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Native-led Contextualization Efforts In North America 1989-2009

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Author: Richard L Twiss
This dissertation is a study and research of whether or not there is, or has been, an indigenous or contextualized Christian expression among the tribes of the United States and to a lesser degree, Canada. The purpose of this research was to discover if, and in what ways Native leaders were contextualizing the gospel in their own unique cultural contexts with a specific focus on the years 1989-2009. Data for this qualitative study was collected using participant-observation, questionnaires, Internet surveys, group discussions, and intensive interviews from 2007-2010 in the United States and Canada. Diffusion and Innovation theory was utilized as a lens to interpret contextualization efforts as a movement. A contextualization process is described that, to varying degrees, incorporates the use of traditional symbols, music, dance, ceremony and ritual, a widening hermeneutical community, the Holy Spirit, and an understanding of epistemology and colonization. Conclusions for the wider church and missions community include: appreciating all culture as capable of reflecting biblical faith, moving away western paternalism to embracing new perspectives emerging from Native leaders that provide new pathways to the contextualization process, identifying cultural values via an indigenous spirituality, and rethinking discipleship that incorporates significant aspects of Native traditions.

Table of Contents Page Dedication and Acknowledgments vii Chapter 1. The Creator's Providential Love For Native People 1 The Problem and Its Setting and Research Methodologies 1 Statement of the Problem 12 Research Questions 13 Significance of the Work 14 Description of the Methodology 15 Definition of Key Terms 16 Indian and American Indian 16 First Nations 17 Aboriginal 17 Indigenous 18 Indian Country 18 Syncretism 18 Negative Syncretism 21 Western (ism) Culture 22 Delimitations 26 Theoretical Framework 27 The Innovation Diffusion Model 27 i

Diffusion as Process 27 Critical Contextualization 29 Indigenous Church Model 32 Data Collection Methodology 33 Qualitative Approach 36 Data Coding 37 Grounded Theory 39 Indigenous Ethical Awareness 41 Informed Consent Form 42 Ethno-methodology And Indigenous Ethic of Protocol 43 Good Scholarship and Maintaining Cultural Values 43 Literature Review 48 Summary 67 Chapter 2. European and Euro-American Colonization, Evangelization and Assimilation Efforts Among First Nations People 69 Christianity and Christendom 70 Liminality - Caught In Between 71 Colonization, Evangelization and Assimilation 73 Missionary Attitudes 73 Sociological Influences and Attitudes 74 Ethnocentrism 75 Philosophical Influences 76 Modernism 77 ii

Socio-cultural Influences 79 Colonialism and Ideology 80 Resisting Colonialism in My Life 84 Europeans and Discovery in the New World 85 Doctrine of Discovery 86 Terra Nullius 87 American Territorial Expansion 88 Manifest Destiny 88 Biblical Themes of Colonization 89 Church and State Partnership 90 Summary 92 Chapter 3. Sweating With Jesus 93 Narratives and Stories 93 Credentials vs. Competency 95 Liberating Our Stories 97 My Story 98 Narrative Inquiry 107 Sweating with Jesus 108 Composite Stories 108 Composite Man # 1 - Tony 109 Composite Man #2 - Joseph 110 Composite Man #3 - Russell 110 Listening in on Some Stories 113 iii

Summary 125 Chapter 4. Going Up on the Hill: Hanblecha - "Seeking a Vision/A Vision Quest" 127 Witness of Creation 127 Early Innovators 129 Revolutionary Paradigm 130 Categories of Leaders 132 Opinion Leaders 132 Process of Innovation/Diffusion Acceptance 134 A Contextualization Movement Emerges 136 World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People 137 Many Nations One Voice Celebrations 138 Mni Wiconi Wacipi "Living Waters Powwow" and Family Camp.... 143 Sweat Lodges 144 Powwow 147 Contextualized Music 153 Events 164 Christ and Culture: Missionary Influence on the Plains Tribes 164 Gathering of the Five Streams 166 Youth with a Mission 168 Culture of Christ and the Kingdom Seminar 168 Northwest Native Women's Conference 169 Theological Education and Leadership Training 170 Ministerial Inequality for Native Scholars 170 iv

