Skip to main content

The burden of this article is to consider how theologians identifiable as white Christians can articulate theologies of place in dialogue with indigenous cultures and theologies. The need for care and caution in this dialogue was recently made clear to me by an indigenous leader. I grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, and have been working over the last few years to revisit my own identity and memory in relation to the Black Hills. As part of that journey, I recently spent a week with a cultural immersion group on Rosebud Reservation. My goal was to explore how the land in general, and the Black Hills in particular, played a role in Lakota identity. Near the end of that week, one of the leaders – an indigenous man – became angry with some of us, especially me, because we were using Lakota culture in order to remedy what we understood to be lacking in our own white European culture. He said, “Dig into your own culture. Find what you need there and recover what has been lost. Don’t consume our culture for what you need.” While I was trying to de-colonize myself, he was detecting a detached scholar, an intellectual consumer, a spiritual purveyor. In short, he had detected a white man.

This paper addresses this challenge in two parts. The first part of the paper outlines how Willie Jennings and others argue that indigenous cultures provide a remedy for the diminished import of place for human identity in modern cultures. Yet, the risks of this encounter must be surveyed as well. By interpreting Acts 10 and interacting with scholars such as bell hooks and George Yancy, the first part of the paper concludes that white theologians need to receive native perceptions of white culture with regard to land and place if they are to avoid colonizing habits in their research exchanges with native culture. The second part of the paper argues that if white theologians accept native perceptions of white culture, they should understand a process of truth-telling and land reparations to be inseparable from a cultural exchange with indigenous peoples.

Part One: How to be a White Theologian of Land and Place in the United States

Race and Place in the Work of Willie Jennings: Two Social Imaginations  

In his book, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, Willie Jennings argues that “Christianity in the western world lives and moves within a diseased social imagination.”[1] Western Christianity cannot fully affirm, both theoretically and practically, the “incarnate life of the Son of God” which achieves “a life of joining, belonging, connection and intimacy.”[2] Jennings, particularly on the basis of a reading of Acts, describes a social imagination brought forth by the Spirit of Christ between Jews and Gentiles: “a form of life together in which Gentile life could be enfolded into their (Jewish) life of obedience to the Torah and their life of obedience could be enfolded into Gentile existence.”[3] Jesus Christ does not seek to “destroy” or “undermine” kinship, culture, and memory.[4] Instead, through a common worship of God in Christ, peoples and cultures can be joined together.[5]

Western Christianity is diseased because of its racialization. Jennings detects a racialized social imagination as early as 15th century Portugal: “a scale of existence, with white at one end and black at the other end and all others placed in between.”[6] Whiteness was associated with the Christian, with redemptive power, with the capacity to civilize. Blackness was associated with the non-Christian, with the need to be redeemed, with the potential or lack of potential to be civilized. It was this racial scale that was slowly reinforced and then eventually and explicitly used to justify chattel slavery.

Most importantly, for Jennings, “The story of race is also the story of place.”[7] Racialization is a form of displacement, an abstraction from place. Instead of being from this or that land and its unique characteristics, massive people groups are described as black or white. Jennings writes that “racial agency and especially whiteness rendered unintelligible and unpersuasive any narratives of the collective self that bound identity to geography, to earth, to water, trees and animals. People would henceforth (and forever) carry their identities on their bodies, without remainder.”[8] White cultural power arises because it downplays, and virtually erases in some contexts, how social identities are formed in relation to place. Even more, that cultural power is exercised on the land itself as Europeans enclose, apportion and develop other lands in ways originating in Europe.

For Jennings, then, colonization, displacement and race all describe the same bundled disease. Colonizers feel free to abandon or duplicate their place because they have freed up their own ties to the land. They are also free to dispossess others because these others are thought to carry an identity that is minimally related to the characteristics of the land in which they find themselves. People can be white or black or whatever and thus carry their identities on their bodies. Their place is of no concern. Colonizers are then free to “change native worlds, to reconfigure space, uproot peoples and plant them.”[9] Colonization, displacement and race takes advantage of human adaptability by creating a cultural power – whiteness – that is really “a God-like freedom.”[10] Whites can change themselves radically, and they can force others, through various means, into that same process of change. But, they do this at the cost of making their own culture into an idol.

