Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham


Elizabeth Cunningham

When I was a child in the 1950s we often played cowboys and Indians. There is a photograph of my brother and me in no doubt inauthentic costume complete with feathered headdress. In kindergarten I named myself Morning Star. (I just googled and see that I must have gotten the name from the 50s television series Brave Eagle, the first with an indigenous main character. Morning Star is the female lead.)

When I was a teenager, my aunt came across a privately printed book The Gentleman on the Plains about second sons of English aristocracy hunting buffalo in western Iowa. My great grandfather accompanied them as their clergyman. I wish I could find that book now to see how this enterprise was presented. In my adolescent mind these “gentlemen” looked like the local foxhunters in full regalia. On opening morning of foxhunt season an Episcopal clergyman (like my father) was on hand in ecclesiastical dress to bless the hunt and then invited to a boozy breakfast.

I first saw buffalo, who are in fact bison, tatanka in Lakota, driving cross-country with my children. As we entered Yellow Stone park, my daughter, reading a tourist pamphlet, asked, “what does g-o-r-e-d spell?” It was a warning about what bison could do. When we glimpsed these magnificent animals, it hit me in my gut: the “gentleman on the plains” came here to kill these creatures. When did I come to understand that it was not for sport? It was US government policy carried out by the army (and by hired hunters) to exterminate not only the primary food source of the Plains Indians but their way of life, their culture. My great grandfather had in fact blessed systematic, government-ordered genocide.

Image of buffalo standing in field

Photo by Thomas Fields

In Fall 2016, I joined thousands of others at the Standing Rock prayer camp founded by indigenous youth in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. The route of the pipeline (since constructed by Trump’s executive order and still in litigation) threatens the water supply of the tribe and also violates Article II of the Fort Laramie Treaty, which guarantees the “undisturbed use and occupation” of reservation lands. My brief participation in the movement at Standing Rock was the beginning of a long overdue education.

For Christmas my son gave me An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. From this award-winning book I have learned (among many things I did not know) that the English practice of collecting of scalps for bounty dates back to their early 17th century invasion of Ireland and was continued in North America. Scorched earth policy (the slaughtering of elders, women and children, and destruction of crops) was commonplace from colonial times through westward expansion. President Lincoln, who campaigned on opening lands west of the Mississippi for settlement, ordered the largest mass hanging in United States history following an indigenous uprising in Minnesota. Walt Whitman celebrated the triumph of white Anglo civilization as inevitable and desirable.

Children of my generation were taught that before the coming of Europeans, North America was a wilderness inhabited by small wandering bands of Indians. We now know there was a large population made up of diverse nations who had a sophisticated trading system. Many nations farmed and had techniques for land management to maintain the health of forest and prairie. Instead of domesticating animals, they created and sustained habitats that attracted abundant game. If there were territorial disputes that could not be resolved through diplomacy, warriors, sometimes in single combat, fought one another. Indigenous peoples did not practice private ownership of land.

I keep pondering those second (and subsequent) sons, who spread out over the globe, killing, colonizing, enslaving, and wreaking ecological havoc wherever they went. England had primogeniture until 1925. (The plots of both Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey turn on a distant male relative inheriting instead of the daughters.) A century of British enclosure acts (1700-1801) privatized formerly common lands, displacing much of the rural population. There were enough power and land hungry people to swell an empire. The United States carried on with its own imperial ambitions expanding beyond the continent to Hawaii, Samoa, the Philippines, the Marianas, Puerto Rico and more.

A fundamental difference in the understanding of human relationship to land has been at issue since the first Europeans set foot in the Americas. Indigenous nations in this country and all over the world remain on the front lines defending land and water against depredations of government-backed, privately- owned corporations intent on building pipelines, drilling, mining, clear-cutting forests. The idea that (some) human beings have a right to own and exploit land and water—as well as, historically, other peoples—and that this right is even divinely sanctioned has brought us and the whole planet to a crisis point. Will it be a turning point or a point of no return?

I don’t know if my great-grandfather repented his role in the hunting of bison to near extinction. One meaning of repent is to turn around. He did go back east, perhaps at the behest of his fiancé who left England in pursuit of him, traveling alone and packing a pistol. They married and settled in Connecticut (once home to the Narragansett, Mohegans, Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Pocumtuck, Abenaki and Pequot among other nations) where they raised four sons, all of whom became clergymen, as did my father.

