Native Americans Share Struggles, Hopes

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Save a language, and you can save a people.

Tamara Wilson, a United Methodist and member of the Yuchi people, shared that message with bishops and other denominational leaders during a Nov. 6 service of repentance.

Tribal members from Oklahoma participate in readings (skits) that explain challenges facing indigenous peoples during the Act of Repentance service. Photo by Ginny Underwood, UMNS.

 

She was one of three Native-American women who shared their struggles in trying to sustain a way of life that was often suppressed by U.S. churches. Wilson, a teacher preparing to be a United Methodist deaconess, spoke passionately about her efforts to preserve the Yuchi language.

“Saving a language is saving children,” said Wilson, a member of Kvncate (Concharty) United Methodist Church in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. With knowledge of their ancestors’ language, the children she teaches will know their identity and know they are precious, Wilson said. They will be less likely to accept abuse or to abuse others.

“If you save these languages and they don’t disappear, then the people will live better lives,” she said, translating advice from her elders.

Wilson spoke at a service at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City that blended worship of God, education about the challenges Native Americans still face and a call for United Methodists to love their indigenous neighbors more faithfully.

Read Heather Hahn’s full story online at umc.org.

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