Native Self-Theologizing 172 First Nations Bible College 174 First Nations Institute 175 North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies 176 Nazarene Indian Bible College 179 Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship/Urbana 180 Promise Keepers 182 Important Books, Periodicals and Articles 183 Indian Life Newspaper 186 Mission Frontiers Magazine 190 Trinity Broadcast Network and The 700 Club 191 First Nations Monday 191 International Bible Society 194 Emerging Themes 196 Summary 197 Chapter 5. What Are the Stories Saying To Us 199 Multicultural Leaders/Interpreters 200 Redefming/Contextualizing Contextualization 203 Cultural Liminality 208 Generational Dynamics 214 A Tipping Point Among Contextualization Innovators 217 Indigenous Native Churches 221 A Conservative Native Position Paper 225 V

Chapter 6. Looking Down the Road 228 Current Condition of the Native Church 231 Challenges Facing the Native Church 232 Advancement of Contextualization Efforts in the Church 235 Reshaping Missions Attitudes and Practices 236 Long Term Implications 237 Stories That Bear Witness 240 Summary 246 References Cited 261 VI

Appendix A. Figure 1.2 Code System 247 B. Cover Letter Inviting People to be Interviewed 251 C. Informed Consent Form 252 D. A Biblical Position by Native Leaders on Native Spirituality 258 Vll

Dedication To Katherine.. .my lifelong friend, partner, and love of my life who has steadily and faithfully walked alongside me these many years. You have been an awesome fan and supporter, enduring many, many hours of me being away to school and writing. All these years we have discovered only to rediscover our love for one another and passion for being the best human beings we can be for one another, our four sons and a community of friends and family who love us. I am deeply grateful for you and what we have forged together. Acknowledgements Special thanks are owed to my mentor, Mike Rynkiewich, and committee members Eunice Irwin and Russell West. I am grateful to say that you have each provided helpful guidance, counsel, and encouragement at critical points along the way. I must say I especially appreciate your friendship. For me these past few years that we have talked and shared our stories together have been very affirming and meaningful to me, even though infrequent. My world is richer because of it. I want to especially thank Jane Foster, Shauna Brannen and Jodi Scott-Trevizo for your invaluable assistance with many hours of typing, editing and proofreading. Jane your technical writing expertise and many hours of proof reading was a huge! Jodi, your hours of typing were impressive. Shauna you were a gift from heaven at a point when I could not make sense of the theoretical raz-a-ma-taz of writing a formal dissertation! The fact I even completed this durn thing is in a very real way because of your assistance and exceptional generosity of your time and talents! Thank you Gary and Mary Ann Eastty and members of our staff whose support in the office was invaluable.

Among Lakota people we use a term ikce wicasa "common human person" to describe ourselves. It carries the meaning that I am not better or greater than the next person, because we are all totally dependant on Creator every hour of everyday for everything to just exist. I aspire to be a common human being. That being said, I am humbled and so very deeply grateful to the First Nations men and women who shared the gift of their stories with me and allowed me to put them into words for others to read. Their stories will in fact make it possible for me to receive a doctorate degree, from which I will benefit in unforeseeable ways, yet benefit I will. I pray to Creator, Jesus, that I can be a "pitiful human being" and trust in the Creator's love and purpose for my life that I use these things in a good way for the betterment of the people and the pleasure of my Ate Wakan Tanka "Father Great Spirit" in heaven. Thank you for sharing your story with me. Lila Pilamaya "Thank you very much."

1 Chapter 1 The Creator's Providential Love For Native People The Problem and Its Setting And Research Methodologies When my wife and I lived on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation in Northern Idaho in 1996, we did not know of one Native man who regularly attended any of the six evangelical churches, and barely half a dozen women attended. This was true as well for the neighboring Nez Perce and Kalispell Reservations. This fact stood in stark contrast to an amazing revival in this region that occurred prior to an established colonial presence through a Spokane Indian who is known as Spokane Garry. God used Chief Garry as a "messenger" who bore remarkable fruit through his labor among numerous tribes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and southward. I have been to the cemetery and stood before the large stone that marks the burial site of Chief Spokane Garry in Spokane, Washington. I felt such incredible sadness and awe that I wept.11 experienced a remarkable sense of reverence and honor to be standing there. I later visited Chief Garry's homestead and the small wooded canyon where he lived his final days, rejected, broken and destitute, but still with a great love for Jesus in his heart. Chief Garry was a tribal leader, husband, father and At the outset, and later in the Methods section, I want to be clear about my position as a researcher of the historical and contemporary periods of Christian revitalization among Native Americans. I am enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate from the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where I was born and lived as a child. I embrace a living faith in Jesus as Creator, while holding in critical tension points of post-colonial and post-modern analysis. While I respect and will use Western historical and social science methods, even the history of science in the West has come to the conclusion that there is no privileged and/or neutral position from which to do scientific research, especially in my position as participant/observer (Yin 2003:94). One observes, collects data and does analysis from a location. Instead of pretending objectivity, one's subjectivity must be identified, confessed and accounted for in the research. I make no apology for being deeply involved in this setting, but I will make clear what my biases and prejudices might be and how that will affect the research.

