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Becoming a Listener

When I started to learn about injustices that were happening to indigenous peoples all over the world I wanted to do all that I could to help and fix them. I wanted to move all over the world and help everyone with everything. This, I soon realized, was impossible. I started trying to figure out how I could help best. This led me to study environmental studies and international development in college, which led to thoughts about working internationally on human rights issues. But how can I love and properly promote justice for those far away, those I do not know, when I have not yet learned to love and promote justice for those that are close by, on land that I share with them? This is the question that led me to investigate deeper into some of the issues facing the Native people of our land.

My pursuit of justice for Native Americans began in depth around a year and a half ago. I choose to do an independent project for a class on Pebble Mine and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I choose this topic because I wanted to explore the term “environmental refugees” in more depth and this independent project gave me that opportunity. Through this project, I was exposed to some of the struggles that Native Americans are facing. God was developing in me a deep passion to work towards enabling the voices of native peoples around the world. As a settler by heritage, I feel my place in this fight for justice and equality is in standing with my Native neighbors in their fights for justice.

Since writing that paper, I have tried to be an activist for Native voices that are speaking out to injustices and to educate those around me, as well as myself, on some of the injustices going on in our own area. I try to take every opportunity that I can to learn more about what is going on and how I can help. This has led me to attend different lectures and talks from Native peoples about their struggles and to share what I learn with those interested. I have also been privileged with a professor who shares my passion for these issues and who has been dealing with them longer as she is married to a Native American man. But, overall, I do not know much. I am trying to learn but I am not in their situation and have not seen and heard their struggles in a way that enables me to articulate what they are dealing with in order to educate others. I can, at best, pass on stories and join in their fight towards justice. I hope to participate in a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to their Canadian site to learn more about what is going on in that community.

I believe that reconciliation is important because of my Christian faith and how it has influenced me. I believe that everyone is created equal and the Bible teaches us a message of equality, love, shalom, and justice. I believe that we need to take these messages to heart and pursue them with our whole selves. Reconciliation is a key component of starting to mend the hurt and brokenness of a situation. Horrifying things have happened in this land and sharing stories is one of the first steps to reconciliation. By being a listener and acknowledging their stories hopefully, they can feel supported in their pursuit of justice. I can’t do much, but I can listen.  

Editor's note: Want to work on your listening skills? You can listen to indigenous people telling their stories at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission through this livestream.

[Image: Flickr user Joseph Gilbert]

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