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Thanks to your generous gifts on Native American Ministries Sunday, a group of Native American young adults were able to attend a leadership seminar to help acquire the necessary tools to assume positions in their local congregations.
“It is important to create places for young people to be full participants and engaged in the larger church,” said Anne Marshall, immediate past chair of United Methodism’s Native American International Caucus
It is also important,” she added, “for Native Americans to be in critical leadership roles. The caucus wants to insure … effective leadership currently and into the future.”
A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Wewoka Indian United Methodist Church in Yeager, Okla., Marshall accompanied several young adults to a September event called “Looking Back for New Directions to Lead Us Forward.”
The four-day conference in Savannah, Ga., focused on preparing Native American young adults with the leadership tools necessary as they assume positions in their churches, tribes and local communities. Participants came from across the United States, and each youth took away something different from the experience.
Marshall said she chose to be a leader at the conference “because at this particular event and events in the past quadrennium related to young people, there is a need for them to see a relationship with Methodism and Native people. What better place to be than to be in the city where it all started?”
Inviting participants to share their history, culture and tribal songs during the sessions was a major component. During the love feast, participants sang “Amazing Grace” in Yuchi and Creek languages. They also connected to their history with a lecture by guest speaker Richard Grounds.
“What we want, what we need in our communities, what our goal is, is to keep alive our languages so our young people will have breath-to-breath knowledge of their traditions, of their ceremonies, of their medicines, of the stars,” said Grounds on the Cultural Survival website.
He led a discussion on the impact of genocide in the United States and shared John Wesley’s journal. According to Terica Stanley of Chunchula, Ala., participants “discussed the more complex relationship John Wesley had with Native Americans. We discussed not only these historical stereotypes and misconceptions written by Wesley, but also the images that are still popular today.
“As young leaders,” she continued, “we directed our attention toward developing characteristics that make an effective leader. We also discussed what we expected from leaders in our Native communities and The United Methodist Church.”
Robert U. Foote of Los Angeles described the event as “a wonderful, eye-opening experience. The amount of history gave me great insight in the (United) Methodist Church’s past.”
Raggatha Rain Calentine of Selbyville, Del., led community-building activities. Through storytelling, Calentine celebrates her faith in Jesus Christ and works to increase awareness of the important roles of Native Americans in history and our culture. As co-leader of the youth dance troupe, “NDN Stix Chix,” she helps girls explore their rich heritage, cultivate talents and deal with the many challenges of growing up.
The greatest learning for Marshall was “watching their reactions to what the founder of Methodism thought about Native people which began in Savannah. They need to find a way to discern what that means for them after the Act of Repentance at the 2012 General Conference. Each had a different perspective and feelings on their Native identity and Methodist identity.
“In light of the Act of Repentance,” she said, “it is even more critical that the church be aware of the issues Native people confront every day.”
— story by Sadie Ann King, participant, Litchfield Park, Ariz.