2 advocate for justice and Christian values who, though his own efforts appeared to have no lasting impact and did not bring the White settlers to an understanding of justice, nevertheless did throughout it all remain faithful to Christ. The residual witness of God, the "natural revelation" of creation found in Romans 1:19, is a powerful force in the history of these tribes. The First Nations people who occupied the Plateau area of Western Montana and Wyoming, Idaho, Eastern Washington and Oregon had been "visited" by a prophetic revelation of God's coming. The following historical accounts show how God had prepared the way for Chief Garry, like the Apostle Paul, to become God's chosen servant and a special messenger among his people. Yuree-rachen In 1782 the first "virgin soil" epidemic swept across the American continent - an epidemic of smallpox. During this mysterious sickness, Yuree-rachen, 'Circling Raven', a shaman of the Sin-ho-man-naish (the Middle Spokanes) attempted to minister healing to his people, who lived just west of present-day Spokane, Washington. Rather than heal them by his shamanistic practices, however, he lost his son to the disease, and great numbers of the villagers also perished. Yuree- rachen suffered a crisis of faith. Disillusioned and angry, he asked his brother, "If the righteous die while evil men live, why should we continue to follow our laws? Let us live like the animals." His brother persuaded the shaman to maintain his faith awhile longer in their moral law and in the God they called Quilent-sat-men, He-Made-Us. He also persuaded him to go to the top of Mount Spokane for four days of prayer and fasting. At the conclusion of his fast, according to Spokane tradition, Yuree-rachen received a vision of men of white skin wearing strange clothes and bearing in their hands leaves bound together. He was told to counsel his people to prepare for these chipixa " white skinned ones" and to pay attention to the teaching that came from the leaves bound together. (Long and McMurry 1994:209-210).)

3 According to anthropologist Leslie Spier, the tribes of the region developed the "Dream Dance" or the "Prophet Dance" as a religious response to the widespread revival of such prophecy during the eighteenth century (Long and McMurry 1994, 209). Shining Shirt The Middle Spokanes were not the only tribe to receive such a prophecy. Nor was this type of prophecy, according to researchers, an isolated quirk, a delusion of primitive minds or a tale invented later by Christian-influenced reservation Indians. The great cultural hero Shining Shirt, according to ethnologist Harry Holbert Turney-High, prophesied that white people would come from the East one day: according to the legend Shining Shirt was both a chief and Shaman. After he was a grown man and was in charge of his people, a Power made a great revelation. The Power said that there was a Good and Evil One of which the Indian knew but little so far. Yet the time would come when men with fair skins dressed in long black skirts would come and would teach them the truth. These Indians had never heard of a white man at that early a date. The Black Robes would change the lives of the people in ways of which they but little dreamed. The Power then gave Shining Shirt a talisman of terrific strength. This was a piece of metal inscribed with a cross. Then he told them that there is a God. His true name was not revealed but he was temporarily called Amotkan, He-who-lives-on-most-high. Shining Shirt then taught them that the Black Robes would give them a new moral law, which they should obey. Now the people trusted Shining Shirt and received his teaching (Long and McMurry 1994, 209-210). According to various accounts, in 1825 Governor George Simpson of the northern division of the Hudson Bay Company, with the permission and support of the tribal leaders, took two young Indian boys in their early teens from the Spokane and Middle Spokane and Lower Kootenay head chiefs for the purpose of educating them at a Mission School at Red River, present day Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The boys were called Spokane Garry and Kootenai Pelly (Long and McMurry 1994, 212). When first asked about the idea, the tribal chiefs were very indignant at the mere suggestion that they should give up their sons. They asked if they were looked upon as dogs— willing to give up their children to strange people and send them somewhere they had never been. But when it was explained to them that they

