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The Episcopal Church partners with White Bison to address the root causes of domestic poverty for alleviation in Native American communities


a poem by Nancy Kingbird

[April 29, 2010] Continuing its strong efforts to work closely with, and advocate for, the Native American population, The Episcopal Church is partnering with White Bison, Inc. to develop a culturally oriented strategy for addressing domestic poverty within Native American communities.

“Working with White Bison is an honor for our Church and our peoples,” said Sarah Eagle Heart (Oglala Lakota), Episcopal Church Native American and Indigenous Ministries Officer. “We are demonstrating healing, forgiveness and reconciliation through this partnership. We have the same goals of ensuring tribal cultural and spiritual preservation. By collaborating together, we can provide tools for communities to address issues such as the suicide rate, which is ten times the national average on some reservations. By combining our efforts, we can utilize the abundance present and bring transformation for the seventh generation of Native American peoples.”

“Our partnership with White Bison is a historic step forward to address the root causes of poverty and other social conditions that have plagued tribal communities for hundreds of years,” said Erma Vizenor, member of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministry and White Earth Tribal Chairwoman. “Native Americans have come through a holocaust history and it is long overdue to educate the Church at large and to begin the healing of tribal people. The White Earth Nation has implemented the White Bison program in our culturally appropriate chemical abuse and mental health treatment program for Native youth for five years.”

At its General Convention 2009 (GC09) in July 2009, The Episcopal Church adopted A155, a resolution calling for the alleviation of domestic poverty with a focus on Native Americans calling for churchwide asset-based community development training in tribal communities. Also at GC09, resolution D035 was adopted to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and to encourage the United States to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This project will allow The Episcopal Church to continue implementing strategies that support these resolutions.

“Our mutual goal in this groundbreaking partnership is to collaborate around the important initiative of domestic poverty alleviation,” noted the Rev. Christopher Johnson, Social and Economic Justice Officer for The Episcopal Church.

Eagle Heart explained that this partnership is framed in four stages: (1) introducing the Healing Forest Model and the Wellbriety Movement to the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministry at the March 13 conference in Salt Lake City, UT, which then unanimously affirmed the partnership; (2) equipping community members to implement culturally-based Wellbriety training in their communities; (3) developing a model project in communities in Province VI that can be replicated in the other eight Episcopal Church provinces; and (4) designing regional centers to support the implementation of the Wellbriety Movement within the various provinces.

I am Indigenous and my skin is brown
All this land is sacred ground
Do you know how it feels to be removed from your land
And to have your child ripped from your hand
To be taken away to a place unknown
And be told to forget the way of life you’ve been shown
To forget your language and convert your pagan soul
Only to be left with a large void of a hole
To forget your parents and your other family members
Leaving a broken heart with only dying embers
Forget where you’ve come from and to whom you belong
Forget your ceremonies and all those sacred songs
Move on in this world and you will be accepted
Only to find out you have only been rejected
Losing your language and your sacred way of life
Only to have acquired a burden of shame and strife
There is no intent of blaming, or trying to prove who’s right
Just acknowledge what has become our plight
We’ve survived our destiny through all of these years
And all have walked our own Trail of Tears
It is the time that we learn how to forgive
And to return to our old ways and begin to live
We’ve all been given our own sacred direction
It’s up to us all to make the connection

Nancy Kingbird, Anishinabe, is the coordinator of the Leech Lake Indian School
Forgiveness Journey Event,
June 12, 2009

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