As we move into our traditional season of celebration, ceremony and remembrance, we at Intersections, along with the Collegiate Church family, re-dedicate ourselves to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our Native American brothers and sisters. In keeping with the Healing Turtle Island ceremony in 2009, when a new alliance was formed between the Lenape Nation and the Collegiate Church, we acknowledge and honor those who graced these shores as the first stewards of this great land. Turtle Island was a common reference among the indigenous peoples for the land the European settlers called "the new world." The Collegiate Church of New York is the modern manifestation of the Dutch Reformed Church, or the "company church" of the Dutch West Indies Company, established in 1628 when the area was called New Amsterdam. The Collegiate Church acknowledged its role in the oppression and dispersion of the indigenous people of Manhattan, and a new way of moving forward together was put in motion.
The latest collaboration with Lenape Center is the concert opera Purchase of Manhattan, performed last week at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. The New York Times published an article about the opera using terms like 'forgiveness', 'atonement' and 'national soul-searching' to describe the authentic effort to address the wrongs heaped upon the original citizens of the land now called America.
How do we ensure the healing and relationship-building continue? Yvonne Dennis, president and founder of Nitchen (a Native American children's advocacy organization), and the Reverend Robert (Bob) Chase, the Founding Director of Intersections, would say it starts with trust and true listening. Rev. Chase's efforts to listen, learn, honor and support a process of understanding and reconciliation were recognized by Nitchen this past October. He received the Wanishi Award (wanishi means "thank you") from Nitchen for extraordinary service to the Native American community. Ms. Dennis said Nitchen honored him because "Bob hears what we say. He is a stand-up man who champions causes that are not always popular or even newsworthy to the dominant culture. Bob walks his talk." These words highlight the mutual respect that has developed from an authentic coming-together in common purpose for the greater good.
And so, from this day forward, the threads of this new shared tapestry of culture, compassion and collaboration continue to be woven. Telling the truth about the past informs the Art of New Beginnings.
My wife and I visited the Museum of The American Indian in Washington, DC just a few weeks ago. As we moved through the many rooms, we took in images and read accounts of deception and displacement which destroyed native villages and families. We were both overcome with grief, shame and hurt. When we left, my wife was in tears.
As America recognizes American Indian Heritage Day on November 28th, let us be guided by the footprints already placed on the path towards healing and reconciliation set by Rev. Chase, Lenape Center, Yvonne Dennis and Nitchen, and all those involved in the current efforts to create a new legacy together. May we be trusting and truthful, honorable and inclusive as we again ring holiday bells.