“What does it mean for me to actually be a Potawatomi woman? To be a Christian? To be human?” Author Kaitlin Curtice, a member of the Potawatomi Nation, joins Amy Julia on the podcast to talk—and to ask questions— about racial and religious identity, holidays and traditions, and entering into an expansive understanding of the love of God.
As both a member of the Potawatomi Nation and a Christian, Kaitlin Curtice offers a unique perspective on the never-ending journey of finding ourselves and finding God. Kaitlin’s book Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God “shows how reconnecting with her Native American roots both informs and challenges her Christian faith.”
On the Podcast:
“[when] your faith becomes the catchall for your identity, we lose the nuance of what it means to be human in a lot of ways.”
“That’s what assimilation does…the church wants what is white in me but not what is native in me.”
“What I want to do is help people ask the questions in the first place about America, about Christianity, about who they are…and that’s about belonging, right, about identity.”
“Can we have thoughtful, reciprocal relationships with one another where the end goal isn’t, ‘Can I get you to heaven or not?’”
“You can’t reconcile something until you actually acknowledge it. American Christianity has not acknowledged its complicity in the genocide and colonization of Indigenous peoples.”
“When we learn to have this reciprocal relationship with the earth, we will become more humble as human beings.”
“We take care of ourselves because we also are trying to learn to care for one another better.”
“This journey [of decolonization work or anti-racism work] is lifelong, and it will involve us messing up and trying again and apologizing and fixing it and reading another book and then reading that book all over again…”
“Every time we take a step forward or we do the action, that doesn’t mean that we’ve now reached the end and done all the things. We should always be doing all of the things and not think that we have to reach some finish line. We’re always doing it. That’s what being human is. That’s how we love each other better.”
Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
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What does it mean for me to actually be a Potawatomi woman then what does it mean for me to be a Potawatomi mother? What does it mean for me to be a Christian then if this isn't what I thought it was, you know, is Jesus really white. All of these questions started just bubbling up and it's a beautiful thing, but it made me, and it's a hard thing and it forces us to lean into the nuance of what it means simply to be human, really
Amy Julia (31s):
Hi friends, I'm Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division. And this season, we're talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our own lives and in our society with our heads, hearts and hands. And today I'm talking with Kaitlin Curtice. Kaitlin is a beautiful writer, beautiful thinker, beautiful person. She's a member of the Potawatomi nation. She's a Christian. And today I'm talking with her about racial and religious identity, holidays, and traditions, and how to enter into an expansive understanding of the love of God creator throughout our lives.
Amy Julia (1m 12s):
I'm talking today with Kaitlin Curtice author of native identity, belonging and rediscovering God, Kaitlin. Welcome. Thank you. So you've written a beautiful and thoughtful memoir and your subtitle kind of says it all identity belonging and rediscovering God. And I want to get to talk about all of those things today, but I thought we'd start with identity both as a way to introduce the book, but also as a way to introduce you to our audience here, because you write a lot about how you think of yourself, how do you think of yourself as a woman? How you think of yourself as a Christian, how do you think of yourself in terms of racial identity and how that has actually changed over the years?
Amy Julia (1m 54s):
So I'd love to hear you just describe who you are and also again, how your conception of yourself has changed over the course of the years.
Kaitlin (2m 4s):
Yeah. So I am a Potawatomi woman. How I would describe sort of my background is I come from what I would call them mixed culture or mixed ethnicity family. My father is Potawatomi and my mother is not native is descended from European peoples. And so I am I'm mixture of those things. And I think that, you know, growing up my identity was just fused so tightly to Christianity. And that was really like, I remember times when I was younger, that, that, that is really the only, the defining thing. Maybe I'm a girl or I'm a woman, the young woman, but I'm a Christian, I'm a Christian, you know, that was really everything that I was.
Kaitlin (2m 51s):
And when that happens, you know, in that way that your faith becomes the catch all for your identity, we lose the nuance of what it means to be human in a lot of ways, religion, you know, has a role in our lives to help us form identity and create those connections with people. But when it is a more legalistic religion, it can consume. And with Christianity, it's paired with assimilation. A lot of the time American white Christianity is. And so I learned to assimilate, I learned to not listen to myself. I learned to, you know, sort of be subject to my leaders, subject to men, to God who was a very patriarchal God.
Kaitlin (3m 37s):
And so that's kind of what I learned. And when I started writing, actually my first book, which is called glory happening that came out in 2017. And as I was writing that book, I was just starting to sort of ask new questions like, God, he, you know, could God be just mystery? Could God be a wider understanding than what I grew up with, things like that. And I found so much freedom in finally asking some of those questions. It helped me because it helped me know what I'd always known, like deep inside me, I think, but it helps me recognize that there's so much more expansion to who God is or what religion or spirituality might be.