How Indigenous Cultures May Help Heal the Diseased Social Imagination

Jennings gestures toward an increased exchange with Native cultures as a way of seeing the diseased social imagination. He writes, “. . . I want my readers to capture sight of a loss, almost imperceptible, yet articulated powerfully in the remaining slender testimonies of Native American peoples and other aboriginal peoples.”[11] The church, especially the church in North American, is not lost if it can recognize indigenous cultures. For indigenous cultures may still, even if attenuated, show the loss of “a life-giving collaboration of identity between place and bodies, people and animals.”[12] In part, Jennings wants Western Christians to compare this aspect of indigenous culture to their own, so that they can see its own disease and also to learn how to regain place-based identity.

For Jennings this approach also heals because it reverses colonial pedagogy and mission. As noted above, white self-displacement reinforced their power to condition, as opposed to being conditioned. Mission became, for most, not a means of sharing the life of Christ, but also a means of assimilation. Thus, as Jennings describes, in modern missionary contexts, “indigenous Christian life was never in the position of teacher, never in the position of really altering Western ways of life, never in the position of offering the Word of God to the missionary; the divine word could only go to work on those subject to the missionary.”[13] If white cultures can find a way to learn from indigenous cultures, then that itself will become a means of de-colonization.

Others have also allowed for the benefit of this approach, and even argued for its necessity, especially if Western Christianity is to learn how to relate to nonhuman creation with kindness and gratitude. For example, Vine Deloria Jr. notes that if white European interest and exposure to indigenous cultures influences people “to deal more kindly with the earth and the various life forms on it,” then “there should be few complaints.”[14] Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her remarkable book Braiding Sweetgrass, opens her book with this question: “Will you hold the end of the bundle while I braid?”[15] That question is meant for all of us – including white Europeans – who need to find a way to “reclaim our membership in the cultures of gratitude that form our old relationships with the living earth.”[16] More strongly, Randy Woodley asserts that “Christians should give ear to what indigenous peoples have to say, especially when Euro-western Christianity is so broken and fragmented.”[17] This can, Woodley states, save Euro-western peoples from their “spiritual difficulty,” especially with regard to land and place.

The Pitfall of This Remedy: Research as Cultural Consumption

The risk of this approach, especially for white European settlers, is illustrated by the story which opens this paper. White European settlers can repeat colonizing habits by consuming native cultures for their own healing. bell hooks, in her important essay “Eating the Other,” warns that projects like this can be another form of “white supremacy” in which “cultural, ethnic, and racial differences will be continually commodified and offered up as new dishes to enhance the white palate – the Other will be eaten, consumed and forgotten.”[18] Consuming the other appears to be a post-racial strategy which valorizes other cultures. Instead, this stabilizes the white culture as the judge of what is valuable. The white palate will continue to be a white palate. It simply absorbs another culture in the stead of cultural dismissal or erasure.

Similarly, the risk has to do with white theologians becoming what Vine Deloria Jr. calls “ideological vultures.”[19] In part, he meant that anthropologists would use their studies of native tribes to attain prestige and capital in the academic system. More fundamentally, Deloria described anthropologists who studied indigenous cultures in order to inform policies and practices meant to benefit those subjects being observed. For example, he suggested that anthropologists fed the notion to the Lakota that their economic situation was a result of “the failure of a warrior people to become domesticated.”[20] The fundamental problem was that the anthropologists were “preying” on the native people, even if they intended to help. Natives wer treated as “objects for observation” and subsequent control.”[21] Simply doing research on native social and economic problems is likely to further the damage, because it is often a mode of consumption.

Given the perspective of hooks and Deloria, research as white settler consumption makes for ineffective research – in other words, native cultures will not be sufficiently seen. For hooks, white and black cultures – and, of course, native cultures – have been “irrevocably changed by imperialism, colonization, and racist domination.”[22] Thus, when white Europeans do cultural research that has the goal of healing white European settlers, those researchers will tend to see a culture that fits their needs, as opposed to the complicated actual culture in front of them. Deloria was talking about a similar dynamic in a different context. White anthropologists looked at Lakota cultures as problems to be solved, and so they would identify something they had discovered and extrapolate it into the dynamic that needed addressing. Perhaps they are being more reflective and informed about the Lakota culture, but those anthropologists could not perceive who was in front of them.