4 would be sent to a minister of religion to learn how to serve God, Chief III im- Spokanee replied, "He might have hundreds of children in an hour's time," and the chief chose two young boys who were the sons of the most powerful chiefs in that part of the country. (Jessett 1960, 22) After four or five years, by differing accounts, Garry and Pelly returned to Ft Colville in the summer of 1829. After they returned, vast crowds gathered from hundreds of miles around to hear what these two young men might have to say about the Master of life. The anthropologist, Leslie Spier, who has studied the religious life of the Indians of this region, noted that there was a remarkable spread of Christian practices among the tribes of this area and he determined that "the revival must have spread from the Spokane Country about 1830 or a little later" (Jessett 1960, 24). John McLean, who was at Stuart Lake in the northern part of British Columbia during the winter of 1834-36, reported, Two young men, natives of Oregon, who had received a little education at Red River, had, on their return to their own country, introduced a sort of religion whose groundwork seemed to be Christianity. This religion spread with amazing rapidity all over the country. It reached Fort Alexandria, the lower post of the district in the autumn of 1834 or 1835. (Drury 1958:35) Washington Irving in The Adventures of Captain Bonneville further documents the spread of Christianity throughout the tribes of the region. During the winter of 1832 Bonneville camped with the Nez Perce on the upper Salmon River. From his experiences he reports of the Nez Perce that "simply to call these people religious would convey but a faint idea of the deep hue of piety and devotion which pervades their whole conduct. Their honesty is immaculate and their purity of purpose ... are most remarkable. They are more like a nation of saints than a horde of savages. (Drury 1958, 47) The period of 1835 to 1850 saw the first wave of missionaries arrive in Oregon and Washington who came to build missions to teach the Indians Christianity. In 1835 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent Reverend Samuel Parker and his assistant, Marcus Whitman to explore the Columbia River for a possible

5 mission station location. In 1836 Whitman and Henry Spalding, and their wives returned to establish the first missions in the Columbia Plateau at Waiilatpu among the Cayuses and at Lapwai among the Nez Perce peoples (Boyd 1996,15). The spread of the Word of God during the early 1830s is most noteworthy in that it preceded the arrival of these first missionaries. With the arrival of the white missionaries, and their brand of Christianity, the story takes a predictable and unfortunate turn. Just as Catholic missionaries insisted on Roman control over earlier Celtic Christian areas (Hunter 2000, 40-44), so these Anglo missionaries insisted on Euro-American, or western style, Christian worship as well as doctrine. What is worse, their paternalism, ethnocentrism, colonial collusion, and modernism soon "civilized" this movement of the gospel and thus blinded Christians to the prevenient work of God among the Native Americans before the missionaries arrived. Today, throughout the entire region, except for the history books, there is but a remnant of that remarkable outpouring of God's Spirit and salvation. Unfortunately, this negative legacy of Christian mission among the Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, Nez Perce and other tribes is not exceptional. After four centuries across North America, not only are First Nations people not following the Jesus Way in great numbers, but also their participation in positions of ministry leadership in the wider church is missing from the evangelical mainstream in North America. These early missionaries, "people of their times," found little reason to regard Native believers as co- equals because of the perceived superiority of their own cultural ways. Thus, the majority of these missionaries denounced and demonized Native cultural ways, part and parcel, as pagan, idolatrous, evil and sinful.

6 As a result, an authentic Native American cultural or indigenous expression of following Jesus was never allowed to develop; the very idea being rejected as syncretistic and incongruous with "biblical" faith. This kind of colonial missionary mindset is, sadly, not a thing of the past, but is still the prevailing perspective (in both Native and non- Native Christian leaders) among those working among our tribal communities today. Instead of embracing Jesus as the Creator, the majority of Native Americans blame American Christianity and the church for the loss of their own culture and identity. Is it any wonder that nine out often native people today reject Christianity as the "White man's religion"? The headline of a 2007 article from the CBC News Network2 in Canada read, "Winnipeg church nixes native dancing at Habitat for Humanity event."3 The article went on to say, A Winnipeg church prevented aboriginal dancers from performing at a Habitat for Humanity event this week, saying the performance was not an expression of Christian faith. 'Native spiritual dancing has its roots in a different spiritual belief system that is incongruent with traditional Christian worship.'— Pastor Mark Hughes, [sic] This pastor and his church staff, though professing a vision for creating a multi ethnic congregation,4 are not exceptional in their ethnocentric views and attitudes toward 2 http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2007/l 1/08/habitat-church.html 3 It created a major controversy in the Native community. The net result was that it only further alienated the church from First Nations people, whose experience of Christianity is that it continues to oppress and marginalize them as a community of people. The article went on to say, "Michelle Nyhof, spokeswoman for Habitat for Humanity in Winnipeg, said the church's position put the charity in an awkward situation because it had signed a contract. "We have to respect it's their facility. There is a contract," she said. "According to their contract they have the ... first right of refusal of performances, so we had to abide by that. Our option was to cancel the event, which we didn't feel was an option given the short notice." Habitat is "heartbroken" by the situation, Nyhof said. 4 "From the beginning we were determined to build a church that all people, regardless of their ethnic, socio-economic or denominational background would feel welcome and would be able to become part of a biblical congregation of believers." http://www.churchoftherock.ca/index.htm.

