Category Archives: YCM

Abolish Columbus Day?

14.10.13October 13, 2014

Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of Jamaica on May 5, 1494. The Jamaican Tanos people went from sixty thousand to zero in fifty years. To replace the Tanos, Spaniards brought slaves from Africa. Because of a lack of perceived riches, the Spaniards were gone a 150 years after arriving.

The first Europeans to connect with West African coastal people were Portuguese traders. As the fifteenth century ended, Spanish, Dutch, British, and French had all established a presence in West Africa. The Berlin Conference on the Congo in 1884-85 created an all-out European scramble to claim and colonize West African land and peoples.

Well it is Columbus Day again. Isn’t that somewhat hard to believe? After all, if anyone of any consequence—person or group—thought the actions of Columbus were worth a damn, retailers would have had their promotions out a month ago. When I was in elementary school, few gave Columbus Day a second thought and there were promotions. Today, though, folk are beginning to believe Columbus Day needs replacement, say, with something along the line of Indigenous Day (The mayor of Seattle is signing to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day today.). Maybe that is good… Continue reading

Dressing For Wellness


October 11, 2014

After living a number of years on a farm a friend noted that before coming to the farm he had no idea how well versed his children would become in death. The line between death and life on a farm is not a thick one—nor should it be, for death should be as natural as life whether on a farm or in the city. Whether one plants crops or raises animals, a balance exists between planting and birth, harvest and death. For animal raisers, the butcher date arrives eventually. For crop folk, harvest leads to spring plowing where all sorts of life—gophers, rabbits, voles, and bugs are lost. Done well, farm life is a harmonious interplay between life and death.

I’ve another friend who is spending some of his time writing essays dealing with death and death rituals. His What happens to village death rituals when people move to town? has me pondering a common local death ritual that today is uncommon in most of our communities -The Dressing.

Though uncommon today, the 1984 movie Places in the Heart has a scene that tells how normal the ritual of dressing once was. Sheriff Royce Spalding, who lives at the edge of town, is called away from his meal. While away he is accidently shot and dies. Four local men bring the body back home. As they enter the home, one quickly takes a lone plate off the dining table and lays it on the sideboard. Continue reading

Active Awareness


September 21, 2014

Some eras are of awareness, others action. The Christian Doctrine of Discovery is in an era of awareness. As denominations, the United Nations, and World Council of Churches take a stand on the Doctrine of Discovery, folk are slowly beginning to question what it is and how it affects them and their neighbor. Knowledge of the Doctrine of Discovery calls for action, but until enough folk understand the historical and modern ramifications of the Doctrine of Discovery there will be no meaningful action. That is to say, there is significant action in bringing folk into awareness, but meaningful action—action that changes lives through societal structural change—is ahead of us, but not now.

When the era of action occurs depends on how well this generation helps folk understand the impact the Christian Doctrine of Discovery (DOD) has had on their life, the life of their children, and the life of their neighbor. Such awareness takes time.

My high school years were those of the early seventies; the Red Power Movement was at its height; Vine Deloria Jr.’s 1973 book God is Red had just published; and I took an elective class on American Indians. I and many folk read God is Red and learned about the DOD in the seventies, however structural changed never occurred. Bottom line, even though folk knew about the DOD, few had the ears to understand Deloria’s words. It took me another thirty years and life on the reservation before I began to grasp what Deloria was getting at. This inability to hear occurs because folk come to the DOD with a normalized mindset that does not lend itself to accepting ideas that may call them to change existing conditions. This crawl to awareness can change, but folk will need to engage in discernment of the DOD’s effects in their communities. Continue reading

Eating Locally, Artistically


September 13, 2014

Belinda and I were asked to join a ten-day program to eat locally. Folk were hoping to get some statistics on how hard it is to eat food from within a 100-mile radius of our home. We didn’t join in, but it is harvest time and what isn’t grown in our garden is by one of our neighbors. This is our vegetarian time of year and local eating is easy.

The local movement has asked us all to consider eating locally for a while now. The local idea is moving along, but one needs only to drive through town and see the cars at Applebees, McDonald’s, Outback, and the slew of non-local eateries and know it has a long way to go.

Perhaps more folk could enjoy local foods if they understand locally does not mean never eat non-local foods. Rather local eating is about honoring non-local food by knowing food is sacred and relational. Relational meaning one knows their food and the landscape of origin—soil, farmer, weather, rancher, water, fisherwo/man. Such knowledge brings forth an intimacy that binds one to their food and its relations. This bond creates better tasting meals and a reason to share.

There is not a farmer, rancher, fisher that does not want to share the fruits of their labor. Sharing enriches those who labor and those who eat. Most of the time there is no reason for meals to be non-local in origin, but there are times when everyone becomes richer by eating from the landscape of another.