Kaitlin (4m 21s):
And I needed that sort of freedom. And what came with that then was then I started asking all these other questions, well, what does it mean for me to actually be a Potawatomi woman then what does it mean for me to be a Potawatomi mother? What does it mean for me to be a Christian then if this isn't what I thought it was, you know, is Jesus really white. All of these questions started just bubbling up and it's a beautiful thing, but it, it made me, and it's a hard thing and it forces us to lean into the nuance of what it means simply to be human really. And so over the years, I've, you know, sometimes we have to use certain terms to help us, right, to help us identify who or how we are in the world.
Kaitlin (5m 4s):
But also it's just, for me, it's been this feeling of expansiveness that I get to, you know, examine and question so many parts of, of who I am and not that required me stepping out of some of those religious boxes that, that kept me safe in a way for a long time. But I needed, then that's the whole, you know, deconstruction is you step out and then you examine what you were a part of. And that's, that's a very natural thing for us to do as adults. And so I needed to do that, especially when I became a mother for me, I think that's what kind of cracked some of that open for me and helped me just, I don't know, begin to identify a new ways.
Amy Julia (5m 47s):
So I'd love to hear more about the Potawatomi aspect of your identity, but also of your journey, right? Like that sense, at least from reading your book of, on the one hand, I assume being a citizen of the Potawatomi nation means that was true when you were born. Yeah. But that was not something that if I met you as a teenager, you would have said, yep, this is who I am. Right. So how, why was that? Not something you would have told me when I was meeting you as a 13 year old and why is it also, you know, yes, I am a Potawatomi mother. I am a, you know, how has that, how has that come to be a part?
Amy Julia (6m 27s):
And again, I love what you've said already, just because I think so many people are exploring so many of these questions and for you, there's this layer, which we're going to hopefully start talking through of not only what does it mean to be a Christian, is Jesus white? What does it, but also what does it mean to be a Potawatomi woman and a Christian, a Potawatomi, Christian, do those things go together? I mean, those are all, I think just rich and important questions that not only are helpful, obviously in your own life, but even for someone like me where, you know, I've got European ancestry and I'm asking many of these questions as well, because I'm trying to figure out what does it mean to be an American?
Amy Julia (7m 8s):
What does it mean to be a child of God? What does it mean to be faithful to the people that I am living with? So, sorry, that's a long way of backing myself back into this question about your formation as a person who now would say, I am a Potawatomi citizen of a puddle.
Kaitlin (7m 27s):
Yeah. Yeah. I'm, I'm really grateful that you obviously were like, you've always been Potawatomi because I think that sometimes people are like, Oh, you, you know, suddenly realized you were at this one point in life. Like, no, I I've obviously always been Pottawatomie. And my family, you know, my father has been Potawatomi, but there are a few factors that I think that need to be pointed to. And one of those is just the trauma, intergenerational trauma of indigenous people. My grandma did not talk about being Potawatomi. It was not something we discussed. My father worked for the Bureau of Indian affairs, which means he's a tribal police officer is, is basically how to put that.
Kaitlin (8m 11s):
And so while that was a part of our family's identity, it wasn't something we explored. You know, I didn't know that we had our own language. I didn't know that our tribe is from the great lakes region of the United States. I didn't know that we call this land turtle Island. I didn't know. We had our own stories. You know, there was for years, indigenous cultures have been constantly wiped out by colonization. That's paired government and church institutions together to do this job and they've done it well. And so we have, we have this legacy of, of silence, of not wanting to talk about who we are. And so I think that's a huge part of it.
Kaitlin (8m 51s):
And then also for, so for me in my life, you know, not that foundation of, of really knowing how to explore my identity and then being really sort of entrenched into the church as a teenager, you know, I was like in the purity movement, you know, went on the missions trips. I was all in, right? Like I said, being a Christian identity and it, and it focused how I saw the world. And so it also, I saw the Pottawatomie parts of myself. Like I can split myself up by, I separated that part of me. I don't think I did on purpose, but I learned to do it.
Kaitlin (9m 31s):
And that's sort of similar nation does, is, you know, like I say, in my book, the church wants what is white and me, but not what is native in me. There is this, this part where I knew, you know, if I'm going to show up talking about our culture and our traditions, we've seen it happen before and we're called heathen or we're called animistic or we're, you know, they're all, all of the stereotypes and tropes of what indigenous people, that's what colonization has done is said, you are not children of God. You need to assimilate, or you need to accept Jesus and take on our Christian faith, or we will kill you, or we will wipe your people out. Or, you know, it was, it was a forced colonization.
