For Native peoples, 'God Is Still Red'

Symposium honors the late Vine Deloria Jr.
July 20, 2007

From July 10-13, some 50 Native elders and indigenous theologians gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Native theologian Vine Deloria, Jr.'s most challenging work, God is Red, at the God Is Still Red Symposium, held at the Vancouver School of Theology in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The event was co-hosted by the Indigenous Theological Training Institute (ITTI); Yuu-hadaax, a project of the Centre for Indian Scholars; the Vancouver School of Theology (VST) Native Ministries Consortium; and Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a, a Nisga'a Nation post-secondary educational institution. In 1973 Deloria's controversial God is Red, a "voice from Turtle Island," was first published. The book strongly influenced aboriginal theology globally, and post-colonial thought since has emerged largely along themes first explored by Deloria. The symposium was held to re-discover his work and determine its relevance for Native and non-Native peoples in the 21st century. The sessions covered subjects related to the theology of indigenous people and the land, the challenges faced by Native Christians, and those experienced by non-Natives in a Native environment. Presenters included Willard Martin (Nisga'a), Skeena Native Development Society; Dr. Paula Samson, VST; Kathryn Rickert, Seattle University; Ray Levesque (Lummi), Northwest Indian College; the Rev. Dr. Bradley Hauff (Oglala Sioux), board member, ITTI; the Rev. Debbie Royals (Pascua Yaqui), Regional Missioner for Native Ministry Development, Dioceses of Northern California and Los Angeles; Father John Hascall (Ojibway), Capuchin Franciscan; the Rev. Carol Tookey, regional vicar for New Mexico, Navajoland Area Mission; Carol Nadjiwon, Director of Education, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians; Rolland Nadjiwon (Potawatomi/Ojibway), poet and educator; Steve Darden (Diné/Cheyenne); and Bishop Mark MacDonald (mixed ancestry including Wyandotte), National Indigenous Anglican Bishop for Canada. This symposium brought together Native and non-Native people from North America specifically to engage in and dialog with the theology of indigenous people and particularly the work of Vine Deloria. The symposium was recorded and papers presented will be collected and published in the next volume of the First People's Theology Journal. The closing panel, a public lecture, brought Deloria's work into contemporary terms. The panel included MacDonald; the Rev. Dr. Martin Brokenleg, (Lakota), director, Native Ministries Program, VST; and the Rev. Ian MacKenzie (adopted Haida/Nisga'a), Associate Rector, St. Philip's, Wrangell, Alaska. The symposium demonstrated a better understanding of a borderless model of leadership for indigenous people in the Anglican and Episcopal Church. Deloria, who died in 2005 at age 72, was the grandson of Tipi Sapa (Black Lodge), also known as the Rev. Philip Joseph Deloria, an Episcopal priest and a leader of the Yankton band of the Nakota Nation. His father, Vine Sr., studied English and Christian theology and became an Episcopal archdeacon and missionary on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. He served as the Episcopal Church's first Native American missioner. The younger Deloria was Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1964 to 1967. He also served for a time on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. Deloria published more than 20 books of Native theology, prompting critical dialog and empowering Native American theologians to continue the conversation and engage in writing and publishing. TIME magazine called Deloria one of the 10 most influential theologians of the 20th century, and in March 2005 he received the American Indian Visionary Award from Indian Country Today.

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