Research as consumption, for hooks, also undercuts learning and relationships characterized by mutuality. For hooks, the “mutual recognition of racism, its impact both on those who are dominated and those who dominate, is the only standpoint that makes possible an encounter between races that is not based on denial and fantasy.”[23] hooks is not saying that white culture should not change, but that the change must occur mutually, with both cultures coming to see one another as subjects, as opposed to objects. She thus concludes that “that subject to subject contact between white and black which signals the absence of domination, of an oppressor/oppressed relationship, must emerge through mutual choice and negotiation.”[24] Both parties need to be able to see each other, and neither will be able to see each other unless each are enabled to receive the other’s sight. Seeing is fundamentally a mutual enterprise, enacted between persons and cultures. Unilateral seeing is not seeing. Unilateral looking is illusion. Multilateral seeing is the only kind of seeing there is. Only multilateral seeing will enable a mutual change, needed for both the dominated and the dominators.

Lastly, for some, research as white settler consumption avoids the most important need between white settlers and natives – reparations. As Jennifer Harvey has put it, “if white Christians seek to ‘learn from’ Native peoples as a means to improve our relationship to land, we use Native peoples to our own ends, failing to support the visibility and justice-struggles of the first inhabitants whose land rights have been illegally eviscerated through violence and genocide.”[25] Repairing white settlers’ relationship to the land is contingent upon repairing white settlers’ relationships to native peoples. As Harvey puts it, “The land is the site at which harm was and continues to be done to Native communities.”[26] Harvey argues that learning from Native Christians, for white settlers, simply cannot be done unless the relationship has been repaired through a common work for land justice. Only then, Harvey argues, can white settlers begin a relationship in which learning can take place with any kind of mutuality. For now, though, learning from Native cultures cannot be prioritized.

How to Remedy the Remedy: Learning To Be Seen In Acts 10

White settler theologians are left in a quandary. Some invite us to learn from native cultures in order to weaken white supremacy, and habits of whiteness itself. Yet, that research must done be carefully, and some, such as Jennifer Harvey, argue that it should not be done, at least not yet. The question seems to be, given the challenges of hooks, Deloria and Harvey, what sort of research will foster a mutuality between white settlers and the native cultures they engage? Similarly, in the words of Jennings, what sort of research will enact a “joining to other peoples exactly in and through their joining their lives on the ground”[27]? Must it simply be research on the need and practice of reparations, as Harvey argues? I will return to this question in the next section. For now, I suggest that Acts 10 provides a way forward, as confirmed by philosopher George Yancy’s approach to a philosophy of whiteness.

One of the most important examples of mutuality and joining in the New Testament is the interaction between Peter and Cornelius, as wrought by the Spirit. This is a particularly important story, given that white Christian settlers will usually put themselves in the role of Peter. For example, Jonathan Edwards, in one of his first sermons to natives in his final pastorate, preached from Acts 10 and cast himself in the role of Peter, offering the Gospel to those who do not know Christ.[28] But, given that most Christians are Gentiles who do not observe purity in accord with Torah, they are meant to identify primarily with Cornelius. White Christians can and should identify with Peter, but the story is meant to convey that Gentiles – including most white Christians – are included in God’s people through Christ and the Spirit without becoming Jewish.[29]

Acts depicts Cornelius as a faithful follower of the Creator even before he was a Christian. While Cornelius was neither a Jew nor a Christian, the text describes him as “a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God” (Acts 10.2). Not only that, but an angel reports that Cornelius’ prayers were a “memorial” to God (10.3). Indeed, Cornelius, in the presence of an angel, does not bow down (Acts. 10.4). Cornelius’ well-formed piety recognizes that only the Creator is worshipped, and thus he shows no temptation to worship the angel. In contrast, when John of Revelation saw an angel, he bowed down (Rev. 22.8) and John shares in Jesus’ life at the onset of the Revelation (1.8-9). This John mistakenly bowed before an angel in worship. But, Cornelius, the non-Christian Gentile, does not.