Kaitlin (10m 11s):
And so, so for me, I think that just naturally happened where I didn't know what it meant to be Potawatomi. I didn't know what it meant to connect with my tribe or my people or other indigenous people. I had no real groundwork for that, I guess. And my father had left our family when I was nine. And so my parents divorced when I was young and I, that's a very critical time of a child's development. And, and I think that that also just, you know, the, the trauma of that made it difficult for me to find my footing in my identity, you know? And so the church became my safe place, which is good. Like I knew I needed a safe place.
Kaitlin (10m 53s):
I had really beautiful people in my life that I loved and who loved me, but I can also now look back and say, okay, there are some things here also that kept me from fully being who I am and to be able to hold the tension of both of those things is really difficult, but that's also what it means to be human. And so that's part of the journey and part of why I wrote my book was to sort of recognize all of this together.
Amy Julia (11m 19s):
So what was it like for you? Was there, I mean, I'm assuming you did not wake up one morning and say, I am going to go on a quest to discover what it means to be Potawatomi, but at the same time, I know you have traveled to the great lakes and you have started to learn the language and there are these aspects of like, no, I'm really, I'm going to do this. Like I'm doubling down on, on understanding this. And so how did that happen and how have you gone about it? I mean, over the course of, and when, like at what point in your life where you're like, wait a second, this is something I need to actually, I want to become intentional about, I
Kaitlin (11m 54s):
Studied social work in college, in my undergrad. And I, there were those questions that kept kind of creating in me. You know, there would be like a section in our classroom. We would talk about indigenous people or something. And I would be like, that's that's me. But also, I don't know how to understand that that's me. And, you know, there would just be, there are these tensions inside myself that, I dunno if I had a place to, to ask those questions or process what that meant, but so those, you know, if you want to call them seeds were being planted, you know, late high school, early college, where I was asking some of those questions. And I think then, like I said, when I had children, you know, it switched to, okay, well, how do, how do I help them know who they are?
Kaitlin (12m 40s):
You know, you know, they have a father who's of German ancestry and they have me and who am I? And what am I giving them? Right. And so I think that that also kind of led me to start asking some questions inside myself. And then, you know, we have this, I write about in the book, this sort of experience where we were out hiking in Georgia, we lived in Atlanta at the time. And so we went out hiking one day and I did have this sort of moment where I truly think that, you know, my ancestors just sort of met me in that space. And God mystery creator met me in that space and said, this is who you are. And you get to decide who you want to be.
Kaitlin (13m 22s):
And, and so, and then for me, it just, it never went away, you know, and, and that's just been the journey for me, but it, it required a lot of painful investigation, you know? And it still does have a why, why did I not lean into this? And I was younger. Why couldn't I, why, why the trauma, why intergenerational trauma, why assimilation, why all of these things, right. Why colonization? And then it just leads to more questions. And I'm still asking those questions. Like, I don't really, you know, I don't know if I know how to be Pottawatomie under Christian.
Kaitlin (14m 2s):
It's, it's very, very messy every single day, you know, I exist in it, but I don't really know what it, what it means all the time. And that's okay. Like even in my book, I, you know, I've had people say, you leave us with a lot more questions than answers. Like I, I didn't write a book to give people answers on how to navigate their identity because that's just not, that's not who I am. What I want to do is help people ask the questions in the first place about America, about Christianity, about who they are. And that's about belonging, right? About identity. Those are the things I want to help people just begin to ask their questions. And I think that's a really important place for us to start.
Amy Julia (14m 45s):
Yeah. Your comments are sparking so many thoughts in my own brain that I'm trying to decide where I want to go, because for me, similarly, having kids prompted a lot of questions. I grew up in a small town in the South, even though my family is from Connecticut. And so when I was thinking about raising my own kids, I went back to my childhood where I had asked no questions and almost, especially because we moved when I was 10. So we moved before those time periods where you start asking questions about your life. It had become this like idealized beautiful, perfect world in my memory. And as I started to think back on the severe racial and economic disparities within our town that I participated in, in every aspect of my being the way in which this church that I loved growing up in had, you know, participated in segregation and injustice.
