Now You Know

Now You Know

Matilda Law Knox was born in Ireland in 1831. In 1879, having survived the great potato famine and widowed at a young age, she packed up her six young boys along with their few belongings, placed them on a ship and immigrated to the United States in hope for a better life for her children. My great-great-grandmother was a strong person with an indomitable spirit.

In 1889, at the age of 20, my great-grandfather, William and his brother Irvin found themselves in Oklahoma with a dream of owning land. Along with 50,000 others, they staked their claims during the Oklahoma Land Run.

Courageous. Hardworking. Honest. These are the qualities my ancestors possessed. These were the ideals we were raised to aspire to. They had built a foundation, a legacy to be proud of.

Growing up

I grew up listening to the stories. I went to school, worked hard and learned the lessons.  I recited “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and was excited when I got a day off school to celebrate the accomplishment. Why would I question the textbooks or my teachers?

It was January 2014, that I received an email inviting me to join a small group of United Methodist Women members that later became the Acts of Repentance Working Group. We were to begin the work of advocacy and justice for indigenous people. I received documents from the United Methodist Women National Office speaking to the Doctrine of Discovery and a side of history that was not included in the history books I grew up with.  A heaviness began to settle on me as I questioned my own knowledge and perceptions.

As I continued to read and listen to the stories of Native Americans, the heaviness grew into doubt and guilt. I was obviously struggling, when a Native person shared a little wisdom.  My guilt was of no use. What was needed was my spirit to walk alongside, my ears to listen and voice to speak up. Basically, it was time to get over myself!

It didn’t happen overnight, but I came to understand that my ancestors were still good people. They did not know, nor did their children know the horrible price that was paid for the very ground that I ran and played on.

That knowledge has fallen to me.

The Other Side of the Story

Whether you celebrate Columbus Day to honor Italian-Americans or Christopher Columbus, or just enjoy a day off, it is imperative that we learn the other side of the story. The arrival of Columbus to the Americas marks the arrival of The Doctrine of Discovery. It sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization and exploitation of non-Christian nations. This doctrine is responsible for the justification of robbing people of their identity, of their culture, of their very lives. It is a deeply embedded reality of our white privilege and institutional racism. It continues to shape our relationships with Native Americans.

Now you know.

Please join me in this walk, to listen and to speak up for justice and right relationship. May the words of the psalmist touch your heart as we pray:

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
And righteousness will look down from the sky.”
–Psalm 85:10-11

Cindy Saufferer is Secretary of the United Methodist Women Board of Directors.


Posted or updated: 10/8/2017 12:00:00 AM

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