Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Soul Murder and Healing (Or How Not To Be a Missionary)

Please know this blog is just a draft and not finished.

I sometimes lose my blogs so I published it.

As I was reading about the Nez Perce, I felt awful for how White people treated them and so many other Native Americans and ethic minorities.  Of course not all whites were bad.  Some were pretty decent.  I am proud to have Quaker ancestors who were among the pretty decent white people, but anyway, I needed to share what I was reading from different sources online.  Even though I wrote about atrocities, I was not including all the details.  I needed to include more -- just not in specific blogs as it did not serve the purpose of those blogs.  So I included it here.  Just know this is a rough draft and not a finished edition.

I have read about clergy abuse, and I have read about what happened to Native Americans in the last few hundred years.  What happened to Native Americans is a particularly awful form of clergy abuse (until I start reading about slavery and other genocides).  The Catholic Church today is enlightened compared to what most Christians were 200 years ago

One hundred eighty years ago Dr. Marcus Whitman and Henry Spaulding came to Washington and Idaho to Christianize the Native Americans, although, in retrospect, both appeared to come more to claim the land for whites than to "save" Indian souls.  At the very best they were arrogant.  At their worst, one would consider the religion they taught not Christianity but the practice of evil.

In any case, the Native American peoples had their own spirituality.  From "Time Immemorial" an article printed in the Idaho Statesmen Journal on September 22, 2005:

They had a faith that sustained them for generations. They believed in a Creator who made the Earth and everything in it. The Creator was in some ways similar to the God of Christianity, but there was no hell, no need for salvation. The Earth, the plants, the air and water and the animals with which the people shared them were sacred to them. The animals were brothers who sacrificed themselves to provide food, clothing and shelter. All things were interconnected. Nothing was to be taken from the Earth without giving something back — a physical offering, a prayer or both.

"A Way of Life Unravels," published on September 21, 2005 in the  Idaho Statesman Journal describes the activities of the missionaries.
Lee's "mission" in the fertile Willamette Valley became primarily one of colonizing by opening the area to emigrants. It also planted seeds of cultural and social change that continues to the present.
Lee's venture inspired Dr. Marcus Whitman and the Rev. Henry Spalding, both Presbyterians, to spread their faith. They came West together as far as Fort Boise. Whitman continued on to a site near present-day Walla Walla, Wash., where he established a mission among the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes. Spalding settled on Lapwai Creek, near the site of the Idaho town that now bears his name.
The Nimiipuu, whom the white newcomers called Nez Perce, welcomed the minister and his wife, Eliza. They gave them one of their best buffalo-hide tipis to live in until they could build a log home. The year was 1836 — 30 years after Lewis and Clark. For the once mighty Nimiipuu, arguably the best friends Lewis and Clark had on their journey, life would never again be the same.
Spalding was effective at spreading the faith. The Lapwai area today supports eight Christian denominations, with Presbyterians still the most numerous. Even they, however, question Spalding's motto and apparent guiding philosophy: "Kill the Indian, spare the man."
Vera Sonneck, the tribe's cultural resources director and a third-generation Presbyterian, categorized Spalding as "a very strict follower of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, in which people were punished by whipping and stoning. He'd have people whipped if they didn't cut their hair or get rid of their traditional garb. You conformed, and your values were changed. You weren't even allowed to speak your language in his presence."
The reverend wasted no time establishing a working relationship with his hosts, whipping those who failed to carry their share of the logs used to build his house.
With a few exceptions, Spalding had little trouble intimidating the Nez Perce, who were in awe of the seemingly miraculous power of the white people's knowledge. The new people could communicate volumes of information without speech or signs. They possessed powerful science. Deeply spiritual, many Nez Perce reasoned that only good could come from learning the white man's religion.
Some balked at the concept of religion administered with a boot and a lash. Others at least partially accepted it, and Spalding used his position as the representative of the white man's God to establish a virtual dictatorship. He administered 50 lashes to a chief who returned early from an errand because his horse had failed. A woman who hadn't embraced the new religion was whipped for leaving her abusive husband, who had. Hungry children were whipped for stealing food.
Spalding encouraged the Nez Perce to abandon their traditional modes of living and become farmers. The tribe's oral history includes stories of giving potatoes without eyes to those who offended him. When the potatoes failed to sprout, he told the would-be farmers it was their fault because they were devils. Oral history holds that he put sheep dye in melons to poison those who failed to please him.
To a people who believed in the hereafter solely as a place of peace and serenity — and whose warriors accordingly were not afraid to die — he introduced the concept of eternal damnation. He supplanted the cool waters and lush meadows of the hereafter with unending fire.
Spalding "justified himself by saying the tribe sent the warriors to St. Louis because they were seeking salvation," said Diane Mallickan, cultural interpreter at the Nez Perce National Historical Park and co-editor of "The Nez Perce Nation Divided." "If you have no concept of hell, what do you need to be saved from?"
Spalding's and Whitman's un-Christian practices in the name of Christianity were their undoing.
At Walla Walla, Whitman openly belittled the spirituality that had sustained the tribes for generations, and he fueled a land rush by recruiting emigrants who appropriated land the Indians had held for centuries. The newcomers brought, among other things, a measles epidemic that killed about half of the Cayuse. Convinced that Whitman was evil and that they were losing their homes and way of life, the survivors rebelled. Whitman's administration ended with the 1847 murders of the doctor, his family and 12 other whites.
Fearing the Nez Perce would follow suit, Spalding fled to Oregon.

