Truth Be Told

Signed copies of the book I co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah, "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" are available from my website:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Prayer of Indigenous Peoples

Yesterday morning I sat in my home here on the Navajo Reservation and watched a live webcast of the "Evangelical Immigration Table". I felt impotent, tired, angry and frustrated. For on my screen Christians were rallying around and celebrating the introduction of a bi-partisan immigration reform bill that was being introduced by the "Gang of 8" Senators.  I felt this way because for nearly a decade I have been talking, writing, speaking and praying about the importance of intentionally including the voices of indigenous peoples in the process to "comprehensively and justly" reform immigration law. I have walked the halls of Congress and hand delivered letters to Senators and Representatives, I have spoken on the boards of churches and Christian organizations, I have built relationships with national Christian, academic and political leaders, I have written blogs, published articles, spoken at conferences and presented seminars, all asking, imploring, our nation to intentionally reach out to, and include the voices of Native peoples in the dialogue on immigration reform.

But to no avail.  Because on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, without ever consulting members of the Native community, the Gang of 8 introduced their plan to comprehensively reform our nation's immigration laws. And I watched on a live webcast, as my non-native friends, my partner organizations, the leaders of the church, even our politicians celebrated this milestone and congratulated themselves.

And this was not the first time I have felt this way. Numerous times in the last 15 months as I worked tirelessly to draw attention to the US Apology to Native Peoples that was buried in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, I would feel these emotions. It was the same drill as with Immigration Reform. I spoke, wrote, published, blogged, walked the halls of Congress, spoke with national leaders, attended conference and led seminars, doing everything I could to invite our nations, our leaders and the church to own this apology. But most everyone I spoke with couldn’t be bothered enough to take action.

I don't understand it. Am I mute? Can I not be seen? Are my writings illegible? How can so many people listen to my words and express appreciation for them to my face, but then when they are brought by God to an audience with power or presented by Him with an opportunity for action, forget those words and remember their appreciation no longer? 

I don't know what to do next. I have prayed, I have spoken, I have written, I have reached out. 

And I am tired.                     
I guess my only alternative is to go back to the drawing board and once again get down on my knees.  So if you read this, and agree with these words, I ask you to pray with me this prayer that I modeled after Moses' prayer for the Israelites when he was with God on top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 32: 10-14).

I have titled it "A Prayer of Indigenous Peoples"

Our Father who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.

Father, over 500 years ago a sailor got lost at sea. And in your name he claimed to have "discovered" a land that was already inhabited. He was followed by hundreds, then thousands and soon millions of other "un-documented" immigrants.
In your name these immigrants committed acts of genocide against our native peoples.
In your name they stole our land.
In your name they signed and then broke treaties.
In your name they took our children from our homes and violently forced them to assimilate to their culture.
In your name they counted us as less than human.
And in your name they marginalized those of us who were left to the fringes of their society.

Father, a little over 3 years ago, in your name, the ancestors of these immigrants attempted to apologize for their history.
But in your name, they vaguely worded their apology so they could not be held accountable for their actions.
And in your name they buried their apology in a Defense Department appropriations bill and never spoke of it publically.

And Father, today, in your name they are rallying around and celebrating a proposed bill to 'comprehensively' reform immigration law. But they have never acknowledged, nor reconciled, the original immigration injustices of this nation. Nor have they seriously consulted or included the voices of the indigenous peoples of this land in the writing of this bill.

For as Native peoples, we are all but invisible to them.

So Father, for nothing other than the glory of your name, I ask you to act. 

For the glory of your name I ask you to compel this nation of immigrants to acknowledge and face their unjust history.
For the glory of your name I ask you to bring a conversation for reconciliation the forefront of our national consciousness.
For the glory of your name I ask you to demonstrate to my country that without being reconciled with, and getting input from, indigenous peoples this “nation of immigrants” lacks the authority to comprehensively reform immigration law, as well as the ability to rule these lands justly.
For the glory of your name, I ask you to raise up indigenous peoples and allow us to once again be the hosts of this land. To share our families, our stories and, our connection to this land with our guests.

Father, if you fail to act.
If you allow the United States and your church to play both sides of this coin.
If you allow them to commit acts of injustice in your name.
If you allow them to bury their apology for these injustices in your name.
If you allow them to celebrate their blindness and to rule without integrity in your name.

Then many native peoples in the US, and other indigenous peoples throughout the world, may see your inaction and conclude as true the lie which we have been told for 5 centuries...

...that you truly are the "White man's God."

Father, I am not asking you to judge our nation, nor am I seeking your vengeance upon our guests.
Instead, I am pleading for your healing.
Heal my people.
Heal our guests.
Heal our land.

Our Father who art in Heaven
Hollowed by thy name.
May thy kingdom come,
May thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.


Kiersti said...