An example that comes to mind is artistically given in the 1987 Danish film Babette’s Feast. Babette, a refugee from the Paris Commune (during the French Revolution), arrives in a small village on the western coast of Denmark. Worn out she arrives at the doorstep of two sisters with only a letter from Achille Papin, a renowned French singer. Having little money the sisters take her in after she agrees to work for free. Continue reading

Busting Reclamation Anvils


September 6, 2014

The Yakama Nation is in the process of reclaiming jurisdiction in five areas of civil and criminal justice. Since 1953 Washington State has held authority over school attendances, public assistance, domestic relations, juvenile delinquency, and motor vehicle operations by way of a federal law known as Public Law 280. In 2012 the Nation filed a petition with the State, which led to then-Governor Gregoire to sign a bill approving a procedure for the Nation to reclaim jurisdiction in those five areas. January of this year saw Governor Inslee issue a proclamation return jurisdiction to the Nation.

When Belinda and I first started looking for land to buy on the reservation in 1999, a number of folk questioned our sanity (That is, after we answered the slew of questions that came along wondering how we could buy land on the reservation in the first place.). They questioned our buying because one day the Yakama Nation might regain total jurisdiction and that might lower land prices. The background question seldom asked was, could you really trust the Tribe to support your best interest?. The second question is a hard one to answer and one to grabble another day. The first one though is much easier.

When Governor Inslee wrote his proclamation, he said jurisdiction could return to the Yakama except for when it involves non-Indians operating motor vehicles on the reservation. The State would retain jurisdiction in these civil cases and well as in criminal cases involving “non-Indian defendants, non-Indian plaintiffs, and non-Indian victims.”

What Inslee withholds in his proclamation is foundational to why non-Indians have little worry (if they are going to worry) about the Yakama regaining total jurisdiction of the land “within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Reservation (See Proclamation).” Continue reading

A Better Memory, Can We Handle It?


June 7, 2014

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other sorts of U.S. media figured they had a great story this week with the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. The Post, like others, spoke of how there is “no trace of remembrance on 25th anniversary of protests.” Listening to folk talking about this brought back a number of images for me. As those images bounced around in my head, I also found myself getting upset with those speaking about how could anyone forget, or well, that’s China’s government for you.

Really?! How can such a time in history be forgotten or hidden from the people? Too often, and this is one of those times, U.S. citizens have a good time looking at and complaining about the inadequacies of others when they should be comparing and contrasting those atrocities with their own.

Don’t remember Tiananmen Square? How about the Sand Creek massacre? Or President Lincoln and Mankato, Minnesota where the largest mass execution in the U.S. took place? Or Wounded Knee 1890? Or Wounded Knee 1973? Or Pine Ridge 1975 and Leonard Peltier?

The images of Tiananmen Square continue to disturb me. They are images of how a society holds people at bay when they call out for recognition and freedom. And while I want to speak about the need to remember those images, I also want to say that we, the people of the United States, have as much to remember as the people, the media, and the political leaders of China. The U.S. does well at silencing our own and this silencing isn’t only of the past.

There may not be an image of a lone man in front of tanks on the National Mall, but we have our own. Consider the Cleveland Indian Mascot or the Washington Redskins name, or the Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop; are they not the same as Tiananmen Square? Perhaps one might think not, but one, ask American Indians what they think, and two mull over the last time folk in your office or congregation had a serious conversation about poverty on reservations, the high rate of American Indian suicides, or the Supreme Court’s silencing of American Indian voice and rights. Continue reading

As Clouds Diminish


April 15, 2014

When the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) began construction on the American Tepee Christian Mission in 1920 there is little chance they had a clue what they were getting themselves into. They had no idea of their Christian Doctrine of Discovery roots, but claimed the rightness of their manifest mindset. So with a theological sureness and social certainty that hindered the asking of generational questions that might have helped them to grasp the consequences of their actions, Disciples embarked on a journey of cultural and social change.

Having become the fastest growing American Christian denomination at the turn of the century instilled a confidence that led Disciples to empower W.F. Turner and the American Christian Missionary Society with the task of civilizing and Christianizing Yakama people. Opening the ATCM Christian Home doors in 1921 began a Yakama-Disciple relationship, that for better or worse, would help lay a community-social-religious framework that remains to this day.

I think of those early days as I enter this sixteenth summer as Director of the Yakama Christian Mission (YCM) and watch as the last remnant of Turner’s and turn-of-the-century Disciples venture into cultural and societal change is boarded up and sold. A lot has changed in these ninety-three years. Disciples have lost the surety that comes with being an upstart growing movement. Internal theological and social differences led to times of little compromise and splintering. Loss of folk created a financial anxiety that led a forgetfulness of the dreams and wishes and commitments of their cloud of witnesses. Those who lose their memory don’t always notice such forgetfulness, but for those who live on the fringes, they notice.

Forgetting the cloud of witnesses led Disciples to drop mission funding to their historical mission centers serving communities of color and of poverty in 2007: ATCM (now called Yakama Christian Mission), All Peoples in Los Angeles, Inman Center in San Antonio, and Kentucky Appalachian Ministries. The impact on each was both financial and spiritual. Continue reading



November 24, 2013

I walked off the plane and through two security doors leading to the public area of the airport.  Being one of the last to exit the prop plane that flies between Seattle and Yakima, my friend’s spouses and partners were already hugging and kissing them.  I’ve seen this many times after folks have returned from a trip, but this time, in the eyes of partners and returnees there was something different, something more.  The story of the eyes clearly said the last few weeks had been no adventure.

