I am not a fan of celebrating Columbus Day. I just have an issue with a holiday touting the achievement of a European "discovering" a land that was home to people who had lived here for thousands of years.
I was talking with Rev. Charles Brower, pastor of Nome Community United Methodist Church, and native Alaskan last week. He was talking about his contact with a Canadian native woman who is concerned about the effects of colonialism on indigenous people today. It made me think of the trauma caused to a congregation by a pastor who violates a sacred trust in some way. Experts talk about the amount of time it requires for a congregation to recover and heal. They refer to them as "after pastor" congregations.
I wonder if the same thing would apply to entire nations of native people. Is Alaska an "after colonialist" state? How deep is the trauma caused by well-intentioned but misguided missionaries and territorial officials when Charlie and other native youth were removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools?
One thing I believe to be true is that no one can fully comprehend or evaluate the pain of another. As United Methodist Christians we need to be willing to listen deeply to the hurt of native Alaskans. People have a deep desire to be known, and part of knowing another is a willingness to hear their pain.
Grace and peace,