My father’s mother was an orphan adopted by one of the first women to become an M.D.. From genetic markers, it looks as though my grandmother’s birth family came from southwestern Ireland, one of the regions hardest hit by the potato famine. In 1847, members of the Choctaw Nation, recently forced from their homeland east of the Mississippi, collected money to send to Ireland’s poor who were suffering starvation.

At that time, Ireland was still under British rule.

 

Elizabeth Cunningham is best known as the author of The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. Her novels The Wild Mother and The Return of the Goddess have both been released in 25th anniversary editions. She is also the author of Murder at the Rummage Sale. The sequel, All the Perils of this Night, will be published in 2020. Tell Me the Story Again, her fourth collection of poems, is now in print. An interfaith minister, Cunningham is in private practice as a counselor. She is also a fellow emeritus of Black Earth Institute.



Categories: Activism, American History, animals, Childhood, Ecofeminism, Social Justice, Spiritual Journey

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47 replies

  1. You promised this last week. And what a story our ancestors’ stories are. And what about Yellowstone’s own story. A wild or semi-wild bison is not likely to gore anyone who keeps a respectful distance. But in addition to calling the native peoples of our land uncivilized, we must retain the fiction that wild animals have nothing better to do with their time than to attack us when all we are doing is minding our own business (which as your story tells, we were not). Therefore we had and have a right to kill them too. And even ancestors such as Jews and East Europeans and Asians who came after the land was conquered benefited from the deeds other white people committed; we all have a duty to think about restorative justice.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you Elizabeth for your sharing your sources and experiences… In Holland, where I grew up, we had a Dutch series called Arendsoog (Eagle Eye) by Jan Nowee. These offered a children’s version of Karl May’s books, and although it did address injustice and slavery, it is also a product of its time… My rowing silently on the lake behind our house (see https://feminismandreligion.com/2020/01/17/who-owns-the-sacred-a-personal-search-beyond-european-indigenous-knowledge-by-eline-kieft/), might, in hindsight, have very well been inspired by reading these books, or perhaps hearing my dad tell about them. It is hard to trail how and where we have been ‘exposed’ to certain thoughts and experiences, and I honour your detailed archiving… Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Eline! I loved that picture of you rowing. It is amazing what affects our imaginations and spirits.

      There is so much unsifted information and misinformation bombarding us today. I hope we all find ways chance to ponder and reflect and go directly to the source(s).

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  3. Points very well taken, Carol. Most of our national parks were taken from the indigenous peoples who lived there, including Yellowstone and then “given” to the American public–in Yellowstone’s case by the 1872 act of congress called the Yellowstone Act. Just did some research and found that Phil Burnham wrote an account of this history in his book Indian Country, God’s Country. Dunbar-Ortiz’s very comprehensive account also touches on this history. I was mid-reading when I wrote the post or I would have included Yellowstone’s origins. Consider this comment as a postscript.

    As noted, my daughter was reading from a tourist pamphlet. Agreed that animals unmolested by humans are unlikely to attack, including bears and wolves. Almost-extinct bison have been reintroduced to the Plains. Grizzly bears and wolves go on and off the endangered species list. Bears and wolves, like many animals the world over, have lost habitat and food sources, and their populations are dwindling.

    Human ignorance, fear, and arrogance are lethal to all life. Let us replace the former with a humble and respectful desire to learn.

    I wish I could have included more in this post. There was so much more I wanted to say. There is so much more to say. Right on, write on everyone!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Eline, I got your comment via email and sent it to the site administrator for posting, as I don’t seem to be authorized to approve. (It seems comments that include links require approval.) Thank you so much for reading and writing. I trust your comment will be posted soon!

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  5. There is a mysterious WordPress process by which some comments esp from new posters go into a pending file and then administrators at FAR have to approve them or not. Unfortunately, the posting person (it sometimes happens to me) is not notified that her comment is pending and wonders what is going on. Ah well, I found Eline’s and approved it. By the way the not-approved comments are self-advertisements or negative rants that do not seriously address the opinions presented in the posts. Comments that respectfully disagree are approved.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. thanks for this piece–as a child I watched a show called Broken Arrow–(white people played all the Native people I learned later), and decided I was adopted, and really was ” a little Indian girl”. Sadly, I was not adopted, and really was a WASP, but the disclaimer of my origins started so young as 3-4. I treasure the photo of myself , very serious, in an outfit my mother made with a feathered headdress, standing solemnly with my hand shading the sun from my eyes. I was ready to right the wrongs.
    The injustice is horrific. And nothing can rectify it, except to go forward with new leadership that will recognize tribal interests foremost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Sounds like we are sisters. Yes, nothing can undo such devastating, intentional wrong. Acknowledging what actually happened and is still happening is essential. There is so much still at stake. Indigenous peoples are dying because of uranium contaminated wells. The XL pipeline threatens so many tribal water sources. Lakota People’s Law Project is a good source of information and action. And yes here is to new leadership!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Elizabeth, I love that you went to Standing Rock and stood up (literally) for such gross injustice. I also love that you began a journey of educating yourself that has now spread to all of us.

