A Lakota elder who speaks to our groups teaches us that reconciliation is "moving toward our own divinity" and that is where you will find forgiveness. Other – more traditional – definitions would say that it is simply about moving on after a disagreement.
This is complex work with no agreed upon definitions. It is wrought with generations of trauma from broken treaties, attempted genocide, overt racism and white guilt. We approach it with humility, curiosity and a deeply held conviction to get it right over time. Mistakes are made, misunderstandings happen. For our volunteers, where is their white privilege showing? For our Indigenous friends, where are assumptions of prejudice or racism?
Reconciliation – in this context, with this history – is about so much more than moving on from a disagreement. It is, instead, about accepting and acknowledging the pain of deep wounding that can't be resolved but only reconciled; it is not about finding resolution because there is no resolution for past crimes, for broken treaties, for the death of ancestors, for different ways of experiencing the Creator. There is only the acceptance and acknowledgment of what is.
Each morning and evening, when our volunteers are on Pine Ridge or the Lakota are off the reservation for presentations or events, we come together in a circle. We burn sage and ask the elder in the group to start with a prayer (depending on who the eldest in the group is the prayer might be in Lakota or another denomination). And then the magic happens. Grown men cry, non-native teenagers curl up in the lap of a Lakota grandmother, there is sometimes laughter and often times profound silence. We believe that it is in these circles; and in the act of showing up year after year; and working side by side in the hot sun or the driving snow; and in staying in touch when the volunteer trip is over – that the seeds of reconciliation are nourished. It is slow and it is one relationship at a time and it is at the core of why we do this work.
Our former board president, Duane Mullner, put it this way:
"We are all blessed with the Divine and there is only one flow of love in the universe which is GOD, CREATOR. Reconciliation is more about mutually joining to be part of this flow of the creative energy of love than reconciling differences".
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