This is significant because while Cornelius does not bow down before an angel, he does bow down to Peter (Acts 10.25). Why? The Greek work proskuneo can mean honor offered to God. It can also mean honor appropriate to human beings.[30] If Cornelius’ piety is well-formed enough to not bow down to angel in worship, then surely he would not make the mistake of bowing down to Peter in worship. Thus, it is better to interpret Cornelius as offering an honor given to human beings.

            So, why does Peter correct him? Why does Peter say, “Stand up; I am only a man”? Peter has already begun to see Cornelius in a new light. Peter has started to recognize that even Gentile occupiers can be equal partners, even family members, in Christ. Jews and God-fearing Gentiles were known to have worshiped the same God, but Gentiles were only allowed in the outer courts of the temple in Jerusalem. Now, in Christ, there is no distinction between outer and inner courts. Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing before God and can eat and worship with one another in the same place, on the same ground. Peter says to Cornelius, I am only a man, like you.

            Cornelius allows himself to be seen and then corrected by Peter. Cornelius allows himself to receive Peter’s perception of him as an equal. Peter is a messenger of God and certainly could be due such an honor.[31] But, Cornelius receives Peter’s correction as the Spirit constitutes a new relationship between Jews and Gentiles through this very meeting. In order to honor Peter’s presence and to continue in the relationship, Cornelius does not resist Peter’s correction. Indeed, it is Peter’s authority as God’s messenger, as God’s holy man, that enables Cornelius to receive Peter’s perception and instruction as more fitting than his own perception of the situation.

Likewise, white settler researchers should, in the words of philosopher George Yancy, “strive to make whiteness visible.”[32] More particularly, Yancy points out that that “people of color are necessary to the project of critically thinking through whiteness.”[33] Why? Whites “must also be humbled by the gift of seeing more of themselves . . . as seen through black experiences of whiteness.”[34] Extrapolating this to the question of land and place means that natives cannot merely be objects of reflection, to which whites can compare themselves as they give an account of themselves. Whites need to be with other cultures – through embodied presence or through art, print and other media – and attend to how they are being seen. White theologians need to learn how their actions, both historical and contemporary, are being interpreted by native cultures with regard to land.

            Given the history between many whites, including white Christians, and native peoples – including native Christian people – it is best if white theologians enact the role of Cornelius and listen to how native peoples perceive white settlers in relation to the land. Even more, if the encounter is to be mutual, then the descriptions of native approaches to land and place should be primarily from natives themselves. White historians, anthropologists and sociologists have something to offer, but mutuality only occurs when natives are their own best representatives. The second part of the paper provide a sketch of what emerges if white theologians take this approach.

Part Two: What White Theologians and Their White Audiences Should See

A Native Gaze

As white theologians learn the various native perceptions of whites with regard to land, how will they see themselves? First, as white Christians settlers, we are often seen by native peoples as “white occupiers of our homeland.”[35] White Christians in the United States tend to see themselves as having discovered a land to which the United States has rights based on that discovery. Indeed, the Doctrine of Discovery still plays an important role in U.S. law, as shown by the careful work of Robert Miller, Steven Newcomb, and others.[36] While there has been some recognition in American law and practice that natives had a right of occupancy, it is simply impossible not to describe the overall effect of European settlement as a progressive occupation to which native tribes have had to slowly acquiesce.[37] Whites used their military, economic, and political power to take land. White Europeans were the dominant settlers in this history, and thus whites will be perceived as occupiers who have invaded Turtle Island. While a few whites may have resisted this process, those efforts did little to hold back the wave of occupation and displacement. Whites are seen as occupiers who have benefitted from an invasion.[38]

The second perception has to do with whites’ relationship to the land. Europeans’ sense of place was manifested through the application of enclosure and “a set of formal rules.”[39] Those formal rules of law empower, for many natives, a particularly white way of being in the land. Joseph Marshall III, a Lakota writer, describes this approach to the land: “white Europeans’ pattern of altering the physical environment to suit their lifestyle, or as some indigenous people characterize it, the ‘square houses and roads syndrome.’”[40] Marshall relates an experience in his youth when his grandfather repaired a fence mangled by the growth of chokeberry shrubs. His grandfather rebuilt the fence to go around the shrubs and the meadowlarks who resided there. The neighboring white rancher – only days later – decided to repair that same line of fence by removing the shrubs so that the fence would follow the property lines that had been set out.[41] For many indigenous, whites are those who use their land for their own benefit and, for some reason, cannot process how their lives are intermingled with life and health of the land they inhabit. Whites tend to regard the land as a commodity over which they have control.[42]

