“I spoke up. Shared from the heart. I planted the seed of change. Made people think”.Kelly Sherman-Conroy – Native Theologian
I am a person with a community a family a culture and stories that come from generations before me. I come from a history of resilience & deep spirituality. For me Indigenous People’s Day is important because it honors past, present & futures of Native Peoples like me.
To often have I had to defend how I think, how I look, who I am. No longer. I was asked recently to share my Native theological perspective. After I was done speaking, the response by an individual in the group crushed my spirit. In about five short sentences, my entire being, my identity, the sacred wisdom I just shared that has been carried through generations of my family, was dismissed. This wisdom, did not fit a Christian narrative. Whether that was the intention of the responder or not, it happened. But it was in that moment, that time, I did not stay silent. I remember hearing a voice in my ear. Silently saying “speak”. It was like my grandmother was whispering to me. I took a deep breath, and I softly but sternly spoke. Holding back my tears, I explained how those words hurt. Countless times have I silently smiled when someone told me I was different, or I didn’t fit in. That my theology, the knowledge I carry from my family, my ancestors, is wrong. There comes a point where we can no longer be silent. If change needs to happen, we have to speak up. And in that moment, and the days following this conversation, with these world leaders, I spoke up. Shared from the heart. I planted the seed of change. Made people think.
My elders in my family taught me valuable lessons about life. I learned when we are walking in the world, our entire bodies are a part of the experience. Just as Jesus taught and showed us, my elders showed me how love is incarnational. Through our full embodied actions, individually and communally, I was taught what it means to fully experience God’s creation and how to walk in prayer daily through my actions.
My mind, my soul, have been conditioned to the wisdom that there is more to life than emptiness. Walking alone does not need to happen. I know that I am never alone. There are times I forget, but always find my way back to this healing knowledge. This sacred, ancient wisdom means that there is richness in living in community with others. True community. I was taught that a Beloved community is where you can be your whole self. Where we pray and serve with others because we are conditioned to experience the world with our full selves, without shame. Just like my elders have taught me, how we move and be in the world is about living your best life, with all your senses. Not being afraid of becoming who our Creator beautifully and purposely made me to be. I trust in the teachings of my elders, I trust in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus not only spoke but acted. He physically showed us what he was teaching us. He loved all of creation so much, that he spoke the truth. Not to be divisive, but to bring us together as were made to be.
My work is not about history shaming people. My work is about sharing sacred wisdom that is meant to connect us and heal us. What I seek, is to find a redemptive way that protects and nurtures the sacred wisdom and spirituality that is passed through our generations of my Lakota people and other Indigenous People. I want to create a dialogue for people, to not just learn, but a dialogue that empowers people to eliminate the worst and traumatizing aspects of colonial imperialism that continues to this day to cause harm. In short, my work is about creating healers, who create healers, who create healers.
I am resilient. Being resilient, “strong on the inside” doesn’t mean that I will not experience difficulties in life. Resiliency means that I have learned behaviors, thoughts, skills, and actions to help me bounce back from anything that may be holding me back from being fully me.
So on Indigenous People’s Day (and beyond) I ask people to not just talk about what land you are on (that is important), but what is more important is how you act. What you do to be in solidarity with Indigenous People like me. What are you doing to share our stories. Right the wrongs. What are you doing to not just speak up, but act?