From my father’s side, I am a Cherokee Native American. My grandmother told me the stories of the Cherokee people–how our family walked the Trail of Tears from our ancestral lands to what is now Cherokee Nation in Northeastern Oklahoma. She said the European settlers took our land and forced our ancestors on a 2,000-mile death march during the frigid winter.
Because of my ancestors’ perseverance, I am alive to tell this story. I am the fruit of their effort to survive, and so is their story. From my family stories and other Native stories, my interpretation of American history was different from that of some of my school classmates.
Leaving Native people’s stories out of the history of the United States has resulted in the belief that our people are extinct. Yes, almost 95 percent of Native populations and nations were wiped out in the first 200 years of European contact. More than five million Native people live in the U.S. today, and we deserve our story told.
(At the 2017 Women of the ELCA Triennial Convention, voting members affirmed the ELCA’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and encouraged participants and leaders to educate themselves about the statement and its negative impact on Native people in North America.)
This message is excerpted from “Indigenous Peoples’ Day: How storytelling brings truth to light” by Isabell Retamoza from the October 14, 2019, blog of the Women of the ELCA. Today we commemorate Seattle, chief of the Duwamish Confederacy, 1866.
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