It's Columbus Day. (Well, actually Monday is the day off for most people, but October 12 is actually the day Chris first laid eyes on land in the western hemisphere, an island he dubbed San Salvador.) For some it's a day to celebrate their European (particularly Italian) heritage. For others it's a day to mourn the loss and persecution of native cultures in North America. How should the people of Christ think about this holiday?
Mark Buchanan, pastor of New Life Community Church in Duncan, British Columbia, and a contributing editor of Leadership, wrote a stirring article about his church's ministry with native peoples and the complexity of history. I highly encourage you to read this award-winning article.
The Tswassen people live in the south end of Greater Vancouver, close to the upscale community named after them. They've been on this land, though much more of it, for thousands of years. Back in the day, they had free run of forest and ocean. They hunted and fished, carved their wooden art in fragrant cedar, wove their baskets, held their potlatches. They sang and danced their grief and joy, their welcome and warning, their coming and going.
Now, they're confined to a narrow wedge of land between the mudflats and an industrial park, and they rely on a casino for most of their income. Among them, there is a high incidence of suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and incest, domestic violence, and health issues of every kind.
The Tswassens have a prophecy 500 years old. One of their ancient holy men foretold that a people pale as birch would one day come from across the great water in large canoes. They would bring with them a Black Book. The Black Book was Truth, end to end, a gift of inestimable good. The people lived for many years awaiting the prophecy's fulfillment.
And then one day it happened. The big canoes— bigger than the Tswassens ever imagined—arrived. They teemed with people pale as birch. And, yes, they brought with them a Black Book.
Then the killings started. The Tswassens became an obstacle to the pale men, and the pale men slaughtered them, and those they didn't slaughter they enslaved.