Anonymous said...

powerful prayer and I join you in it. May Your Kingdom come. may Your will be done, as it is in heaven. Amen.

Willie Krischke said...

Praying this with you.

carina menaker said...

I will pray for this vision.

Anonymous said...

Dude! U can barely speak Navajo and at the same time, you have a Navajo christian singing a traditional Navajo song. How ironic in that you have a christian singing a traditional song when it was the Christian ideology that the current reservation conditions. Stop what your doing, go back to Dine College and educate yourself about when a person sings a traditional song. Humble yourself with real traditional ceremonies on the reservation instead of getting on your knees with this christian stuff. I apologizes for being critical but your approaching a serious issue from an entirely weak position.

Jennifer Major said...

Amen, and I am so sorry that you worked so hard and came up against yet another wall. I have no idea what else to say, other than I am so sorry.

Don Williams said...


Anonymous said...

Yes, I AGREE....but we cannot put God in a box by saying if you do not act, then you are only white man's God. Then you are manipulating. Yes, this is a disappointment, but let's not go too far. He will work it all out in his timing, you cannot force His hand. His thoughts are higher than yours and His ways not yours.

Mark Charles said...

Dear Anonymous, I agree with you. This is a bold prayer. But I did my best to model it after Moses prayer in Exodus 32:10-14. God is threatening to destroy the Israelites for worshiping the Golden Calf and Moses appeals to God's name, telling Him that if he does not relent, then the nations will see it and conclude that it was with evil intent that God brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

...and God relented. :-)

Anonymous said...

like I said, go back to the rez and talk to some elders who know a thing or two about traditional knowledge. It sounds like you have no idea about Navajo traditional knowledge. Maybe one day, you will be able to figure out that Christianity doesn't even compare to Navajo knowledge. Christianity is in its current state because of using its faith to manipulate people for political power. the fact of the matter is, Christianity has lost it direct line of communication with the creator a long time ago. How ignorant can one be of spirituality to lose such a thing and they go on and pretend as if they still have that line of communication. I'm sorry but Christianity is a joke! And using Christianity as a basis for your argument here is ridiculous.

Terry Wildman said...

A voice crying in the desert wilderness... how long O Great Creator?

I stand with the heart of my Navajo brother. Even though I have little hope that the U.S. will ever turn away from its injustices to Native Peoples, I still have hope that a remnant of the followers of Jesus will respond.

Please pray with our brother as he openly expresses his broken heart for our peoples.

Will we understand "the things that make for peace" and "recognize the day of our visitation?

Eric Nykamp said...

You are not working in vain.
Many of the prophets felt like you do.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing. I am praying along with you.

Dee Peshlakai said...

Mark, I commend you for your efforts in the face of such a great wrong. We are a spiritual people and prayers are sometimes the only things left to do when all else is forgotten. The Native peoples answer to immigration was not to limit entry because it was a foreign concept back then. The consequence was the near genocide of all our ancestors. Therefore I must conclude that they fear the same consequence and will seek to limit entry for the sake of self-preservation. I wish we Natives could have done the same way back when to be honest. It all has to do with restricting access by our neighbors to the south if the truth be told. Creator doesn't see color. Humans do. Navajos were just fortunate to be born on the right side of the fence. We aren't immigrants but we were treated like we were. Assimmilate to become contributing citizens and Christians or else. Does anybody really know what the treaties really say? Its all about control. When you feel out of control then you must pray.

Anonymous said...


This is a Great prayer. I feel the pain and struggle of your mob through this prayer. It goes straight to the heart of the issues that emerge from the the false doctrine of discovery that Indigenous people's are confronting globally. Needed to be said. When local, national and global politics has failed us for so long, we can only look outside our human institutions, and intellect to our Creator to seek a pathway for all our Indigenous peoples who are being brutalised by colonial governments for far too long..

Ray Minniecon Kabi Kabi Nation. Australia.

Kirby Urner said...

The Wabanaki peoples in the continental northeast have been effective getting more of their story out there. Two tribal members presented to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) corporation meeting a few weeks ago. The truth process in the Maine area seems to be moving along.
Some Quakers are studying the role of their own institutions in all this twisted (often ugly) history.

Alvin said...

This is cool!

Kally said...

Wow. This is powerful. I was searching for a prayer for the indigenous people and I came across this!

I stand in agreement with you in prayer and decree breakthrough and peace for every indigenous tongue and tribe in Jesus Name.

Thanking You Yahweh for divine intervention and for Your Spirit of Unity to cast out all division and racial motives that have caused strife and murder to the people of the land.

Releasing the blessings of heaven over every tongue and tribe and decreeing the true spirit of repentance over all who must come to a place of reconciliation and repentance to both man and Yahweh (our Heavenly Father). Amen

Unknown said...

Agree with you.