As one of the surviving remnant, I long for safe pasture for my people

Photo: Emad El Byed, Unsplash.

As an indigenous woman, I am thankful to the thousands who have participated in Mennonite Action’s call for peace in Palestine. I am thankful as a descendant of ­survivors of genocide.

It is estimated that 100 million Indigenous people slept, ate, worked, loved and lived in the Western Hemi-sphere in 1490. By 1900, just 4 million had survived — 96% were annihilated. I am part of the remnant who survived. 

When my child was little, running around with the two precious friends they grew up with, I used to look into their eyes and tell them: each one of you is a miracle. That is who I am — the descendant and representative of my grandmother — a woman who survived annihilation.

As we witness violence in Palestine, I am struck by the similarities in ­context that our peoples face. Working for peace entails acknowledgment of structural violence — violence that is baked into the way our societies are arranged. Structural violence is the context in which armed violence takes root.

In Notable Native People, Adrienne Keene defines settler colonialism as “an occupying force coming to a land with the intention of destroying whatever societies are already there and building a new country on top of what already exists. There is no post-­colonial life for the people Indigenous to these places; colonialism is still happening.”  

Australian historian Patrick Wolfe is credited with coining the term “settler colonialism.” He described it as a structure rather than a historical event. This means the very shape and structure of a society — the language, laws, economy, dominant culture — all represent colonization. 

We see the outcome of settler ­colonialism in the violence taking place in Palestine, as structural violence is manifest as military violence.

We see evidence of settler colonialism in the congressionally ordered land transfer at Oak Flat in Arizona. While the San Carlos Apache were guaranteed the right to worship at Oak Flat by peace treaty, Congress still transferred Oak Flat to Resolution Copper, which plans to mine the largest copper deposit known in the United States. 

The justice system, including the laws and the judiciary, are structured to back up this action, as the March 1 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court in favor of Resolution Copper illustrates (page 26). 

The Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery stands in solidarity with Mennonite Action. We struggle together for justice and peace across all borders.

The psalmist encourages us  not to be discouraged in the face of injustice: 

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. 

He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

— Psalm 37:3-6

This scripture expresses what we all long for: to live on our lands in peace and to “enjoy safe pasture,” as the New International Version says. 

I have prayed this psalm over several decades. As I pray, I notice how the desires of my heart have been shaped by following Jesus. I do not long for wealth, prosperity, esteem or relevance. I long for safe pasture for my people. 

I am thankful for those willing to commit their life energy to a vision for peace. I am thankful for Anabaptists who are also my people, willing to call for peace in the midst of the world’s violence. 

For those living in war zones, regardless of borders — children, fathers, mothers, kin and friends, human beings with names — we yearn, we pray, we act for justice and peace.  

Sarah Augustine

Sarah Augustine, a Pueblo (Tewa) woman, lives with her family in White Swan, Washington. She is the Executive Director of Read More

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