Saturday, May 24, 2008

Catholic, Native and Proud

I just posted a (probably too long) response to a post on a great Catholic Blog OrbisCatholicus written by John Sonnen of St. Paul. Like many others, I was led to the blog by Fr. Z at What Does the Prayer Really Say?

He was lauding the many great Catholic bona fides of the Twin Cities and Minnesota. I just felt really left out when, by omission (but probably not by intention) he made it seem like American Indians never existed or were never here. It implies that we have disappeared or have been absorbed into the vast melting pot of the Americas and don't exist as a people anymore.

I'm not bitter about this, I just want people to know that we can talk about the painful history in ways that promote understanding and harmony. It doesn't have to be an occasion for leftist diatribes against the Church or against "white" European culture in general.

First read his post here, then read my response, which is below.

Please allow me to gently take you to task for studiously avoiding mention of the aboriginal inhabitants of this wonderful “Northwest Territory (a region which once belonged to Catholic France)” in this post. I happen to have significant heritage in a tribe who has lived in and around Minnesota since before 1680.

Acting as if we never existed is not only contrary to dignity and charity, it is historically lazy and inaccurate. Perhaps you are not aware of the roots of the many place names you grew up with if you lived in the Twin Cities in your youth. The “most unique name” Minneapolis is not unique by accident, but because it borrows the Lakota word for water “mni” and combines it with the Greek. Minneapolis was not “discovered” in 1680 by Fr. Hennepin, because it did not exist as a city with that name until centuries later. If you want to say that the place around St. Anthony Falls was discovered by Fr. Hennepin, that would only be from the perspective of Europeans. We knew it was there all along.

Now I suspect that your heritage is European in origin and in your defense, you would be expected to speak from that perspective. But as someone who sees the many races of the world on pilgrimage in Rome, the headquarters of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, you probably are aware of the error of being too Euro-centric, especially these days when the official government of Europe is so stridently anti-Catholic or at least agnostic towards religion and morality in general.

Let me tell you something else about that “old American military outpost established at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.” That place was as sacred as a place can be for the Lakota, something akin to St. Peter’s in Rome for Catholics. They called “Makoche Chokaya Kin” or “the center of the universe.” Building a military establishment there was, while probably good military strategy, was an abomination to the indigenous people who worshiped there. It would have been something similar to Muslims, having taken over Rome, making St. Peter’s not a mosque, but a warehouse to store armaments.Now please be aware that I don’t mean clobber you over the head with this information. If I sound harsh, please know that I bring you this information in the hopes that your impulse to be a more holy Catholic may also include care and concern for the least of God’s people, the American Indians, and respect for their history as well as your own. Perhaps you were just not aware of this history which was understandably “subliminated” until recently, in order that the progeny of the conquerors would not see themselves in the light of these monstrous and unjust deeds.

I don’t see the Church as complicit in these injustices for the most part, as most of the priests and missionaries, Father Hennepin foremost among them, came here not to build a great civilization, but to bring the love of Jesus Christ and his Church to the likes of lil’ ol’ me and my bro’s. For the large part they opposed unjust treatment of Natives, but the overwhelming culture of death (“manifest destiny”) which pervaded early America usually drowned out the truly Catholic voice in the public square.

Please receive my words in the fraternal charity with which I mean them.


Post a Comment

<< Home