    I’m beginning to wonder if injustice, cruelty and violence is the norm of human life and not the aberration. What can those of us who stand up to make change really do in the face of such tidal inhumanity? (Of course I just read the morning newspaper which perhaps give me a particularly cynical edge right now).

    Whenever I am feeling particularly overwhelmed and cynical (like now), I keep coming back to the same answer: to keep getting myself as healthy as I can, to spread whatever love I can to myself, my family, my community, etc . . .

    But I wonder if that is enough???????

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Janet! I ask myself the same questions and have no answers. Except I reckon we have to respond to what is in our path and do what we can. What I do personally never seems enough, but I might as well do it. Much love to you and gratitude for your presence here at FAR and on the planet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Janet, your questions are important ones…and if the answer is yes, this is the norm in human life (or rather “life itself”), what then?
      Meanwhile, evidence supports the “overkill hypothesis” that wherever humans appeared on earth, the local “indigenous creatures”..large animals…went extinct. The buffalo that were herded and selectively killed (farmed?) by the Native Americans for food and other materials were one of the last of the many species their own ancestors seem to have driven extinct…by overhunting, due to population growth…NOT by religion-backed “scorched-earth/holy-war” campaigns. See https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-happened-worlds-most-enormous-animals-180964255/

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      • Thanks so much for the link. Agreed that extinction has been part of earth’s history and pre-history and all peoples have played their part. In the case of hunting bison in the 19th century there was human agency with intent. The US Army carried out some of the slaughter for purpose of removing obstacles, including human ones, to building railroads. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book includes eye witness accounts from that time.

        Someone sent me a link to a recently published book about English gentlemen in Iowa, the ones my great-grandfather may have served. It turns out they may have been bumbling fools more than anything else. Still, the polices of the US government are on record.

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  8. Good Morning Elizabeth!
    I am new to your blog and am feeling so fulfilled by your message this morning. I was raised in Arizona and grew up in awe of the many historical sites and ruins we visited on family outings. My mother was an RN and had great empathy for the native tribes living in our state and always shared her angst at how indigenous peoples were treated. We attended fairs and pow-wows to try and learn about the cultures, enjoying the sights, smells, flavors and sounds of these cultures which were so different to our own.
    Although I have not personally taken steps to try and right the wrongs inflicted by our ancestors, I think my mother tried to stop the discrimination by teaching us to understand and appreciate the differences in our culture and that of our indigenous neighbors. There is a long running exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ which explains in explicit detail the damage done to Southwest peoples by the “Indian School” movement. https://heard.org/exhibits/away-from-home-american-indian-boarding-school-stories/, Anyone visiting the Phoenix area should not miss this fabulous museum of anthropology which showcases indigenous peoples with utmost dignity.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Barb! And thanks for the link to the museum. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz write about the boarding schools, a form of cultural genocide. Lakota People’s Law Project is active in working to make sure native children entering the foster system are placed in indigenous homes. Standing Rock is opening a foster home on the reservation.

      Your mother sounds like a wonderful person who raised you with awareness and sensitivity. Kudos to her and to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent post filled with useful information about what’s in our history that our schoolbooks don’t truthfully tell us, at least they didn’t when I was a child in school. One of my authors (who is also a friend) is descended from a Native American tribe. My favorite (so far) of his books that I’ve edited is The Giggling Boy, which is about Native children stolen by “whiteskins” and put into so-called schools that torture them to remove their true identities and turn them into obedient slaves.

    Maybe the subject your post today will become the subject of your next book?? It’s certainly time for your to write another one.

    I always glad we’re friends. I guess we can’t help what our ancestors did because that’s done with, but we can, as you do, work today to make changes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Barbara. It is horrifying to consider what we did not learn in school. I want to do some research about what’s being taught today. I am glad your client wrote about the boarding schools, which were a form of cultural genocide, and some children also literally died there. Carlisle is notorious.

