working together so learners can flourish

In my previous post – Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice – 4, I referenced Christensen and Vryhof who said:

If we hope to encourage students to be lovers and doers of justice, we need to craft learning experiences that make it more likely to happen. These learning experiences should be “peopled with authors, and characters who . . . provide a window to the world” (Christensen, 2009, p. 6) because it is in the experience of the world that wisdom is learned.

We need to craft learning experiences that focus on key moral and ethical issues within our learning communities, our immediate communities and in society at large. We need to bring the sufferers into the learning community and/or transport students to the sufferers. (Vryhof, 2011, p. 31).

(emphasis mine)

Lately, I have been thinking about how we can bring the “sufferers” into the learning community. Too often, I fear, there is a tendency to do this by speaking for the sufferers, the oppressed, the marginalized. In a 2014 article in Relevant magazine, the author says:

There’s a difference between being a voice for the voiceless and giving a voice to the voiceless. They are not interchangeable. And one is far more compassionate.

. . . sometimes, when we are trying to be a voice for those who are suffering, we end up speaking over them, shouting our own view without first really stopping to listen to their experiences.

. . . [invest] your energies in giving a platform to the marginalized instead of taking the platform yourself.

Similarly in writing about how non Natives participated in Standing RockWhen Christianity Co-opts Justice MovementsDae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr (a Seminarian and Community Organizer @daedaejr) said:

The church must become the student of the oppressed and submit itself in humility, by listening to the people most impacted. Grassroots organizers and civil rights elders have been fighting this battle for a long time, even during times in which churches on both the Left and the Right have rejected any forms of resistance.

When my sister is on the front lines at Standing Rock getting shot with rubber bullets because of her peaceful protest, the government can now point at the clergy’s afternoon of solidarity and justify that she deviated too far beyond what was acceptable.

We, as Christians, have recreated the blueprint for resistance; sterilized it of its righteous fierceness; sanitized it of its unhindered selflessness; and in so doing, diminished the power of the people.

We have yet to transcend our history of taking away the voice from the voiceless.

I have always loved learning about Native Peoples. However, some time ago, I realized that most of my learning was about them not from them. I became convicted that I needed to intentionally listen to and amplify the voices of the Native Peoples themselves. So began my journey that so far has included books, blogs, videos, newscasts, and twitter feeds. Steps so far in my journey include:

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 2015 Recipient of the American Book Award. [This is] the first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognizedan indegenous Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.”

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative


“All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. [This book] “unpacks the twenty-one most common myths and misconceptions about Native Americans.

all the realIn this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as:

“Columbus Discovered America”
“Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims”
“Indians Were Savage and Warlike”
“Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians”
“The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide”
“Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans”
“Most Indians Are on Government Welfare”
“Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich”
“Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol”

Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, “All the Real Indians Died Off” challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.”


Mark Charles charles

Mark Charles is the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man. He has lived with his wife and children on the Navajo reservation for 11 years, and now they are in Washington, DC. His objective is to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the nation through understanding and teaching on the complexities of American history regarding race, culture, and faith. He is a speaker and a writer on these topics, most notably on the Doctrine of Discovery. He also serves as the Washington correspondent for Native News Online.

What is Wirelesshogan?

A hogan is the traditional Navajo home.  While it symbolizes the historical and cultural dwellings of my people, it also reflects the daily life for many Navajos today. While the Navajo Nation is the largest US reservation and is home to about 180,000 Navajos, it is one of the least developed areas of the United States.  Lack of running water, electricity, and many common amenities is typical for many Navajo homes today.

Mark was a speaker at the 2017 January Series at Calvin College. Watch him here. 


Native News – Celebrating Native Voices – Levi Rickert, editor. Native News is also on Twitter – @Native_NewsNetnative news





Indigenous Women Rise at and

Recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the original protectors and strength of our country, we call upon Indigenous women to join the Indigenous Women Rise collective.

This collective aims to ensure Indigenous Women’s voices are heard and to raise the visibility of Indigenous peoples’ rights and Issues.


So far to go, but the journey has begun.

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista









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