First Nations people and their cultural expressions. This church averages 2500 in Sunday attendance, is one of the largest in Canada and is considered a leading "Christian voice" in the province and city. Another powerful factor contributing to the ineffectiveness of the gospel was that Native people were, many times, first introduced to Jesus as part of American territorialism, treaty enforcement, educational programs, economic hegemony and social disintegration through assimilation. For a period of time5 beginning in 1869, "Indian agencies were assigned to religious societies" (Prucha 1975,141). Those assigned were "duly subordinate and responsible" (Prucha 1975, 142), in these official capacities as Indian agents to the United States Department of the Interior, via their denominational structures. The Federal Government, along with denominational and missionary groups, believed this plan might improve the ability of government policies to stimulate "the slow growth of the savage beasts" leading to the "moral and religious advancement of the Indians" (Prucha 1975, 142). Through this collaboration between Christianity and government efforts, it was hoped that, "in and through this extra-official relationship to assume charge of the intellectual and moral education of the Indians thus brought within 5 The Quakers were the first Christian organization to begin officially work with the Federal government in this capacity beginning in 1869. In 1872 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Francis A Walker, noted the number of agency assignments in his annual report. It showed thirteen different denominations working among 72 different tribes across the United States (Prucha 1975:142-143). Ten years later then commissioner, Hiram Price, reported on the positive effects of this ongoing partnership. He stated that, "I am decidedly of the opinion that a liberal encouragement by the government to all religious denominations to extend their educational missionary operations among the Indians would be of immense benefit (Prucha 1975:157). In 1884 a highly influential philanthropic group known as the "Lake Mohonk Conference" at their annual meeting formulated recommendations to help shape federal policy. They noted that for fifty years missionaries have made a positive impact on their respective tribes. The felt it was of the highest importance for the federal government to liberally provide educational opportunities for Indian people. They felt it was the responsibility of the "Christian people of the country to exert through the Indian schools a strong moral and religious influence," as this stood outside government responsibility, however acknowledging that "without it, the true civilization of the Indian is impossible" (Prucha 1975,164)

8 the reach of their influence" (Prucha 1975, 142) to improve the state of being of the tribal people assigned to the care of these various church missionary societies. Boarding Schools Perhaps the most devastating blow to the life of (the) Native (or Native Americans) was the forced removal of their children from their homes to attend boarding schools. The system, which began with President Ulysses Grant's 1869 "Peace Policy," continued well into the 20th century. Virtually imprisoned in the schools, children experienced crushing trauma from forced assimilation, and grueling labor, as well as widespread sexual and physical abuse. Scholars and activists and, only lately, theologians have begun to address the cumulative effects of these historical experiences across gender and generation upon tribal communities today. My grandparents, parents and aunties and uncles and numerous cousins were all forced to attend Catholic ran boarding schools on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Lakota/Sioux Reservations. I have heard heartbreaking stories of many of their traumatic experiences. My relatives, as children, endured things like: standing in line single-file for hours without moving a hair, as a lesson in discipline, suffering nervous breakdowns, eating onion sandwiches while watching the priests and nuns eat lavishly by comparison, being forced to work in the fields, dairy, bakery and shops as free laborers, and suffering from blistered hands and knees as they scoured floors with toothbrushes. To add insult to injury, their mouths were scrubbed with lye and chlorine solutions for uttering Native words. Sammy Toineeta (Lakota) helped found the national Boarding School Healing Project to document such abuses. "Human rights activists must talk about the issue of

