you will see some very special treasures of mine. One dates all the way back to when I was three years old and my aunt brought me a little jacket with weaving on it from one of the Indigenous tribes in New Mexico. She continued to add to that collection over the years as she would come to visit us. I treasured all of these and still do.
So how can we show respect and honor to these people around our nation? In my experience, it is in accepting them as individuals just as you and I. I remember fondly sitting with a number of women, some of them quite elderly, in one of my visits to their tribal land/nation. Some of them knew little to no English yet we were able to visit and learn about each other. They were eager to share with me their creative abilities, especially in their weavings. I learned about their great respect for the creation/world around us, especially water. Oftentimes their communities struggled for water, especially when the rainfall was minimal. Water was used in the home but never disposed of down the drain. Rather it was carried outdoors to the farm animals, especially the chickens.
I learned how to worship God with great enthusiasm. It did not matter so much if the tune(s) and/or harmony were perfect; what mattered was the opportunity to praise God because they had come to know that they were created by Him and loved by Him, even though life was not always easy. I have learned they have been taken advantage of by Caucasian people. For some, this has caused a continual struggle, yet they desire to still one day be respected among all people/by all people. I have shared with them through the loss of a family member in death. In knowing the faith walk of the person we were all assured of the person’s presence in heaven with God the Father of all humanity.
This is a day of new possibilities and possibly new beginnings for some–if not all of us. I know that it is for me. I knew many things about the Indigenous peoples, but now I know even more. I now want to embrace a day to honor them, especially for their resilience, their continued perseverance, and their forgiveness–as well as their great contributions to this country over time. This is an opportunity for all of us to show appreciation to this people group by thanking them for the things they contribute to our society, the arts that they share with us for sale, as well as embracing them as fellow believers.
Today I close with a prayer:
Father in heaven, today we celebrate and honor a group of people who have often felt marginalized in our society. Forgive us for where we have not always recognized and included them in our lives as You did and do. Help us begin today to embrace them as Your children created and loved by You just as we are. In Jesus’ name, amen and amen.
Want to experience more of the awe and wonder that God offers us? Check out the Gift of Wonder Online Retreat by Christine Sine. This retreat allows for 180 days of access for only $39.99 so you can move through the sessions at your own pace.