      I do have a book coming out in July 2020, All the Perils of this Night, the stand alone sequel to Murder at the Rummage Sale. I tried for a year to write a realistic novel set in contemporary times and could not keep up with said times. Have returned to a genre you and I both love, fairytale. I will keep a possible historical novel in mind for the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You know I love anything you write. Wild Mother and How to Spin Gold are two of my favorites. Maybe I should read them again? Any ancestors in the new book?

        Your post today is highly educational for people who know only the textbook version of history. I went to college in southeast Missouri…..site of part of the Trail of Tears.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks, Barbara. There is someone based on an immediate ancestor in All the Perils of this Night, The Rev Gerald Bradley, the one who appalled you in Murder at the Rummage Sale. The others are there, too, along with some new characters, among them gender queer Robin Hoodlum. The new book may evoke the ancestors of us all…

          When you were at college in southeast Missouri did you see any historical sites commemorating the Trail of Tears?

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          • Yes, there are plaques commemorating the Trail of Tears all over southeast Missouri, and one of the parks in Cape Girardeau above the river is named Trail of Tears. It was terrible, what Andrew Jackson did to the Cherokee and Choctaw tribes who lived on land in Georgia that the white men wanted.

            I’ve told a couple friends to read your post.

            Liked by 2 people

  10. Thanks, Elizabeth, for this interesting and informative post. I (personally) have little interest in looking for my ancestors. Am afraid I’d be appalled at their behavior and I have enough things that appall me every day. I do think people live (and have lived) their lives based on how they interpret their own experience. We don’t even have to go back one generation to see that so many times people behaved in awful ways both individually and collectively. Our progeny no doubt will look back on us (our lives) and be disgusted/appalled with many of our own practices–practices that we today think are “just fine.” Who would have thought, at one point in our history, that one day slavery would be considered horrendous? Back in that day, it was “just the way things are.” In this day, there are lots of things that people believe to be “eternal.” Have heard, “There’s no escaping war. People have always gone to war.” And, “Marriage has always been one of the building blocks of society.” Well, we could dissect both of those “always” statements. These are my musings…..

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for your musings, Esther. Always much appreciated! This ancestor was thrust upon me so to speak, and reading the book brought him to mind. I have also always heard about my grandmother’s adoption, but until my brother did one of those genetic tests we did not know she was Irish.

    I do hope we will have descendants who will find our times shocking and who will be living more humane and harmonious lives.

    Thanks for reading and responding.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Elizabeth, your post simply rocked me back on my heels. Once again it has been brought home to me how systematically I was lied to–well, we all were–in history classes at public school.

    I’m ashamed to be human, ashamed to be white, and possessed of a whole raft of other feelings. It’s incredible that white people, especially white men, thought they had a perfect right to murder and rape the indigenous peoples who already inhabited this sacred land. I really have no use at all for a deity who approves of such behavior.

    There’s nothing we can do to compensate for the crimes of our ancestors. I wish reparations were possible, but look who’s controlling the national government and the state legislatures. All we can do, I think, is educate ourselves, our children, and grandchildren and teach them that there is a better way to live and a better way to treat one’s fellow humans.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes, this: “It’s incredible that white people, especially white men, thought they had a perfect right to murder and rape the indigenous peoples who already inhabited this sacred land. I really have no use at all for a deity who approves of such behavior.” I do believe that the deity “who approves of such behavior” is ultimately all of us (human beings at a particular time and space). We inculcate onto the sacred our own (human) ideas of “truth and justice.” Culture and religion are inextricably connected.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you both. That the deity “who approves of such behavior” is “ultimately all of us is a striking, timely thought.

    Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has some interesting things to say about I think what she called restorations rather than reparations. The Sioux nations have been offered huge amounts of money for the Black Hills. They have refused it, saying the land is not and never was for sale. That land is sacred, it is their home, but it is not a commodity. What if it was somehow returned to them?

    Trump forced through the Dakota Access Pipeline. That company is now trying to double the volume of oil being pumped through, increasing the risk of a spill. The Standing Rock Sioux are fighting it in court. The XL pipeline also threatens waters on Sioux land. Trump et al are trying to end the requirement for environmental impact studies and fast track all fossil fuel projects. (It’s late for me, and I am not getting all my terminology correct). What i want to say is the horror of the past cannot be undone. But there is a lot to do to “defend the sacred” one of the watch words at Standing Rock. We need a new administration, imperfect as any government may be. We need to keep raising our voices for the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere, and we need to stand together to stop pipelines, mines, deforestation, and many other ills that have the same oppressive colonial, capitalist, patriarchal, genocidal roots.

