Wakantanka’s People: An Indigenous American Movement
May 3, 2010

“The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

(Isaiah 60:22)

Indigenous American Movements (IAM):

A Native-led church planting movement among the First Nations of North America.

500 years have passed since Europeans set foot in North America. They sometimes brought the gospel. They often brought cultural values and actions that started a legacy of corruption, greed, and ethnocentrism that ravished the First Nations of North America. These results aren’t just historical facts. Today, they affect the day to day living of almost 2 million people in the United States and Canada.

Today, over 500 distinct tribal groups have persevered through centuries of repeated disillusionment, displacement, and dishonesty by descendants of the European peoples who populated here.  The result? Today, in North America, one of the most evangelized regions on earth, the tribes of the First Nations remain among the least reached people groups of North America. The life expectancy of a Native American male is 42 years. The teen suicide rate for Native teenagers is five times the national average. They are sometimes called “the forgotten peoples.”

The indigenous peoples of North America are ripe for a God-honoring spiritual movement to restore what was lost and exalt the next generation of First Nations to discover their destiny as distinct people groups and become a blessing to North America and the nations.

The true message of the gospel can never be separated from a corresponding concern for the livelihood and welfare of the people to whom the gospel is presented.

God says, “I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing.” (Isaiah 61:8)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied…Blessed are those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:6,9)

Three years ago, I began a friendship with a small group of Indian friends at Haskell Indian Nations University. I discovered a people unlike any I’d ever been around in my life. I was an outsider, but I was welcomed into the community. One distinguished woman of God (about five minutes after meeting her) handed me the keys to her building near the campus and said, “We welcome you. God has sent you. Here are the keys to our building. Do whatever God has put in your heart. He has sent you and we honor you.” She took me to meet the University President. I met a school counselor who I befriended. I was welcomed to teach classes to incoming freshmen. I was given a staff ID. I was embraced as part of the community. I was later given the use of an entire residence hall on campus when I started a national church-planting training (Student CPx) for college students.

I have nothing culturally going for me there. I’m white; I’m suburban; I’m the descendant of European immigrants.  All I had going for me was the experience of walking on campus one day and beginning to cry. I sensed God’s heart for the blessing of the First Nations of North America.

I’ll never forget one 4th of July, telling a Native friend, “Happy Independence Day!” I noticed a hint of sadness cross his face. I think I understood. The day we celebrate our freedom from tyranny and unjust government carries different meaning for ethnic groups who have had a very different history with government relations than mine. Imagine growing up hearing stories of how your ancestors, in a last ditch effort to save your people, conceded to government demands to march the Trail of Tears, with thousands of your people dying along the way.  Not much to celebrate of independence there. I tried to apologize for my cultural insensitivity. My friend gently remarked, “That’s ok. I like watching the fireworks.”

Every Native person I’ve met loves and honors the United States of America. They embrace America as their country they love. There is a strong legacy of Native American veterans who have given their lives defending America’s freedom. Yet, I realize in a small way how difficult their journey has been to honor the nation in which they live, while carrying a deep sadness over the unresolved legacy of disenfranchisement and ill treatment often handed them by the government and culture of the larger nation.

There are 500 years of cultural damage to contend with. I believe with all my being that the power of the gospel and the demonstration of God’s kingdom is powerful enough to restore relationship with the First Nations of North America, to bring forgiveness, and release these tribal groups – nations within the nations of Canada and America – to discover their destiny and dignity as peoples created and loved by God.

A Sioux word for the Father-Creator is “Wakantanka.” I believe this is an appropriate word for God.  They are Wakantanka’s people. He cares about them. He created them unique and powerful and special. The children now being raised in Apache land and Navaho land, on Sioux, Lakota, and Dakota land, and on every piece of Native land – they have a destiny to be a blessing to their nation and the nations.

I am praying for a new Indigenous American Movement (IAM). IAM will:

  1. Discover and restore the dignity and destiny of the First Nations peoples of North America.
  2. Nurture culturally distinct church planting movements among the First Nations tribal groups. These forms of church must be Native-led, incorporating unique forms for gathering, leadership, and worship that are authentic in devotion to Jesus, yet culturally distinct expressions of the Native heart.
  3. Call the First Nations to be a prophetic voice and a blessing to America, Canada, and the nations.
  4. Inspire indigenous peoples around the world affected by injustice to experience restoration of their dignity and destiny as unique people created by God.

“The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

(Isaiah 60:22)

“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb… And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”

(Revelation 7:9-10)

Yes, Wakantanka, let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

–Erik Fish

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Share This