The third common perception found among natives is that whites are among their relatives. “Mitakuye Oyasin” – a well-known phrase from Lakota that is often spoke by other native tribes. This Lakota phrase is often translated as, “For all my relatives.” Albert White Hat, Sr. claims that “this is the most fundamental belief in our Lakota philosophy, that we are related to everything on earth and in the universe. We were all formed from the blood of Inyan: humans, animals, trees, water, air, stones.”[43] Others such as Randy Woodley, using both Christian and native origin stories, simply agree that “all people and all things are related to each other.”[44] For Woodley, the implication is that “this idea opens us to the possibility of once again becoming the family we already are.”[45] Likewise, for Joseph Marshall III, the implication is that “as humans, we are of the Earth because we need the resources it provides in order to live and function each and every day.”[46] In each of these approaches, whites are relatives who are dependent on the creation. In particular, whites and natives are both dependent on one another, and on the power of their fellow relatives.

My purpose in noting these ways of encountering white people is not to say that these perceptions are exhaustive or that they represent all native viewpoints. I have interacted with thinkers that I have noticed natives reference with respect and deference. I also do not mean to be reductionistic, such that these native writers do not have more to say about whites or that this is all there is to be said about whites. My point is that simply that these are common native ways of viewing white with regard to land and place in the United States. In the next section, I will discuss how these perceptions could be received.

Reparations and Learning, Learning and Reparations

Should white Christian settlers agree to this gaze? Can we agree that we are indeed occupiers benefitting from an invasion, that we tend to approach the land as a commodity to be manipulated for our benefit, and that we are the relatives of all creatures? With regard to the first perception, historians and legal scholars have made a too good of a case.[47] White theologians should, for the most part, nod along in agreement. While I cannot make the case here, white theologians should be able to agree with the second two perceptions, at least to some degree. Environmental historians have made the case for the second perception, and some current surveys bear out that whites approach environmental concerns differently than minorities in the United States.[48] Agreement with the third perception can also be reached, although certain interpretations of native origin stories and ontologies – for example, as described by Albert White Hat, Sr. – will not be fully convertible with Christian commitments.[49] However, our concern is with the first perception.

Returning to Acts 10, notice that Cornelius represents an occupation. He is not simply a Gentile, he is a Roman centurion. He is an occupier. This seems to be part of why the text elaborates on Cornelius’ piety and generosity to the Jewish people. As a result, Cornelius was “well-respected by all of the Jewish people” (Acts 10.22). It is doubtful whether Peter could treat Cornelius with the kind of respect he offered Cornelius if Cornelius was not showing signs that he was giving up power as an occupier. Jesus had instructed Peter – as recorded in Luke – that “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive” (Luke 17.3). Jesus did not say to the disciples that they should simply overlook sins or should forgive no matter the behavior of the offender. No, a right relationship could occur only when the offender has repented. If there was no sign of repentance in Cornelius, Peter would be offering what Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. But, how to repent of the occupation in our context? The first native perception gives us the most important answer.

If it is true (and it is!) that white Europeans ancestors promulgated an invasion of Turtle Island and that whites continue to occupy Turtle Island, then white theological engagement with natives cannot merely intend to relate to the land properly. White settler theological work must include performing and encouraging ongoing processes of truth-telling, memory, confession, and repentance through reparations. Land was taken through invasion, and the doctrine of discovery was used over the course of American history to dispossess natives of the land in which they have been place. As seen in Jennings, racialization is, at its core, both an alienation from land and a means of enforcing and furthering that alienation from others. [50]  Natives regard whites as occupiers because whiteness is, at its core, an identity of occupation and invasion. If whites are going to repent of their whiteness, then they will need to find ways to participate in longer and deeper modes of collective memory, confession and reparation. Accepting and agreeing with the native perception of whites as occupiers allows us to focus in on the historical dynamic that creates the tragic difference before whites and natives in the first place: the land. Repentance and reparation must focus on the occupation of land.

