by Lenore Three Stars
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)
As the words flowed from Greg Yee’s sermon on the hope of Advent, one phrase eddied within me: “a living hope.” He emphasized that this living hope was alive, breathed into life by God. I considered that thought from an indigenous worldview that “all life is sacred.” The Lakota philosophy of life is “mitakuye oyasin,” meaning that we are all related to each other and to all creation. Author Randy Woodley calls this the “community of creation,” in which we are all interdependent and related to each other. Kinship is foundational in Lakota culture, as it is in many indigenous cultures. Our relatives also include nonhuman life because all life is sacred. Elements of nature in creation, such as the Wakinyan, are considered “beings.” You hear them as thunder, the Thunder nation. As beings, the Wakinyan are also 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. I know that all translations don’t say “a living hope,” but this was a good word that I need to hear in a time when Hope seems to be withdrawing, even overshadowed. I think, “Some relatives are like that, but we’re still family.”
As I write these words, I want to make sure that I don’t promote a stereotypical or romanticized picture of the way Natives live today. Yes, our spirituality is ancient but the traumas of colonization are harsh and often reflected in Native life. Genocide, forced assimilation, and exploitation, which sound like historical offenses, never really stopped. For example, the US reserved some of the homelands that it took by treaty so that Native people would have a place to live. On some reservations, people have never had running water or electricity. Still, the US continues to exploit those homelands, such as by allowing hazardous waste storage, nuclear weapons testing, toxic mining, and pipelines, all forms of slow genocide. Today, we hear plans for another land grab: the US plans to open more sacred land, Bears Ears National Monument, to uranium mining. As Wendell Berry says, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” Our 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, maybe nonNative people will come to enjoy the standards of reservation life, too. I know that even billionaires do not have an extra earth.
So, I was sitting in this cheerless pool of reality when I heard the sermon on “living hope.” I heard Advent call me to join my relative Hope, so I did and found many other relatives. Together, we metaphorically wait for Creator Jesus to join us as a relative in the community of creation. Together, we create ceremony for strengthening each other and getting ready to continue. Together, we continue with the mystery of Shalom above us, below us, all around us, and within us. Together, my relatives.