Amy Julia (15m 38s):
It was, it was a really hard process, but it was similarly my children who prompted that. And then from there thinking about the ways in which I think people in Connecticut and broadly in the Northeast can feel as though, Oh, we didn't have slavery. We didn't, we can be removed from this. And then looking at, I mean, literally I drive around my area and it's like, Oh, you know, not a wog, Wampanoag, Connecticut, like all of these words that, I mean, again, I have started to think, I do know where those come from, not deeply and intimately, but as you said, the, just being silenced to not think about things to not ask, wait, where does that come from?
Amy Julia (16m 21s):
And why are there no longer, at least in my town, people who are associated with the names of the streets and the towns, and certainly the rivers, I mean, especially the rivers and the regions in our area. So I just, anyway, what you were just saying, I think is so important for all of us in terms of our connection to place and to people and to history, even when those questions are painful ones at the same time, I do think there's that sense as you said, of like, there's a freedom and an expansiveness, I think that can come, even though it can be kind of scary. So I'd love to ask you a little bit more about the Christianity piece of this, because there was a phrase actually towards the end of your book that I really appreciated where you said that often evangelism is eraser and a listening relationship is something altogether different.
Amy Julia (17m 18s):
And I was thinking about both of those things, the ways in which evangelism, which we might need to define. So let's start with that. Like what's an evangelism and how is it that that works to erase to be eraser. And, and is there any way to participate in evangelism without participating in eraser? So that's what, that's what I'm wondering about.
Kaitlin (17m 39s):
Yeah, that's a good question. So in the, in the, in the framework that I grew up in, I grew up Southern Baptist. So, you know, Wednesday, we would go to church and we would go do door to door evangelism. So in that sense, you're literally going to try to save people's souls. That is what, you know, you're going to get them to come to church and to get them to accept Jesus, if we feel that they need to. Right. So it was literally like, you know, if they had visited the church before they would put their name in. So we would go in these groups praying, you know, we pray in the car, on the drive, go into these people's homes, ask if we can visit with them, give this like spiel of our, you know, faith journey of when we price all these things.
Kaitlin (18m 26s):
And then you turn to these people that you don't even know, you don't know their story, you don't know anything about them. And you're like, so do you want to accept Christ? And in my opinion, that's quite ridiculous. I understand that people still practice this and it's still a part of their faith journey. But one of the people I did this with was a girl who went to my school. So she went to my junior high. She's one of the most popular girls. And, and I think how ridiculous it was that I didn't know anything about her journey, but I, I w I wanted the weird thing about all of this, about Christianity and this, this kind of faith is, is that somehow you can try to do it out of love, but it's also not love it is a ratio, right?
Kaitlin (19m 12s):
So I want, I love people and I want them to be okay. I want them to have what they need. And at the same time, I'm participating in a religion that, that in a lot of ways, does the opposite of that and erases their stories and simply puts them as a, are you saved or not saved? Do you come to our church or do you not come to our church? And that's, I know that's not always the case, but as we talk about these systems of what we do with evangelism, a lot of the time, that is what we do, it's that street evangelism kind of thing. And, and it, it doesn't race it a racist so much. Can we have thoughtful reciprocal relationships with one another where the end goal isn't like, can I get you to heaven or not?
Kaitlin (19m 56s):
You know, I think that, that so much of that put people in this weird, like almost a one dimensional box, and that's not what humans are. You know, we have so much life around us. We have so many stories to tell. And so that's still a hard thing for me to sort of reconcile in my mind is can not, can that particular thing be redeemed? I think that that particular way of evangelizing can be really damaging and unrealistic in the world we live in. But, but can we just have relationship with one another where we care for one another, the way that we're supposed to?
Kaitlin (20m 40s):
I believe that that's possible.
Amy Julia (20m 42s):
Yeah. I'm thinking back to a similar kind of time in my life when I was asking about having grown up in a more evangelical space. And I remember I had these neighbors who were kind of in the spiritual, but not religious camp, very kind, yoga practitioners, friends of ours. And I was praying for them once. And I just was like, kind of, I had a sense of distaste with my own prayer because I was praying for them to get to know Jesus, but I was like, but I, I actually, I do feel like I have something to offer. They were going through a hard time, like, and I was like, and this is what I have to offer.
Amy Julia (21m 22s):
I do have a relationship with Jesus, but I am praying it as though you have nothing to offer me. And that is where I finally realized. I'm like, that's what I'm uncomfortable with is not the idea that I have something to give it's that I have nothing to receive, that I have no needs and that I, because I know Jesus have it all figured out like that attitude of like, I don't, I don't need anything. And I've got all the answers. I mean, I guess another way to call that is name that as pride, but there's just not a posture of humility. And as you said, of like listening and receiving and recognizing the, again, the expansive nature of who God is.