I first heard that word, adventure, four weeks earlier.  I had returned from Alaska and was making phone calls asking folk to consider volunteering for two or three weeks in the Alaskan bush.  There they would repair flooded homes.  (During the spring break-up, ice on the Koyukuk River broke.  House size chunks dammed the river, backed water up into a village of eighty folk.  Up and down river, one home after the next were flooded.)  I commented that it was late in the season and lying at the edge of the Arctic Circle meant winter wasn’t far off in this community.  If repairs were to happen, it meant boarding a small plane out of Fairbanks within a next week.  Edges were nudged a bit more when folk learned that if a medical emergency occurred, the best care was advanced first-aid until a flight could be arranged—24 hours wasn’t out of the question.  Edges smoothed a little when they learned three faith-based denominations were asked to go into three remote villages and if a team were not pulled together from the denomination assigned to a particular village, then flood work would have to wait until spring of 2014.  That is when I first heard, “well at least it’ll be an adventure.”  But it was not.

13.11.24f Continue reading

Summer Coffee


August 19, 2013

It is Monday and there are no folk at the Farm.  After a summer of Learning and Serving groups it seems a little lonely.  Well, being an introverted sort, maybe lonely isn’t the right word.  But there is something about walking out of your home each morning with a cup of coffee and having the opportunity to a conversation with someone(s) from a landscape other than your own.

One wonderful aspect of those morning conversations is the theological blend.  Conversations range from the morning sunrise (the theological tie is never a surprise), to fracking (well, a theological tie isn’t surprising here either), to family (okay, theology just arises in most every conversation!).  To start the day with another human being who I often hadn’t met until just a few days ago, with a cup of coffee, sitting on a wooden bench, watching the landscape wake up, and have the opportunity to talk about the life of our landscapes, our families, our friends, our churches, and our spiritual relationships is, well, just cool.

The summer is so different from those winter mornings when I sit with a cup of coffee and a book, inside the house, by myself, at hour when during the summer the land has been in light for hours, next to the woodstove.  Those mornings are wonderful and enlightening.  Yet they are often mornings that would not happen without these summer coffee cup mornings.  For these summer mornings often bestow my winter reading upon me.  One such reading that came up, last week, as we talked about subjects like the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and economic justice is the book The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowel.  But it isn’t always just books.  There was a time when we were talking about economics and the perceived need to always have a growing economy, which leads to convincing people to believe a normal life is to constantly strive to move up into the next and bigger house, and, of course, to always buy something.  This conversation led to the suggestion of watching the short video called The Story of Stuff.

The summer isn’t over.  There are many barbeques ahead with neighbors and friends.  There are those folk who are traveling the country and who will drop-in because they have visited the Farm as a member of a workgroup years ago or who have been told by someone to just stop by, walk the farm and maybe have a conversation.  Good days to come, but those regular morning coffee talks with folk who bring varied experiences and insights to the Farm and our lives will be missed.

© David B. Bell 2013

A Time To Talk


August 1, 2013
The following is a note penned by Bill Running Wolf after the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly.

Osiyo Ditsadanvtli a le Ditsadalvi,

This past week  in Orlando, Florida resolution GA-1324 Reflection on Christian Theology and Polity, the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, and the Indigenous Voice was brought before the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The purpose of the resolution was to encourage the members of the denomination to begin the process of examining how the Doctrine of Discovery has helped frame the theology and polity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) both historically and in the contemporary church. Within the past four years only [ a few] other denominations and the World Council of Churches have addressed this vital issue and repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. The Rev. David Bell states “The Christian Doctrine of Discovery (Doctrine) is a body of work beginning in the 15th century with a series of papal bulls and theological statements justifying the Age of Discovery and the colonization, conquest, subjugation of lands and peoples around the world. During the next 500 years, religio-political empires fashioned edicts, court decisions, treaties, and laws enhancing discovery efforts.” Today most Christian denominations and congregations actively and passively continue to treat Native Americans as second class and seek to fully assimilate Native Peoples into mainline Christian culture.

Last Wednesday, July 17, the General Assembly passed this resolution with a unanimous vote. This was an enormous step towards bringing the Native Voice into mainline Christianity and putting an end to over 500 years of religious abuse, oppression and exploitation. While there is still much to be done in order to bring the denomination to the place of repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery there is now great hope of that day arriving. This would not have been possible without the work of Rev. David Bell and his wife Belinda of White Swan, Washington as well as the support team who put the resolution together and the churches in the Northwest Region who sponsored it.

The next step proceeds now with the Christian Church (Diciples of Christ) committee that was formed at the General Assembly. It’s members include many volunteers from across the country and with the Rev. David Bell to help guide the journey. The Rev. Dr. Bill McCutchen and I currently represent the Native Voice Continue reading