On December 19, 2012 I had the privilege of hosting a Public Reading of the Apology to Native Peoples of the United States in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC. This apology was buried in H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. It was signed by President Obama on Dec. 19, 2009 but was never announced, publicized or read publically by either the White House or the 111th Congress.
It was an honor to stand in front of our Nation's Capitol, with a diverse group of citizens, and communicate the "Apology to Native Peoples of the United States" to our elders, to Native communities and, to all US citizens throughout the United States. I am DEEPLY grateful to everyone to supported and encouraged this event and especially to those who were able to attend and stand with me in person. Ahe'hee.
They say a "watched pot never boils." But that's not entirely true. Of course a watched pot boils, it's just that intently watching a pot of water reach 212 degrees F is not an incredibly exciting way to spend your time. And so most people get bored or distracted and end up leaving before it ever reaches the boiling point.
The problem with systemic racism is that it is like a heat source that keeps a pot of water simmering at a constant 211 degrees. Extremely hot, but not quite boiling. Every once in a while the heat gets turned up just a tad...
Not just Americans, but the entire globe.
People know that the founders didn't mean it then, nor does this nation of immigrants mean it now. Sure the words were written down, and they like to frequently point to them as evidence that we are good. But no one really meant them. They were merely a means to an end.
Back in 1776 when representatives from a bunch of colonies wrote the words "We declare these truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal." They did not literally mean ALL men.
But people know that.
Last week I visited the National Archives in Washington DC and personally viewed the original document of the Declaration of Independence. Did you know that 30 lines below the famous quote "All men are created equal" the founders of this nation referred to Native Americans as "merciless Indian Savages?"
This dichotomy highlights the bi-polar character of the United States of America. We are a nation that built its reputation on freedom and claims to stand for “liberty and justice for all.” But our foundations are clearly based on the dehumanization of others. And rather than acknowledging this, we have instead chosen to cling to a narrative of exceptionalism, a myth of manifest destiny and the lie of promised lands.
Picture a chair, an empty chair. There are dozens, even hundreds, of them sitting on the stage behind the podium. At the microphone is a Native American elder. Hurting, trembling, shaking, but standing. Full of resolve. Sharing a story of the horrors of the abuse, neglect and trauma, experienced as a young child at an Indian boarding school. In front of this elder are hundreds, even thousands, of people. Native Americans, with their heads bowed in grief, sorrow, even panic, as their own memories of similar stories are triggered. African Americans, sitting silently, staring at the ground, as they recall stories of the trauma their ancestors endured as slaves, the free labor force of an emerging nations. Americans of European descent, sitting uncomfortably, even squirming. Their eyes are wide open and their hearts are pounding as they hear stories of a history they had spent a lifetime denying existed.
Over the meal, even though the seating is open, the tables are mostly segregated and the room is unusually quiet. Food is eaten, napkins are folded, the garbage is dumped, as everyone solemnly returns to the room where more stories of a similar nature are shared.
This process is repeated the next day, and the next. Some of the voices are angry, some are broken, some are resentful, but a few are hopeful....
November 14, 2014:
Presentation begins at the 21:45 minute mark.
Columbus Day Chapel at Northwestern College - The Doctrine of Discovery
Presentation begins at the 21:45 minute mark
May 24, 2014
View Speech - YouTube
Mark challenges the Rehoboth Christian School graduates of 2014 to bring the intentional and respectful diversity that they experienced as a class of Native, Hispanic and White American students in high school into the college, university and work settings they will be entering in the future.
Conversations from the Hogan
A conversation with Kenneth Wallace regarding his journey to contextualize worship to Jesus and the Creator as an African-American, Choctaw and Pawnee man.
A Conversation for Reconciliation
Blog posts about Navajo Culture and Language
A Laughing Party - The first time a Navajo baby laughs, the family throws a party. The person who made the baby laugh provides the food.
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