And it got worse.  Indian children were forced into boarding schools and were beaten if they spoke native languages or followed any traditional practice.
My friend, Cec, who is Umatilla and not Nimiipuu, told me about forced sterilization that Native Americans underwent.
The Native Americans were subjected to cultural, religious and ethnic genocide.
These experiences can be compared to a mass practice of abuse.
What are the symptoms of severe abuse?

Alcoholism and drug addiction
low self esteem
problems maintaining jobs
problems maintaining relationship

I've heard the term, but I have forgotten it in the moment.  Something about generational trauma from abuse.  Certainly what happened to Native Americans is a form of extreme abuse just as slavery is a form of extreme abuse.
Some Native Americans have left the Christianity forced upon them by whites.
Some have strengthened Native American practices and beliefs while maintaining what is good about Christianity.  When you mistreat a person or a whole group of people, they will have problems.
Many people I know despair about the current state of affairs of war and race hatred and other problems facing our country and world, but looking back at the past I come to a hopeful conclusion  Today we take for granted that the practices of Marcus Whitman and Henry Spalding are very wrong.  There may be a few people somewhere who defend how Native Americans have been treated, but they are very few.  More people don't understand how trauma can last generation after generation let alone damage an individual for the rest of their lives.
Human progress appears to be measured by two steps forward and one and a half backwards.
But then again, maybe we have not gotten better.  Look at what we Americans did in Iraq.  We never found any weapons of mass destruction -- our excuse for our invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Moreover we bombed Iraq from above.  And our soldiers road in armored personnel carriers -- sealed away from enemy combatants.  Although there was a time when our soldiers had to provide their own body armor as the military was remiss in providing protection from explosive devices planted in the road by Iraqis who did not agree with our perception of things.
No, maybe we are not any better than in the past but our abuses are farther away and easier to dismiss.
But just as an individual we can work to overcome the trauma and damage of abuse, we can, as a people, work to overcome the damage of abuse to our society.
Nez Perce people and youth struggle cultural soul trauma as evidenced by high unemployment and high school dropout rates, but these improved significantly in the 20 years prior to 2005.
The Nimiipuu language is now being taught In the Lapwai High School, located where Chief Jopseh and the Wallowa Nimiipuu were relocating to prior to the Nez Perce War.  In the past Native American children were beaten if they spoke their native language and engaged in any native cultural practice.
Today the culture from the past is being used to heal.
For example, the horse culture of the Nimiipuu is also being resurrected to heal wounded youth.
Troubled youth are given horses to care for.  You have to feed and water the horse every day and shovel manure from its stall.  If you don't care for your horse, he or she will sicken and maybe even die.  In order to ride the horse, you must discipline yourself and teach the horse to follow your instructions.  And every time you ride the horse, you must brush it and care for it afterwards .  As you care for the horse, you learn responsibility.   Your relationship with the horse and being able to ride the horse is your reward for your hard work and responsibility.
Caring for your horse and your growing relationship with the horse brings alive the Nimiipuu belief in the interconnectedness of all beings.  
Horse centered therapy is increasingly being used for healing by Non-Native American groups too such as wounded war veterans and other adults and children with emotional and behavioral disturbances.  It is called Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT).  
To understand the struggles of Nimiipuu today, we have to look at history, but answers for healing are also found in history, including those who have lived through history.
One last current Nimiipuu source of cultural healing is to pair children with elders to hear their stories.  Sharing our stories heals us.  For the Nimiipuu it is also a way of preserving the past and rebuilding the spirit and culture of the tribe.  Perhaps listening is as healing for the listener as it is for the person who is being listened to.

"A Way of Life Unravels," published on September 21, 2005 in the  Idaho Statesman Journal describes the activities of the missionaries.
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2005/09/21/58364/a-way-of-life-unravels.html#storylink=cpy

References:  "Time Immemorial" Idaho Statesmen Journal, September 22, 2005, http://www.idahostatesman.com/2005/09/22/58347/time-immemorial.html

"A Way of Life Unravels," published on September 21, 2005 in the  Idaho Statesman Journal.  http://www.idahostatesman.com/2005/09/21/58364/a-way-of-life-unravels.html.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2005/09/22/58347/time-immemorial.html#storylink=cpy

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