These students prove I am not alone

It is spring on the farm where I live on the lands of the Yakama Nation. An invisible community of microbes is at work in the soil, making it possible for grass seeds to germinate and flourish. The fields that surround me are bright green with grass shoots. The water table is high, and ducks and redwing blackbirds are building families in the wetland a few steps from my front door. Mosquitoes are in full flush, feeding the flocks of swallows nesting in the barn. Calves are playing and bucking through the warm sunny days, exploring and then returning to their mothers.

Our mutual dependence with the elements of creation is clear in this ecosystem I am blessed to live with. My elders taught me that my well–being depends on the health of my relatives that live around me, both human and plant, insect and animal. Even the invisible communities I don’t understand are crucial — the fragile microbial community in the soils, the cleansing cycles of the aquifer. 

The choices I make impact all of those around me, and the ability for those around me to thrive impacts my ability to thrive.  

This same logic is true in our human family. The choices we make impact those around us. For my family to thrive, I must be invested in the health of all families.  

A group of young people demonstrated this recently in Goshen, Ind. On May 11, a delegation from the -Go-shen College One Circle student club held a community event where they explained to their community that they have requested to meet with Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. 

Arleth Martinez and Manny Villanueva, the leaders of One Circle, explained that they want to understand why Indiana joined a federal lawsuit challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act. They have requested a meeting to ask the attorney general why Indiana is siding against Native American tribes. 

The Indian Child Welfare Act, passed in 1978, strengthens the legal rights of Indigenous families and specifies that when Native children are removed from the care of their families, priority placement is in the care of extended family members, families in their own tribe or Indigenous families from another tribe. It also supports tribal communities by helping them to build capacity through their family, community and culture to prevent abuse and neglect. 

Most important, it gives tribal governments the legal right to be party to child welfare decisions. 

The case is before the Supreme Court now.  

The One Circle club at Goshen College is committed to solidarity with Indigenous peoples. These young people are committed to caring for the health of Indigenous children and Indigenous families. They understand that they may not be able to impact the hearts of the Supreme Court. But they are still asking the leaders in their state to be accountable for participating in a challenge that may hurt Indigenous communities.

Arleth Martinez explained that she feels connected to the plight of Indigenous children. She was undocumented as a child and felt constant fear of being taken away or deported.

“I felt shame toward my culture. I faced racial discrimination throughout school,” she said. “When we can connect to our culture, it helps have pride in ourselves and a sense of belonging. That’s what ICWA stands for.” 

Publicly standing with Indigenous communities, Arleth and Manny see their actions connected to their commitment to peacemaking. They are seeking shared understanding and acknowledgment of how our decisions impact each other’s lives. 

The actions of Manny and Arleth have lifted my spirit, because I know that I am not alone. Others share my cares.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. . . . If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

When we show up for each other, when we acknowledge our mutual dependence, we are all strengthened. We know that we are not alone. We are honored, and we get to rejoice.  

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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