Amy Julia (22m 3s):
So I don't want to discount the truth and experience of knowing Jesus of being a Christian and of wanting to offer that to other people in a open handed. Right. I also know that I have things to receive type of way, but anyway, that moment just sticks with me as a moment of transition for my own thinking about evangelism as like, okay, if that really means sharing the good news, well, then what, what is it, how is it sharing the good news in your case, like to knock on someone's door and say, Hey, without knowing you and without being invited, can I check your name off as saved in some sort of cosmic book that somehow I am an arbiter of right now?
Amy Julia (22m 53s):
Like who thought that made sense?
Kaitlin (22m 55s):
Yeah. And, and on the larger scale, it's hard for, I would say it's hard for most Americans and most Christians to recognize that that is an extension of colonization. There is something called the doctrine of discovery, which was a document that basically allowed people, especially Christian men to come to this land. And in the name of God, they could take the land they wanted, as long as it wasn't already Christian. Right? So they're coming, they're seeing all these people and they're saying, Oh, you're not, you're not one of us. You're not Christian. You know, you're, he, then you're Savage. So we get to take your people and take your land. And it becomes gods.
Kaitlin (23m 35s):
And, and, and there were times where it was like, you know, sign this document that you've accepted the faith, or, you know, speak, you know, speaking to people in the language, they can't understand forcing them to convert. I think that that so much of what we then adopted into our churches is extensions of those practices. And, and we don't often connect that, or we're really uncomfortable with saying this is a type of violence, but for indigenous people, it has always been a type of violence to force conversion to say, convert, or we take your land and we kill you convert, or, or else is violence, you know? And, and it's been all done in the name of God for centuries.
Kaitlin (24m 18s):
And that's something we can't ignore, you know?
Amy Julia (24m 22s):
Well, and specifically in the name of the God of the Bible, right? Like it's not just some vague, but it's, it's been very specifically linked, which brings me actually, there's this one place where you wrote our Pottawatomie words have so much meaning behind them. I'm not going to be able to pronounce it, but the word for America,
Kaitlin (24m 42s):
Which you <inaudible>
Amy Julia (24m 44s):
Thank you translates loosely to white person with long knives. And I get a little choked up, even just like saying those words out loud. You also write about the importance of, again, like understanding language, understanding history, understanding place, and you talk about land acknowledgements, which I think is related again to this, the Pottawatomie word for America. I'd love to hear you talk about the way in which, what Atlanta practice or land acknowledgement practice is, but also why it's important in recovering a history that's been covered up.
Kaitlin (25m 20s):
Yeah. I often get asked, especially in Christian spaces, like how can we reconcile with indigenous people? And I don't have that answer because we haven't even acknowledged anything in the first place. You know, you can't reconcile something until you actually acknowledge it, you know, and you know, American Christianity has not acknowledged its complicity in the genocide and colonization of indigenous peoples on a large scale or even an individual scales of institutions. It's not, that is not a common practice. And so, you know, land acknowledgements are just one thing, but they're also something that shouldn't be done lightly.
Kaitlin (26m 0s):
Like they should be done in the spirit of actually trying to understand. And so a land acknowledgement is basically, you know, you're naming whose land you're on. There are plenty of resources where you can do this, also doing it with the acknowledgement that it's not like they used to be there and now they're gone like indigenous peoples are, we're still here. We're still around. There have certainly been removals and violence done on, on these lands, but indigenous people are still here. And so to actually, wherever you live to learn that the full story of those people are, are they still here? Are they still tending to this land? Can they teach us something about it? Why are they gone? What happened, what violence was done toward them?
Kaitlin (26m 42s):
How are they still, you know, reflecting their culture? How are they still honoring their ancestors by being here? What can they teach us? You know, some of these questions. And so landing knowledge mints are a way to sort of, you know, you, you would do it like before an event, like when I traveled to speak, I do try to do a land acknowledgement before I speak, because I'm just reflecting to everyone there in the audience. This is the land that you're on. These are the people who have tended to this land. We don't get to just own this land because we're here now. And it helps us to, to think of how we connect to the land itself, like the earth herself, how are we connecting to her?
Kaitlin (27m 22s):
How are we connecting to the stories of this land? And so they can be a really helpful tool, but they can also be done poorly. And without really the work of what it means to you're acknowledging the stories that have often been covered up in our history books and in our, in our churches, like we're, we're acknowledging that there has been violence done on this land. And so before we can get to reconciliation, are we honestly really coming to terms with the truth? You know, and I think that that's a really important thing that we need to ask ourselves if we're going to do actions like landing knowledgement, because other nations do that, they do them in Canada.
