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October 12, 2020

Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity, the new book by The Resistance Prays founder Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, is out now! Learn more here.
There is a growing movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
These states are ditching Columbus Day to observe Indigenous People’s Day instead - a growing movement in the United States - via CNN
“..then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
- Genesis 2: 7-15
As many readers of this devotional know, there is a growing movement to change today, Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday that celebrates the “discovery” of the Americas by the explorer Christopher Columbus. Any cursory read of history knows that this is not a correct version of history, that many other explorers from many other places visited the Americas long before Columbus. And of course, there is also Columbus’ history, and the way of “exploring” that he brought with him which was a precursor to chattel slavery, was in and of itself incredibly violent and was focused primarily on extractive land theft for economic gain. 

And yet, we still celebrate this day. Many of our schools still force children to do coloring pages of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria and sing songs. For many people, this is just a “day off.” 

What an offensive and violent federal holiday today is. On this day I must acknowledge that I am white, that my ancestors were “settlers” and therefore engaged in some form or another of slave-holding and destruction of Indigenous lands and peoples. That the view that dominates much of my ancestral history is extractive of resources of all types from land that did not originally belong to them. 

When we read the first book of the Bible, Genesis, what we first notice is that human beings were not first on the scene. Creation was okay for some time without people. And when God does create people their first mandate is to “till and keep” the earth. The mandate was never extractive. For me, this is an important piece of how we might imagine how we relate to this day as people of faith. As people of faith, we must understand that the worldview, lifestyle, and way of changing the world that the explorations of Christopher Columbus represented and still do represent are an anathema to the will of God both for people and for land. 

For me, this is the beginning of the theological basis to celebrate the day from the perspective of the Indigenous or First Nations peoples rather than through the perspective of Christopher Columbus and all that came after him. 

As a white person, today should be a day when I take some time to repent and to consider my ancestral role. Here are some questions for your reflection that I seek to ask myself these days in relation to my Indigenous siblings:
  • What am I learning about land, extraction, location, and history?
  • What am I unlearning about land, extraction, location, and history?
  • What is my personal ancestral history? 
  • What am I noticing about the first peoples and the history of the space where I am?
  • What was I indoctrinated into as I grew up? What history was prioritized? What worldview was embedded? 
  • How do I want to be different and how do I want to grow?
  • What am I reading, watching, or experiencing that is from a purely Native perspective, free from extractive settler-colonialism? 
  • What difference do the answers to these questions have for my faith and discipleship journey? Where is God in all of this?
May this be a day of discovery for you, soul-discovery that leads to repentance, confession, celebration, turning in a new way, whatever it is that God has set in motion in your life. May today be a day of deep intentionality for you.
Today is a day of learning, some ideas:
  1. Many of us are still figuring out the basics. The first step is learning about the land on which you live and who it really belongs to. You can do so here: 
  2. You can also text your zip code to 907-312-5085 and receive back an automated message telling you what land you are on.
  3. My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is doing some intentional work on learning, especially on the Doctrine of Discovery and the harm it did. That report and learnings can be found here: 
We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams, which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters, the beans and the squashes, which 
    give us life.
We return thanks to the wind, which, moving the air has banished diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and stars, which have given to us their light when the 
     sun was gone.
We return thanks to the sun, that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent 
Last, we return thanks to the Great Spirit in whom is embodied all goodness, and 
who directs all things for the good of his children.

- Iroquois Prayer (adapted) published in Earth Prayers from Around the World
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