    Thank you both so much for reading and writing!

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  14. “We need to keep raising our voices for the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere, and we need to stand together to stop pipelines, mines, deforestation, and many other ills that have the same oppressive colonial, capitalist, patriarchal, genocidal roots.”

    Well said, dear Elizabeth!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Nicely written Elizabeth! I had a slightly different upbringing (with a mother who romanticized Natives to some degree, although also found strong alliance there–and anyway, opened my eyes to Indigeneity) and now I teach about these very issues at my university. But I am still amazed at how little most students know about the real history of Indigenous/Native peoples in this country–basic discussion of this is still lacking in much (although not all) primary education in the USA. And I am sure that my ancestors normalized the violence–and in so doing, participated in its continuance–that was so widespread towards Indigenous peoples in the Americas.

    You might also enjoy Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s book As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance (I use that in my class Indigenous Peoples).

    Thank you for your participation at Standing Rock, and for all that you do in sharing your creative muse and wisdom with us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Denise and for writing, Denise. I bet you are a gifted teacher, as well as a brilliant singer and songwriter. Thank you for the book recommendation. I am taking note. And thanks again for posting here.

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  16. What a story and we are all complicit – I wasn’t even told that I had a Native heritage – and I too was raised with the cowboys and Indians although I was nick-named “princess running water” by my first grade classmates because I looked like an Indian. It was a source of deep humiliation and shame – horrible memories surface here.

    Being an Indian was never ok – it still isn’t.

    As far as I am concerned the only important issue here is that all Americans take responsibility for what we have done to the Indigenous peoples of this country and what we continue to do.

    Then perhaps we can begin to make amends.

    The real irony here is that it is the Indigenous peoples who have access to Nature because they are aligned with her; this ‘radical’ idea that humans and non human are related – that everything is about relationship – is exactly the kind of thinking that would shift our present global holocaust – I repeat – the irony stuns me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “As far as I am concerned the only important issue here is that all Americans take responsibility for what we have done to the Indigenous peoples of this country and what we continue to do.”

      Yes!

      I also pray for just this shift you name, recognizing our kinship with all that is, including water, rock, soil, wind, fire. My husband was raised by a father who was very interested (in a scientific way; he taught science) in the world around him. But he was unable to allow that there was other than human intelligence. It has taken forty years for me to persuade his son otherwise. His relationship with bees is helping. He also finally recognized that one of our cats (gone through the veil now) was reading and answering his thoughts.

      Thank you for your presence here, Sara. For helping us all to hear the voices of the earth.

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  17. Elizabeth and all, a study of ancient history reveals that the practice of “scorched earth” — killing all inhabitants including animals and burning crops and defiling settlements and temples of the people living there— was not invented by white male colonists from Europe but was a method of conquest called “holy war” (harem) as ordered by the Hebrew god YHWH and described and approved in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It seems to be associated with male monotheism and the Abrahamic religions (if anyone knows of it elsewhere or earlier please let me know). Refusal to commit holy war and preferring trade, tolerance of other religions, and inviting “enemies” to peace banquets were reasons King Saul and King Ahab (Jezebel’s husband) were denigrated in the bible.
    I think it important to name the atrocities of recent centuries but also look for causes of human behavior in changes in agriculture, fertility, urbanization, population growth, climate and migration events which have occurred through the ages.
    Meanwhile, knowledge of the atrocities of earlier generations from which many of us benefit today can give rise to compassion and restorative acts, as you suggest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Certainly the Indo-Europeans including the Mycenean Greeks practiced killing the men and enslaving the women and children; this is reflected in Greek stories and myths. DNA evidence is showing that the “incursion” of the IE groups into Europe c 2500 BCE resulted in the loss of most of the indigenous Y DNA (and the males who carried it) while the females produced offspring with the invaders.

      I don’t think we are talking about monotheism but rather about patriarchal warriors.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol, thanks but I see those events as fundamentally different from the religion-driven scorched-earth/holy wars” in which warriors killed the women, children, animals and crops too as well as the men. More of an extermination or genocide rather than resource-grabbing.

