Attendance best ever for Mission Sunday
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After many years of living as a fractured people, Pejuhutazizi Dakota Presbyterian Church pastor Fern Cloud says that native communities are coming full circle as tribes across the country are undergoing a cultural renaissance as they reconnect with their ancestral lifeways and teachings.
Cloud was the keynote speaker at the 57th annual Lac qui Parle Mission Sunday this past weekend. Hosted by the Chippewa County Historical Society, the event also featured a morning church service led by Reverend Enright Big Horn and a performance by the Dakota Ascension Choir. In all, roughly 70 individuals turned out for the affair, the most well attended Mission Sunday to date.
Cloud is a member of the Upper Sioux Community near Granite Falls and the descendant of TaOyateDuta (Bdewakantuan Chief Little Crow) and Wahpetuan Chief Iyangmani. Her program “Sacred Circle of Life” spoke to the process that natives have experienced in being removed from their culture, and the importance of the role that elders, and in particular grandmothers, have played in reviving that which was nearly lost.
“The experiences of life and all we know comes from our elders... so we honor our elders,” said, Cloud.
As an oral and matriarchal society, Cloud conveyed that it was through the telling stories and daily actions that natives passed knowledge from generation to generation––and that it was as keepers of this wisdom that grandmothers served as the foundation of tribes.
“The way in which we built relationships with one another, our lifeways and the passing on of ceremonies all came from our grandmothers,” said Cloud. “I feel blessed to be raised learning from the grandmother who was the daughter of Little Crow.“
Cloud noted that in today’s popular culture, people often think of the genesis of native cultures as not occurring until 1492, and that she spent much of her life seeking to understand the heart of the Dakota people as it exists at its core still today––but as expressed most uninhibitedly prior to European settlement.
What she found in her research were accounts from the earliest crusaders who noted that the Dakota of the Americas “were people that are already in God––generous, loving and kind,” she said. “Today, we are going back to 1491 ... trying to help our people recover from being called heathens, savages and murderers.”
Hearing stories from her mother about being taken away from the homeland and being forced to operate amidst a language that natives didn’t understand, Cloud said she felt the pain of her ancestors and went through the natural period of anger that comes with it.
“We always want to blame–blame Europeans, God, Christianity, because there was no one there to help us through it. I was angry,” she said. “And then Jesus came to me and set me free.”
Cloud said she was able to separate the good works of true missionaries from those that preached the word but didn’t adhere to it; those who sewed seeds of inequity and passed uninformed judgement, whether under the moniker of missionary, government agent or otherwise.
Recounting lessons that incorporated the necessity of a healthy body, mind and spirit as well as the importance of living spiritual tenets and not just preaching it, she said she found her self saying, “Wow, the teachings of Jesus are so Native.”
In the end, Cloud says Christ’s instruction has made the Dakota people better––but that is not to say that they did not have a rich faith to begin with.
“We’re all part of the Circle. We all have our gifts. In the Medicine Wheel we have white people, red, black and yellow and like the four seasons, each has their purpose and their beautiful gifts,” said Cloud. “Once you start getting to know Indian people, you’ll recognize these gifts––our inherent ability to see into the spiritual realms, our inherent ability to see humor in times of tragedy, our inherent gift to laugh when we should be crying.”
“God gave everyone of us gifts and talent,” she added. “We’ve been made to support one another.”
Moving forward, the Presbyterian pastor said that it was important for the native community to fully reconnect with its legacy and that she is appreciative of being able to live in times where reclamation is so viable.
“I’m very happy to be able to be in our community and to be able to say: I am proud. I am Dakota. For so long we were afraid to say it. Or even think it,” she said. “But our culture was given to us by God. Our ceremonies were given to us by God. Why wouldn’t we remember them? Why wouldn’t we celebrate them? Today, is a different day. Absolutely.”