Time For Courage - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1787148

Time For Courage

Aquay, family, friends and neighbors. It has been nearly a week since the rediscovery of 215 Native children buried in a mass grave at the Kamloops Residential School has been made known to us, and the reactions and responses are, sadly, typical.

Native communities and indigenous people have known and grieved and cried and protested and testified and lamented and mourned and struggled with legacies of substance and physical abuse, and, maybe even worse, endured the constant denial and minimization of this residential/boarding school trauma for decades. The governments of the United States and Canada have done this, the churches in the United States and Canada have done this, and there is nothing that they can do or say to make this genocidal legacy “un-happen.”

It is demoralizing to hear my nonindigenous neighbors say things like, “I never knew …” or “We didn’t think it was that bad …” or the classic: “Why didn’t you say?”

For most of my 60 years I have been involved with sharing the stories of my Shinnecock people and of various Native communities, and mostly in church settings. And part of me wants to say, “Why bother?” while most of me says, “These are the things that must be spoken, and these are the people to whom they must be told.”

If this is a beginning for you — you who have newly learned of the 215 children secreted away in a mass grave for decades — then I encourage you to go forth and learn as much as you possibly can about your Native neighbors, about the histories and calamities, the genocide and the atrocities, the pain and the continuing trauma, the reasons that you have not known before, and learn, most importantly, that it matters very much what you choose to do at this moment, or what you choose to ignore.

I will remind my non-Native siblings that it is the responsibility of a society that calls itself truthful, just and free to take up the cause of those who do not have power in our midst.

And I will remind the church that the brand of Christianity that was used to justify the theft of land, people, labor, culture and languages is still justifying the ill-gotten gains proffered from a systemic racism and from a deep and lasting devotion to the deadly myth of white supremacy and the superiority of your world view. There are some of my Native siblings who will walk with you — but surely you can imagine why most won’t.

This is a time for courage, and this is a time to stop believing what you think you know about your Native neighbors, and to humble yourselves to actually listen.

The Reverend Holly Haile Thompson, D.D.

Founding Pastor Padoquohan Medicine Lodge

Shinnecock Nation