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  18. Thank you both! One of the hardest things about writing the post was wishing I could say everything that Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz elucidated in her brilliant, thorough history. She discusses the biblical accounts of scorched earth policy as mandated by YHWH and notes how the primarily English early settlers wove into their own story the narrative of an elect people laying righteous claim to a promised land. Even when the direct connection to the biblical narrative was not as prominent, the sense that anglo culture was superior and must prevail persisted. So though, as you note, white europeans did not invent scorched earth policy, they perpetuated it and spread it across a continent and beyond.

    Interesting that Saul and Ahab, denigrated in the bible, preferred trade to war.

    Point well taken, Carol, that conquest changes the very DNA of the surviving population. No doubt the conscious and/or unconscious intent.

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  19. The horror that has been spread around the world by the sons who didn’t stand to inherit is truly terrifying – from the crusades to the conquests of the “New World” and on and on still today. I also feel shame at my ancestory – from small-time slave holders in the South, to my own father who was upper management in a mineral extraction company which has caused great damage to the world and indigenous populations. And thanks for mentioning the animals we continue to slaughter to the point of extinction because they just might threaten human enterprise – i.e. the mass slaughter of wolves because occasionally they kill a sheep.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post Elizabeth. It’s definitely time we take a restorative approach to healing the wounds of the past

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Judith! Here is to restoration. And here is to your beautiful painting and elucidation of so much story, divine, animal, and human. It is good to know who we are and to have a chance to make different choices than our ancestors did. Bless your choices and creations.

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  20. PS: someone sent me a link to a recently published book called Gentlemen on the Prairie: Victorians in Pioneer Iowa by Curtis Harnack about a colony of British second sons who formed a community in Iowa and later Minnesota and attempted (unsuccessfully) to farm. They did go foxhunting and attend church. So maybe my memory from adolescence has some basis. Although I do also recall the mention of buffalo hunting. Perhaps the gentlemen were not hired hunters, though such did exist. I refer you all again to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s well-researched history. I should, methinks, stick to fiction!

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  21. Very informative, Elizabeth….

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  22. This is a good first step. Elizabeth Cunningham has to dig deeper though, to uncover the racism that is still evident in self and others, question why white people carry the toxicity of racism in the first place, identify the patterns of Settler-Colonialism, recognize and take responsibility for white privilege, start talking about remediations and reparations being made to First Nations, and move into a mindset that begins to decolonize and reject Empire, so neo-colonialism will not keep happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. I agree. A blog post is hardly even a first step. I hope people will read the book that moved me to attempt the post, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. The author addresses the crucial issues you name in detail and depth. Her book has also been adapted for use as a textbook in schools. One of my next steps is to research school curriculum. Thanks again responding.

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  23. Such an important topic, and so important for us all to avoid trying to romanticize or villainize our ancestors as somehow better or worse than people today like ourselves… we are all still horrible, wonderful people who are doing horrible things such as destroying the planet through meat addiction, and wonderful things, such as going to protest marches and buying fair trade. Weaving it all together into an acceptance that we can’t think of ourselves as “good” or “bad” – but merely “human” – and finding the wounds and fears that inhibit us from growing into ever more compassionate, strong, wise beings, so that we can face this kind of history in ways that help us maximize healing for the present day. Great post, thank you for all those thought-provoking ideas you shared.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! So true. The ancestors were a mixed bag, just like us. I have since found that book. My ancestor may have been ministering to English gents bumbling around hunting foxes instead of buffalo, but they were there at that same time and place. It is good to remember that we are all human and maybe even capable of learning from the past, our own and others!

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      • Thank you, Elizabeth, for your humble honesty and courage to face the whole truth from your family’s past. Even though I find oppression everywhere – for example, my cornish celtic ancestors were taken as slaves to north africa, and the english committed repeated acts of genocide against them – it makes me grieve that it seems ‘we’ as humans don’t? can’t? learn the lessons we need to learn, if we then go elsewhere and oppress others in like fashion. It seems there are aspects of humanity – fear? greed? – that arise from some forms of brokenness, which can end up in systemic forms of oppression and destruction. There are no easy answers to these painful questions, and there is no easy redemption, either – ‘is it enough?’ in one sense is always answered, ‘no.’ In the end, I am grateful for theologies of grace – in my tradition, our sin, our brokenness, is always too great to be healed by anything other than the eternal power of the Spirit of Grace. So we keep on trying, and grace, true grace – not cheap grace – gives us the strength to keep working for healing and justpeace, hand in hand, as best we can.

        Liked by 1 person

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