Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ ... (I Peter 1:3)
After listening to a sermon on Hope, one phrase eddied within me: "a living hope." The emphasis was that this living hope was alive, "breathed into life by God." I considered that thought from an indigenous world view that "all life is sacred."
The Lakota philosophy of life, "mitakuye oyasin," means that we are all related to each other and to all creation. Author Randy Woodley calls this the "community of creation," in which all creation is interdependent and interrelated, and every part of creation needs the other.
Kinship is foundational in Lakota culture, as it is in many indigenous cultures. In this world view, our relatives are not just human beings but all life. Nonhuman life, like the buffalo nation, is also a sacred part of creation. Even elements of nature in creation, such as the thunder beings, are our relatives. As I tested these thoughts, I felt the possibility of a new understanding, that this living Hope, a life breathed into existence by Creator Jesus, is also my relative in the community of creation. In these times when Hope seems under siege, I felt encouraged and protective of that Hope.
Let me not paint a romanticized picture of Native life. Yes, our spirituality is ancient but the traumas of colonization are harsh and often reflected in Native life. Genocide, forced assimilation, and exploitation, sound like historical offenses but they have never stopped. Some of the treaties that took Native homelands reserved a portion of land so that Native people would have a place to live. It is a blessing if your reservation is still a part of your ancestral homelands. Many Native nations were harshly uprooted from their homelands and deported. On some reservations, people have never had clean or running water, or electricity. The United States continues to exploit homelands by allowing hazardous waste storage, nuclear weapons testing, toxic mining, and pipelines, all continuing forms of slow genocide. We constantly hear plans for killing more land for extraction and profit. Wendell Berry expressed deep understanding when he wrote, "There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places." Our beloved relative, Unci Maka (grandmother earth), is clearly suffering from desecration.
America is a first-world country with third-world reservations in its back yard that many settlers have never seen. As greed desecrates more lands, one day even white people may experience the standards of reservation life as we self-destruct.
But my relative Hope has a backbone and is not ready to give up. We will walk together, learning what it means to be a good relative, towards the day when Creator Jesus joins us as a relative to restore the community of creation. Mitakuye Oyasin, All My Relatives.