Kaitlin (28m 8s):
They're done in other places that are settler colonial States. So a colonized, a colonized state settler settler colonized, but we don't practice it here regularly. So it's, it's a question to ask why we don't and if we should. Yeah.
Amy Julia (28m 24s):
And I think, again, going back to that loose translation for the word for America, white person with long knives, I think, and even my just like initial response to that, which is sadness, right? But th like it will be uncomfortable at the very least if not actually transformative, but in a hard way to acknowledge the history of the land, it might also be restorative. You might get to a place where it becomes restorative or really beautiful to know something more about the history and what it means to be connected to this place. But I think there's just a, a sorrow, a pain and an acknowledgement of injustice.
Amy Julia (29m 8s):
That's at the base of that. I'm curious. Another thing you write about a couple of places in the book is holidays. And as a way into talking about holidays, I'm wondering how you as a family practice, religious and national holidays in a way that honors who you are. And again, I don't expect you to have it all figured out, but I'm just curious where you're at, what you're doing these days.
Kaitlin (29m 33s):
Yeah, it's interesting because I think it's like with many people groups, everyone assumes that all native Americans practice these holidays a certain way, or we don't practice them. Or we like, like every group of people, we have many different types of people who celebrate or don't celebrate or celebrate in different ways. Our family loves the, the idea of Thanksgiving, the idea of gathering at a table and eating together. And so what we do on that day is tell the truth about the holiday. I try to make indigenous dishes as well as some other dishes.
Kaitlin (30m 16s):
So we don't really do a lot of the traditional things, American Thanksgiving dishes, but we make some other, other dishes like that. Like I make wild rice dishes cause that's a wild rice is a really important food to our people and to the Ojibwa people. And so I make, I make wild rice dishes and we make other other dishes from other cultures and celebrate those. And then we talk about what gratitude means every day, you know, because I think that that's a thing is, you know, it's like one day out of the year, it's kinda like with Valentine's day, you have a day out of the year where everyone's supposed to remember to love each other. And I'm like, Oh, what if we actually, you know, loved each other every day?
Kaitlin (30m 59s):
So that's what bothers me about holidays is, I mean, I get, I get it, but also can we be practicing gratitude every day because just because we can and we should, you know, so yes, the holidays are full of tension for me and in a way that they weren't growing up, you know? And because when we choose to tell the truth and we choose to look into these stories, it does make things harder. You know, it brings attention to, Oh, no, this is not the America. I thought it was, or it isn't this place where everyone's dreams come true. It's actually a really filled with really horrible stories and a lot of pain.
Kaitlin (31m 38s):
And, you know, and so I think that that's been difficult, but also has been really beautiful too. And just recognizing the tension of that. And we did the same thing, you know, for Christmas, we, I make indigenous dishes for that as well. And we have big meals. So, you know, having feasts and meals is really important. We've started to celebrate winter solstice as well and kind of the solstice of each season because that it's, you know, recognizing the seasons of the earth and the sacredness of that is also a very spiritual practice that has been around for years and years, that the church hasn't always adopted because it seemed pagan.
Kaitlin (32m 21s):
Right. And so there, there aspects of that, that I'm coming back to and, and learning about, that's been really beautiful as well.
Amy Julia (32m 30s):
Yeah. I just learned this Easter season that the originally there actually was some relationship between the spring Equinox and Easter because of the sense of light and dark being equal at that time. And that has gotten lost in church tradition probably again, at least in part for reasons of, Oh gosh, that seems pagan. But I was like, gosh, that is so beautiful. And that connects in a different way than just like Easter eggs. The sense of what it is to celebrate on Easter and to say, yes, we're saying light shines in darkness, but we're not saying there's no darkness anymore.
Amy Julia (33m 13s):
You know, I just, anyway, that, that gave some resonance to me in connecting Easter actually to the earth and to the seasons that I had not had before, which actually brings me to another question you write about the church saying, what can we learn from indigenous peoples rather than just saying, Hey, can we knock on your door and evangelize you or colonized you, or, you know, any of these other horrible things, but the, so what can the church learn, but also how can the church learn this? Because I think, again, one of the postures, even of well-meaning Christians can still involve a posture of arrogance in, Oh, Hey, I'm here to do my good works of learning about you.
Amy Julia (33m 59s):
Right. So, so what can the church learn, but also how can the church learn?
