Sunday, March 11, 2007

Indigenous Knowledge and Liberation Theology

Think of an aboriginal man out in the bush, tracking a deer or taking part in a ceremonial dance. Or if those images are too romanticized then taking a walk with his family. That wasn't the aboriginal man I met this evening. He was exhausted, a little drunk and was confined to a wheel chair. I assume he lost his foot to either the cold or disease.

This made me sad and it made me think of a quote from a book I am reading about liberation theology "We Drink from Our Own Wells" by Gustavo Gutierrez talking about what poverty really means: "It means physical death to which is added cultural death, inasmuch as those in power seek to do away with everything that gives unity and strenght to the dispossesed of this world. In this way those in power hope to make the dispossessed an easier prey for the machinery of oppression."

In an interview with Phil Fontaine he told a story of Canadian Aboriginal Youth. You can't get a job, any experience with the economic and social systems of Canada have been frustrating and simply unproductive. What is left? What's the point? Some reserves have resisted the "cultural death" perpetrated against them, and have found social success, but there are 150 reserves without potable water, there are 600 outstanding land claims which will take an average of about 20-30 years to settle. If they get through the federal and provincial departments that settle an average of 4-7 land claims per year.

Land claims aren't about a cash grab, they are about municipal power. So the reserve can decide where they can put a speed bump to protect their children.

Unemployment and alcoholism aren't characteristics of the native population. They are characteristics of marginalization and oppression. It is the only response to a system that keeps you from attaining any goals and eventually kills any dreams and aspirations. These social problems are found throughout the world, in the land mine survivors of Georgia and Azerbijan (sp?). The unemployed rural men of Ghana.

Oppression kills the spirit. then the oppressors can have moral superiority and say if they only got their act together and got a job then they could do something with their lives instead of wasting away. But the oppressors won't give them a job. And both groups fathers were in the same position.

You are in an alien land when you face "unending criticism, false accusations, insults, arbitrary arrests, plundering, pressure, threats, lack of control and certainty about the future, problems in making oneself understood"

Christ welcomes us home from an alien land, he stand for life and justice and against death. Take that message to a Canadian church! (not just the part about justice either, but the whole thing, because the message of Christ is incomplete if you ignore the people it was spoken for). And its ok if the name Creator is substituted for the name of Christ. Its not syncratism, it is contextualizing.

The point is that people deserve to have hope, and the name of Christ should represent bringing justice to unjust structures and institutions. Not the opposite.

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