Liberation Theologies in the United States: An Introduction

By Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas; Anthony B. Pinn | Go to book overview

8

American Indian Theology

GEORGE (TINK) TINKER (WAZHAZHE UDSETHE, OSAGE NATION)


Historical Backdrop

American Indian peoples became Christian at moments of utter despair and in the face of huge trauma that devastated them.1 With the ever-present pressures of European colonialism on this continent, they turned to the very religion of their conqueror to find some sort of solace. As European mass murder and terrorism combined with European-generated epidemics took their toll on the aboriginal populations, suddenly the people found themselves with not enough knowledgeable participants to continue the old ceremonies.2 One can add to these difficulties U.S. government political pressure on Indian communities to comply with demands for land cessions and reckless resource development, all of which contributed to the degradation of Indian communities.

Children were kidnapped from Indian families and incarcerated in facilities called boarding schools, kept at a distance from loving families for a dozen years each, finally returning home at eighteen with skewed perspectives on life itself, having been absent of familial love and the healthy personality development such love would have nurtured.3 At the same time, the U.S. government, in collusion with the White Christian religious establishment, took legal action to outlaw the practice of many of the traditional ceremonials of Indian communities, making it even more difficult to find spiritual help in traditional ways.4 Many of these ceremonies were practiced, however, but in hidden and secret locations and only by those brave enough to risk arrest and imprisonment. At the same time, many communities simply gave up trying to continue their ceremonies as the incursion of White culture decimated clan structures and made it much more difficult to find key participants to fulfill roles assigned to different clans.5

Throughout these beginnings, however, the missionaries never did learn to trust those Indians who converted. As a result, there were never many

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