Updates on Recent Events from the Office of Indigenous Ministries

Updates on Recent Events from the Office of Indigenous Ministries

September 17, 2018

UNCSW in March

In March, 2018, a small group of Indigenous young adults attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York.  Here are two reflections from those who were there.

Hello, my name is Caressa James:

I am a member of the Whirlwind Mission in Watonga, Oklahoma that was founded by David Pendleton (Oakerhater). I attended the UNCSW62 in March with three other Indigenous delegates. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is the UN’s largest Commission. This commission largely advocates on behalf of the betterment of women and children throughout the world. Although we did not partake in the events at the UN headquarters, we were able to partake in the parallel events hosted by the NGO groups. These groups hosted many informative lectures and sessions that shared info about the advocacy work they are doing in their regions. One thing I did notice that was very enlightening and also concerning was as a Native American woman, we were not represented. I felt that we belong at the same table as all of the indigenous women bringing our issues to light as well. We too have issues that need to be discussed at the international table that need immediate attention. Many of the groups present represented issues that have been affecting women and children in war torn countries, impoverished countries and even advanced countries but there was only one parallel event that discussed Native American women and children. We too have to share the most powerful country on Earth yet as Native American people, we are oppressed by many of the same issues that plague very underdeveloped countries and nations across the sea. I for sure would like to see Indigenous Ministries assist in building up our representation as Native American people at the international table so that we aren’t overlooked and our stories are heard also. 

From Byron Sloan, Navajo, Phoenix Arizona:

My grandmother was born in a period when the US government started to renegotiate their relationship with Native American tribes and recognize them as US citizens. Before the Termination Era of Federal policy, indigenous communities suffered through Termination and Assimilation policies. Raising eight children in isolated, rural conditions, my grandmother relied on the cultural teachings of those before her in changing times. Through a series of sacrifice and tribulations, my mother made her way to Phoenix, AZ--where she would raise three children of her own. It wouldn't be until later in college that I would understand the complicated relationship my family and community had with the policy both tribal and federal.

Attending the UNCSW was pivotal in seeing the wider plight rural women navigate globally. Whether communities are fighting back against multinational corporations or leaning into cleaner forms of natural energy, rural women remain in the forefront of leadership and vision for trekking the throes of capitalism. Attending workshops on micro-financed enterprises in rural Asia to the jurisdictional issues Native American women face in sexual violence at the hands of non-Native men, I was able to compare similar aspects of women in my life. Every lecture and open forum seemed to inch us closer to a deeply hypothesized solution: we'll create cab companies for women only to how are we making more resources available for mothers of children with disabilities?

More than reflecting on the workshops, I was wondering how this would translate into a call for action and what that call would look like in my diocese, etc. How does the Church plan to show its support for protecting sacred sites that are integral to Apache womanhood? In what ways does the desecration of migratory paths in western Asian mimic those along the US/Mexican border? These are the questions i returned to Arizona to sit with in prayer. There are other issues raised during the conference that I will reflect upon: of the 20 delegates selected for UNCSW, why was only 1 of them Native? Does the Indigenous Missioner's vision overlap with the Latino/Hispanic Missioner's for working with indigenous groups outside of the United States? If so, what does that vision look like, and how can we work with that vision on a diocesan level, if possible. In what ways are we working towards deconstructing systematic practices that leave indigenous peoples in places that we are not so worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs of capitalism.

Of the many people I had the honor of meeting, I kept thinking back to the familiar faces of my grandmother and mother. In a period when Navajo people were returning back to our homelands in the latter 19th century, Navajo women carried created a whole economy based on rugs that wove our cosmology into mainstream history. My grandmother participated in that economy until policy eventually dictated the seizure of land and livestock. My grandmother started to weave together stories of when Navajos and Hopis would share corn before government would turn us against one another. My grandmother started to weave together stories of when she was left as the sole care provider for her younger siblings as her parents drank through three generations of historical trauma--leaving the next three for us to make better and maybe reset the trauma for our great, great grandchildren. My mother wove different rugs. She wove rugs of boarding school and trade schools. She wove together stories of that church is dangerous--not knowing the difference in denominations because every denomination carries the sin of white supremacy and the silver lining of Manifest Destiny. These are the very stories that were recreated and retold in front of me, thousands of miles away--in New York City. In the Salvation Army Center. In the UN Church Center's 2nd Floor conference room. The same rural spirit that ties us to the land in Dine Bikeyah is the same spirit that ties Maori women to their islands and sea. It's the same spirit that ties me to the hogan my father built my mother for their wedding day. It's the same spirit that calls us to the baptismal font to shout, "with God's help we will".

UNPFII in April

A delegation of Indigenous Episcopalians attended the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in April, 2018.  The group included Mr. Ronald Braman from Idaho, The Venerable Paul Sneve from South Dakota, The Reverend Michael Sells from Navajoland, The Reverend Brandon Mauai from North Dakota, Ms. Caressa James from Oklahoma, and The Reverend Bessie Titus from Alaska.


Indigenous delegates to the UNPFII (from left): the Reverend Michael Sells, the Venerable Paul Sneve, Ms. Caressa James, Indigenous Missioner Bradley Hauff, Mr. Ronald Braman, the Reverend Bessie Titus, the Reverend Brandon Mauai, and Ms. Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church UN liaison officer.

Presiding Bishop’s Visit to Navajoland in April, 2018

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Canon Michael Hunn, Ms. Cecelia Malm of UTO and Missioner Bradley Hauff visited Navajoland in April, 2018.  The visit involved an extensive tour of the region and mission area congregations, with Bishop David Bailey being the primary tour guide.  The visit culminated in a Sunday morning Eucharist at Good Shepherd Mission, Fort Defiance, Arizona.


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bishop David Bailey, TEC Church Center officers and Navajoland Area clergy and lay leaders at Good Shepherd Mission in April, 2018.

General Convention 79 in July in Austin, TX

Over 25 Indigenous Deputies attended the 79thGeneral Convention in Austin, TX, in July, 2018.  We met regularly as a group and with the other Deputies of Color: Latino/Hispanic, Black and Asiamerican, for mutual support and to strategize.  The high points of GC79 were the appointments of the Reverend Cornelia Eaton of Navajoland and the Reverend Angela Goodhouse-Mauai of North Dakota to the Episcopal Church Executive Council. Additionally, two resolutions were passed that will have significant impact on Indigenous Ministries for the coming Triennium: Resolution D010, calling for the creation of a coordinator for Indigenous theological education; and Resolution D011, encouraging the Doctrine of Discovery, its devastating effects on Indigenous people, and the church’s role in it, to be taught to all who are engaged in a discernment process for holy orders in the Episcopal Church.


Indigenous General Convention Deputies, volunteers and friends meet in Austin, Texas, July 2018


Indigenous Deputies attend Holy Eucharist at General Convention 79 in Austin, Texas, July 2018


Dakota Goodhouse of North Dakota plays Native flute at Eucharist at General Convention 79 in Austin, Texas, July 2018

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