Kaitlin (34m 4s):
Yeah, I think that, I think one of the constant sort of most important things has been trying to help, you know, Christianity and Christians understand that, that connecting back to the earth without seeing the earth as a commodity or as this thing that we get to sort of Lord over actually connecting and having, you know, what we would call kinship and relationship with the earth and with the creatures of the earth plants in our garden with the trees, you know, with water to, to listen to indigenous people as we practice, that would be a really great thing, I think for the church to understand, and what comes out of that, then the how of that is when we learn to have this reciprocal relationship with the earth, we will become more humble as human beings.
Kaitlin (34m 57s):
It will happen. And I've, I've felt it happened even in me. And when I choose to recognize like, okay, these trees hold more knowledge than I do about the earth. These waters know more than I do about this earth when we like really understand that. And then if you want to extend that, that means that creator knows more than I'll ever know about this earth. And I am here to be a humble listener. I'm here to learn and to hold this space, you know, of reciprocity that that literally can change the way that we think, the way that we engage with the earth. And then it begins to change the way we engage with other humans, because we see one another, as part of this connected whole, you know, this, what the, I think it's called the, the great web of being that, you know, we're all, we are all connected in this.
Kaitlin (35m 50s):
We are all meant to be in, in relationship with one another. And, and I just can't say that enough because, because the church is really uncomfortable with it. And that is where some of that, like you all just worship plants and trees and, you know, without listening to what we're actually trying to say, and, and that's been really difficult. So I think that truly is one of, one of the best things we can learn as human beings is to humble ourselves toward the earth and then to let the actually flow into our other relationships. And I think that then it would change the way we run our institutions and what we give our money to and how we treat each other.
Kaitlin (36m 32s):
I really think it would, but it takes a lot of unlearning and rewiring our brains and we have to be willing to do that, you know, and that's hard work.
Amy Julia (36m 41s):
Yeah. And I think within that, I'm curious because you write a little bit about learning more indigenous practices of prayer. And I'm curious again, just to hear a little bit about that and how that has shaped and affected prayer for you, you know, presumably you came out of a tradition with a here's how you pray and now you've been given some other traditions or practices and yeah. W how that's all fit together or not yet.
Kaitlin (37m 10s):
Yeah. I mean, I remember I still have journals from when I was younger and I, I have read through those before. And so many of my prayers were just now listing my sins, basically, just like, because it was kind of that, like, before you can talk to God, you have to tell God everything you've done wrong to kind of clear the pallet. So you can then ask for what you need or, you know, and, and I had only ever prayed in English. So the first time I learned a Pottawatomie prayer, it just, it just, it like opened up a different space inside of me where I could enter into prayer. And that has never changed.
Kaitlin (37m 51s):
That's always now been, I am more comfortable in some ways, praying in Pottawatomie than I am in English, even just as this prayer that I know, but also what, what prayer has taught me is this, again, this spirit of gratitude and of connection to the earth and to creator, which is just, I never felt that growing up in the church, I never felt that sort of, it was like, you know, God is up there and he's probably mad about something and he's writing your sins on anyway. So you better get them all out and then ask for what you need. But, you know, he's still making mad at you anyway, but yeah, he's also, and, you know, there's just, it was a lot, you know, and, and my prayers were often so filled with shame.
Kaitlin (38m 43s):
So can they be something different? And they, you know, and it's become something different for me, but prayer is still also something I struggle with. I think just coming out of that tradition, can prayer just be like, can prayer be breath? Can prayer, literally just be saying, <inaudible> just, thank you. Can it just be saying, thank you out loud. I think it can, you know, and that, so again, it has given me that expansiveness that I did not grow up having the, you know, I wasn't given that framework I grew up with in the Baptist church was a narrow framework of what prayer meant. And I'm grateful to be able to explore what it might mean in a different way.
Amy Julia (39m 24s):
Yeah. Thank you. Well, as we're coming to the end of our time, I am hesitant on the one hand ask this question just because as we talked about with both of our books and action plan for saving the world is not the point of the book, but you do at the end, you're writing about de-colonization and this is a quotation. You say it will take more than indigenous peoples to do the work. It will take all people de-colonization doesn't mean we go back to the beginning, but it means we fix what is broken now for future generations. And you've spoken to this a little bit already, but as we come to the end of this time, I am wondering what you would say.
Amy Julia (40m 8s):
It looks like to fix what is broken. Now.
Kaitlin (40m 11s):
I think that in my, see the, in my mind, the way that I tend to frame things is not again, not to tell people how to do it, but to help them like, find the posture of how to approach it. So I'm just, I'm going to go with that because I think I choose because some of this work, there are like, obviously like collective things that we need to do fighting, you know, practicing anti-racism and fighting against things like ableism and homophobia. And you know, all these things, oppression and, and hate crimes. And, you know, there's so many things, there's so many isms and there's so many systems that need to be dismantled in different ways.