boarding schools," says Toineeta. "It is one of the grossest human rights violations because it targeted children and was the tool for perpetrating cultural genocide. To ignore this issue would be to ignore the human rights of indigenous peoples, not only in the U.S., but around the world" (Smith 2007, http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/soulwound.html). The schools were part of Euro-America's drive to solve the "Indian problem" and end Native control of their lands. While some colonizers advocated outright physical extermination,6 Captain Richard H. Pratt thought it wiser to "Kill the Indian and save the man." In 1879 Pratt, an army veteran of the Indian wars, opened the first federally sanctioned boarding school: the Carlisle Industrial Training School, in Carlisle, Perm. "Transfer the savage-born infant to the surroundings of civilization, and he will grow to possess a civilized language and habit," said Pratt. His philosophy was to "elevate" American Indians to white standards through a process of internal colonization - the colonization of consciousness8 - by legislating a kind of acculturation that stripped 6 L. Frank Baum, ed., Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer (Aberdeen, SD: Dec. 20,1890) and author of The Wizard of Oz, wrote, "With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The whites, by law of conquest and by justice of civilization, are master of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians." Native Wind, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1997. 7 Andrea Smith, Cherokee, is interim coordinator for the Boarding School Healing Project and a Bunche Fellow coordinating AIUSA's research project on Sexual Violence and American Indian women. She has written extensively on the subject, http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/soulwound.html 8John and Jean Comaroff hypothesize the final objective or target of colonialization is consciousness; to establish control and rule by replacing one way of seeing and being with the axioms, images and aesthetics of a foreign culture. (1991:pp. xi; 4) The epistemological assumptions of the period shaped the development of the social, philosophical, scientific and economic ideologies and evangelistic efforts of the missionaries. They demonstrate that woven throughout the "philosophical construct" of colonialism are two dynamic realities, hegemony and ideology. They define and reveal the roles that hegemony and ideology played in the colonial campaigns of Europe, in particular the unique variety manifested by the British and Dutch in South Africa (1991:24-25). During the 1600's, the British' penchant for discovery, expansionism and evangelistic fervor marked a unique period in global history.

10 them of their language, culture, and customs. This policy has steadily flowed down to my relatives, and, to a lesser degree, to me and now my wife and sons. Government officials found the Carlisle model an appealing alternative to the costly military campaigns against Indians in the West. Within three decades of Carlisle's opening, nearly 500 schools extended all the way to California. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) controlled 25 off-reservation boarding schools while churches ran 460 boarding and day schools on reservations with government funds (Smith 2007). An article in the New York Times9 titled, "Indian Reservation Reeling in Wave of Youth Suicides and Attempts" tells the story of the ongoing trauma of these boarding schools. The young people attempting and committing suicide are the children and grandchildren of those forced to attend the Catholic and Bureau of Indian Affairs run boarding schools on the Rosebud Reservation. My twenty years of observation and active participation in Christian missions among First Nations people has made it evident that rather than good news, the "good news" story remains mainly ineffective among Native people, and for many, bad news. After hundreds of years of missionary efforts, an extremely low number of people are actively engaged in a life of faith in Jesus and Christianity among Native people. This is largely reflective of Euro-American cultural forms, expressions and worldview values. 9 What is happening at Rosebud is all too common throughout Indian Country. American Indian and Alaska Native youth 15 to 24 years old are committing suicide at a rate more than three times the national average for their age group of 13 per 100,000 people, according to the surgeon general. Often, one suicide leads to another. For these youths, suicide has become the second-leading cause of death (after accidents). In the Great Plains, the suicide rate among Indian youth is the worst: 10 times the national average. According to the article, on the Rosebud Reservation (population 13,000), in the first six months of 2007, a total of 144 people attempted suicide, at doctors' best count; the computer used for recordkeeping was down for six weeks. In May, seven youths who tried hanging, poisoning or slashing themselves to death were admitted to the reservation hospital in one 24-hour period. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/09/us/09suicide.html?

Full document contains 284 pages
Abstract: This dissertation is a study and research of whether or not there is, or has been, an indigenous or contextualized Christian expression among the tribes of the United States and to a lesser degree, Canada. The purpose of this research was to discover if, and in what ways Native leaders were contextualizing the gospel in their own unique cultural contexts with a specific focus on the years 1989-2009. Data for this qualitative study was collected using participant-observation, questionnaires, Internet surveys, group discussions, and intensive interviews from 2007-2010 in the United States and Canada. Diffusion and Innovation theory was utilized as a lens to interpret contextualization efforts as a movement. A contextualization process is described that, to varying degrees, incorporates the use of traditional symbols, music, dance, ceremony and ritual, a widening hermeneutical community, the Holy Spirit, and an understanding of epistemology and colonization. Conclusions for the wider church and missions community include: appreciating all culture as capable of reflecting biblical faith, moving away western paternalism to embracing new perspectives emerging from Native leaders that provide new pathways to the contextualization process, identifying cultural values via an indigenous spirituality, and rethinking discipleship that incorporates significant aspects of Native traditions.