By Lenore ThreeStars
One of the new things I learned when I became a Christian at the age of 30 was, “This world is not our home, we’re only passing through it until we get to our real home, heaven.” I understood that this viewpoint was meant to offer hope when the pain of this world threatens to suck the life out of you, then you can disregard this temporary world and look forward to an eternal, pain-free home. However, I also came to realize that this viewpoint can become a worldview that hurts this world, this planet that God created to sustain life.
As a Lakota and an indigenous theology student, I recognize that there are foundational differences between an indigenous worldview and a white (or western european) worldview. One of those differences regards a theology of the land. Lakota, like other tribes, believe that we are people of the land, rooted and connected to place. Our creation stories place us in the land, ‘we were always here.’ When I was searching for something, my mom would say, “what are you looking for, your cekpa?” A cekpa is the umbilical cord, traditionally placed in a little beaded turtle for safekeeping so that we would not wander away, searching for connection and meaning. Lakota have an umbilical connection to our our homeland, which speaks to a kinship relationship with Unci Maka (grandmother earth), interdependent with the rest of creation. The well-being of Unci Maka is also our well-being. It is easy to understand scripture that says Creator God formed us from the soil and that we will return to it. It is hard to understand how the ‘dominion’ of man moved from tending the garden to exploiting it. I believe that at one time, all people saw Creator God in all nature around us, in the trees, rivers, animals, stars, but at some point that changed and man looked at creation with hungry eyes as a commodity to be used, mined, and sold for profit.
As I write this, my aunt is in Paris, France, working in a delegation of World Indigenous Peoples at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Indigenous peoples around the world have recognized the signs of irreversible illness and some are suffering outright devastation. The indigenous voices that were once calling for respect for the sacredness of Unci Maka so that healing and balance could be restored, are now telling us that it is too late: the air is not the same, the water is not the same, the land is not the same. We have moved past the time to restore to a time to survive, but it will take a change of worldview.
Lakota people have a prayerful expression, “Mitakuye Oyasin,” meaning that we are all related, to each other and to all creation. As a Lakota woman who follows Jesus, I believe that his will is Shalom – healing, balance, and restoration. Can we all unite as relatives in the ‘community of creation’ (a term used by my professor, Randy Woodley) to live in a way that actively seeks Shalom on earth?