What kind of reparations? This should not be determined by white theologians, at least not in isolation from partnerships with native theologians. I myself will not make any recommendations in an essay that I author on my own. However, given that in most traditional Native American communities that “it was we who belonged to the land,” reparations will probably include more than finances.[51] It will have to include returning land, especially uniquely sacred lands.[52] But, again, I should say no more at this stage. All I should say is that white theologians need to help their white audiences recognize the need for reparations, especially for the real possibility that those reparations will include land.[53] White theologians need to find ways to help white Christians imagine why it is that reparations are needed.

However, white Christian settlers will need to learn what it means to “belong to” the land if they are ever going to recognize what has been done to the native tribes on this continent. They cannot learn this simply from any rehearsal of what was done. When Lakota people talk about the Black Hills, for example, the term “rights” does not often seem to compute. Communicating and litigating with United States law courts requires this discourse, but it is more that they are who they are because of the Black Hills. Whites tend to think, when they become conscious of the Lakota history, that their predecessors took away and then abused what native tribes loved. But, that’s not it. That’s too tame. The evil goes deeper. Many Lakota experience the highest peak in the Black Hills as “the center of the earth,” in the words of Nicholas Black Elk.[54] The Black Hills are their relatives. The Black Hills are their “promised land.”[55] In some way, they are the Black Hills. Through all the legal, emotional and physical dislocation from the Black Hills, white Americans and the United States have constantly worked to remove native tribes from their very identity. Permanent dislocation is, in practice, an attempt at cultural genocide.

Most white Christians will not be able to process these words without transformative exposure to native cultures. I have not experienced any white Christians who have recognized the unique power of the Black Hills without also being attracted to or influenced by the tribes who belong to those hills. In short, white Christians will only be able to imagine the evils perpetuated if they can experience something of the native relationships to the land. Reparations are essential. But, I do not see a widespread movement forming among white Christians without being changed by traditional native cultures themselves. Land reparations and learning from native cultures are part and parcel of one another.

For Citation:

“Falling and Standing: Learning a White Theology of Land in North America,” Journal of NAIITS Volume 17 (2019). Published December 2020. Note that some corrections in the notations have been included in this online version.

[1] Willie Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 7.

[2] Ibid., 7.

[3] Ibid., 270.

[4] Ibid., 264.

[5] Ibid., 264.

[6] Ibid., 23.

[7] Ibid., 289.

[8] Ibid., 59.

[9] Ibid., 62.

[10] Ibid., 62.

[11] Ibid., 293.

[12] Ibid., 63. Compare Randy Woodley’s statement that “land-based, place-oriented peoples seem to be more bound to a real place and understand it as a basis for their identity” (Randy Woodley, Shalom and the Community of Creation [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012], 116).

[13] Willie Jennings, “Doing Theological Ethics with Incompetent Christians: Social Problems and Religious Creativity” in Lived Theology: New Perspectives on Method, Style and Pedagogy, ed. Charles Marsh, Peter Slade, and Sarah Azaransky (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 80.

[14] Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988; reprint, with preface, 1969), xi. See also similar comments in Vine Deloria, Jr., For This Land: Writing on Religion in America, ed. James Treat (New York: Routledge, 1999), 249.

[15] Robin Wall Kimmer, Braiding Sweetgrass (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2013), ix.

[16] Ibid., 377.

[17] Woodley, Shalom, xv.

[18] bell hooks, “Eating the Other,” in Media and Cultural Studies Key Works, ed. Meenakshi Gigi Durhant, Douglas Kellner (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 380.

[19] Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer, 95.

[20] Ibid., 91.

[21] Ibid., 96.

[22] hooks, “Eating the Other,” 369. Note, for example, how Joseph Marshall III laments that “Due to the persistent efforts of the U.S. government . . . the sense of connection to the land became weaker and weaker with each passing generation” (To You We Shall Return [New York: Sterling Publishing, 2010], 34.

[23] Ibid., 371.

