When Young Indigenous Men Are Being Murdered, the Church Must Pay Attention

Commentary
By Kaitlin Curtice 5-30-2017
San Fernando Cathedral with Native American Light Show in San Antonio, Texas. Kelly vanDellen / Shutterstock.com

A young indigenous man from the Quinault Indian Nation was killed on Saturday night by a man witnesses describe as a white, in his 30s, who shouted racial slurs before backing over two men with his pickup truck, reports the Seattle Times.

But you probably haven’t heard this news, not with all the other news floating through cyberspace.

Just as we were terrified by the death of two young men in Portland who stood up against racism, this young man apparently died at the hand of a racist man who was “screaming racial slurs and war whoops when he ran over the two tribal members.”

So today, let’s not ignore the grief of a tribe of native peoples who are citizens of this country. And as the church, let’s hold up in prayer Jimmy Kramer, who was murdered, and his friend Harvey Anderson, who survived, as well as their families and the tribal community.

In the era of Trump, in the era of extremism, in the era of racism and hate crimes, we are called as people of faith to stand with those who are being oppressed. If we are to fight racism and “othering,” we begin in our communities, and that means we stand up like those brave men stood up in Portland. And when a person of color, an indigenous person, dies or is attacked on the basis of their race and culture, we speak out as the church and say that we are for native communities and families, for justice and reconciliation.

We know that American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crimes compared to all other races, and in the face of the history of oppression and violence toward native peoples in the past, often perpetrated by the church itself, families of faith should be one of the first to step up in the name of reconciliation, peace, and justice.

Dear church, we have been far too silent for far too long on issues of racial injustice, particularly in the indigenous community.

I cannot bear the thought that my own two boys of Potawatomi descent, who may or may not choose to wear their hair in braids, who may or may not choose to engage in their culture fully, being attacked or murdered simply because they are Native American.

No human should have to fear for their children like that.

So, if we are to be the people of the resistance, the people of shalom, the people of God, we are called to be those people in every broken circumstance.

Today systems of hate are stacked against Native Americans, and there is something broken in that.

So share this story and others, create space in which indigenous people can share without shame or judgment, learn the true history of this nation that has led us to hate crimes such as this, seek forgiveness for the sins of this nation’s past, and let’s move forward toward a better future for native peoples inside and outside of the church.

But today, we mourn the life of our beloved Jimmy Kramer, his children, his family.

We mourn and we raise our hands to the sky in prayer, and we say, “No more” in a steady movement toward God’s full and perfect justice, in a steady movement toward full and indiscriminate shalom.

Kaitlin Curtice is a Native American Christian writer, speaker and worship leader. She is an author with Paraclete Press and writes at www.kaitlincurtice.com, on the intersection of culture and spirituality. 

Don't Miss a Story!

Get Sojourners delivered straight to your inbox.

Have Something to Say?

Add or Read Comments on
"When Young Indigenous Men Are Being Murdered, the Church Must Pay Attention"
Launch Comments
By commenting here, I agree to abide by the Sojourners Comment Community Covenant guidelines and acknowledge that my comment may be published in the Letters to the Editor section of Sojourners magazine.

Must Reads

Subscribe