Kaitlin (40m 52s):
I think though, that at the, at the core of so much of, of the problem, what we have is this, this individualistic idea of this is what we all have a role to play, but we need to understand that we are connected to one another in the roles that we, that we have to do. And so my work, I don't do this work just because of me. I do it because I belong to a people, but I belong to all humans. I belong to Christianity because it's what I am like. This work is about community, and it's about doing this as a whole and not just on the individual level. And I think that that's, again, something that we have to like rewire in our brains.
Kaitlin (41m 33s):
I think that it truly has broken us in a lot of ways, because we think that even our wellbeing is only for us and it's not, you know, even caring for ourselves has to be because we are part of a system, a unit, like we take care of ourselves because we also are trying to learn to care for one another better, those kinds of things. Like we need to not have an individualistic faith, but a faith that is actually connected to other people and connected to the earth like that web, that belonging. And I think that that is something we have to sort of unlearn is that individualism, that rugged individualism like me against the world. And that's really hard to unlearn, but it will help us to understand like our place within these systems.
Kaitlin (42m 21s):
But I don't know, I don't know how much we can do until we get to some of those places because we, we can't do the work if we don't understand that we belong to each other.
Amy Julia (42m 35s):
Yeah. So there's a framework, a posture of both of our hearts, but also of our like, well, in the midst of this head, heart hands idea, but also have our heads, right? Like that, like actually understanding, connecting to people, connecting to the earth, connecting to God in a broader, expansive sense of who that might be and what that might mean. All of those things are going to animate action rather than just go out and start doing something right now. And so there's, it sounds like I know this has been true in your life. It's certainly been true in mine, but I think it would be, as you said, like in terms of getting people to own the work that there is to be done is saying, yeah, what are the questions that you want to ask about where you, who you are about where you are about what is going on and has gone on and how you're connected and interconnected and all of those things in time will lead to action.
Amy Julia (43m 38s):
And it will look different from person to person and even perhaps from group to group, but it will ultimately, I believe if we are actually beginning to be able to connect to the really real, like the true reality, then that will actually be in sync with each other rather than just continuing the brokenness.
Kaitlin (44m 1s):
Yeah. And I, I like to remind people that, you know, this decolonization work or anti-racism work, all of, all of these things that we're fighting against, this, this violence status quo that we have created, like this is lifelong work. It's not meant to be done in a week. It's not meant to be done after we read two books and then we're done. Like, that's not, that's, that's dangerous to think of it that way. But I think a lot of people think that that's how it is. Like, all right, I'm going to start here and then I'm going to finish it. And that's not, this journey is, is lifelong. And it'll involve us messing up and trying again and apologizing and fixing it and reading another book and then reading that book all over again. Cause I don't think we got it the first time or, you know, like, yeah.
Kaitlin (44m 42s):
And that is all part of it. And, and I think we need to constantly remind ourselves of that as well. That every time we, we do, we take the step forward and we do the action. That doesn't mean we've now reached the, the end and done all the things, it'll it. We should always be doing all of the things and not think that we have to reach some finish line. Like we're always doing it. That's what being human is. That's how we love each other better
Amy Julia (45m 9s):
Love that. That's how we love each other better. And that's, we're invited into I'm actually I have on my window, the prayer from the book of Ephesians that I was thinking about when you were speaking earlier, because it talks about being rooted in love, rooted and established in love. And just how like actually thinking about and understanding trees is going to give a different understanding. And even just the sense of like God not being up there and out there, but no rooted in love. That means like put your roots down into who God is. And that sense of invitation to doing this work is an invitation to participate in love forever.
Amy Julia (45m 51s):
And so, no, it's not going to end because neither is love. Not because it's just so hard and it's never ending, but like, no, because that's an awesome invitation, even though it will involve, I think some, some pain along the way, it will also be something that is beautiful. So thank you for your beautiful book and for your time and for just the many thoughts and questions that you had to offer. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear. If you appreciated today's episode, I would love to hear from you. And I will mention once again, that Katelyn's book is called native identity belonging and rediscovering dot.
Amy Julia (46m 33s):
You can find a link to her book, a transcript of this conversation and references to other things that we mentioned in the show notes. I also want to thank our cohost to breaking ground the editor of this podcast, Jake Hansen, and always Amber Barry, my social media coordinator, who does more to support this show and every aspect of the worst than I do than anyone will ever know. So grateful for all of them. And I'm grateful for you. Thank you for listening. As you go into your day to day, I do hope that you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.