[24] Ibid., 371

[25] Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 177.

[26] Ibid., 170.

[27] Jennings, Christian Imagination, 290.

[28] Gerald McDermott, “Jonathan Edwards and the American Indians: The Devil Sucks Their Blood,” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 72, no. 4 (1999), 547-548.

[29] For example, Ben Witherington concludes that the audience is Theophilus, a recent Greek convert “with a Hellenistic education” (Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 65.

[30] See, for example, the usages of proskuneo in Rev. 3.9, Matthew 2.2, 8, 11. See Witherington, Acts, 352 for a discussion of the two ways of translating this word in this context. See also Craig Keener, Vol. 2 of Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 1781. Both scholars opt for “worship,” but neither discuss the arguments presented here.

[31] Note how prophets could be honored through bowing in I Kings 18.7, 2 Kings 2.15. Bruce Malina and John Pilch mention that “The gathering is not a simple hospitality welcome . . . the meeting is a sacred meeting in which divinely commanded information will be imparted by a divinely sanctioned holy man to a divinely chosen audience” (Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Acts [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008]), 79.

[32] George Yancy, Look, A White (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012), 8.

[33] Ibid., 7.

[34] Ibid., 10.

[35] Waziyatawin, What does Justice Look Like?: The Struggle for Liberation in the Dakota Homeland (Minneapolis/St. Paul: Living Justice Press, 2008), 129. Compare Woodley’s comment that “the country that most Americans hold so dear is mostly stolen property” (Shalom, 131).

[36] Robert Miller, Native America, Discovered and Conquered (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2008), 176-178. See also Steven Newcomb, Pagans in the Promised Land (Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 2008).

[37] Robert Miller argues that the right of occupancy generally required individuals and agencies to receive land only “when tribes consented” although it is a more than open question as to “whether the treaties were fair and legitimate transactions” (Native America, 57).

[38] Woodley, Shalom, 129-130.

[39] Allan Greer, Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 13, cf. 291-298.

[40] Joseph Marshall III, Crazy Horse Weeps (Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 2019), 125.

[41] Ibid., 126-127.

[42] See Deloria, For this Land, 257; Woodley, Shalom, 52, 57, 130; Marshall III, To You We Shall Return, 6.

[43] Albert White Hat, Sr., Life’s Journey-Zuya: Oral Teachings from Rosebud (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2012), 33.

[44] Woodley, Shalom, 81.

[45] Ibid., 81, cf. 52, 100.

[46] Joseph Marshall III, Crazy Horse Weeps, 136

[47] Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014); Francis Jennings, Invasion of America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1976); David Stannard, American Holocaust (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). Gary Anderson, Ethnic Cleansing and the Indian: The Crime That Should Haunt America (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014) and Alex Alvarez, Native America: The Question of Genocide (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2014) question whether the term genocide should be used but not the extent of the evil.

[48] See, for example, William Cronon, Changes in the Land (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2003; reprint, 1983). See also Fery, P., Kobayashi, N., Speiser, M., Lake, C., and Voss, J., American Climate Metrics Survey: April 2018 (EcoAmerica and Lake Research Partners: Washington, DC, 2018).

[49] White Hat, Sr. emphasizes the contrast with parts of his Lakota heritage (Zuya, 31). For agreement with the third perception, at least in a certain register, note Paul’s words in Acts 17.26: “From one he made all nations . . .” As Psalm 104 puts it, “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground” (30). “They,” in that context, means cattle (14), people (14), trees (16), wild goats (18), coneys (18), young lions (21).

[50] See also Jennifer Harvey, “Which Way to Justice: Reconciliation, Reparations, and the Problem of Whiteness in US Protestantism,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, 31.1 (2011): 68.

[51] Joseph Marshall III, To You We Shall Return, 43

[52] See Vine Deloria, For This Land, 250-260.

[53] For similar thoughts by white theologians working in a similar vein, see Chris Budden, Following Jesus in an Invaded Space (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 158-161; Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians; Jennifer Harvey, Whiteness and Morality (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2007).

[54] The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teaching Given to John G. Neihardt, ed. Raymond DeMallie (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 116.

[55]  Ibid., 310.

Leave a Reply