Crow Tribal legislator C.J. Stewart discusses the new sign
An interesting phenomenon keeps popping up in my website feeds and personal friends’ contacts. On the Crow reservation a strong Pentecostal movement has erected a billboard declaring that their rez is a “theocratic nation.” They didn’t use that technical language but rather said: “Jesus Christ is Lord.” So they are mix/matching assumptions about what a nation is, what a religion is, what Christianity is, what lords and masters do anyway -- a confusion explored on “Downton Abbey” and shared with the Blackfeet tribe as well as the the US right wing politicians who aspire to being gentry. This pervasiveness is what makes the subject worth thinking about: we are at the crux of some kind of social shift. One premise is that being scared makes people go rule-ridden religious: superstitious. But that's not all there is to pentecostalism.
Demons, Saints, & Patriots: Catholic Visions of Native America through The Indian Sentinel (1902-1962), by Mark Clatterbuck. ISBN-13: 978-0-87462-746-6 &; ISBN-10: 0-87462-746-X. Paper. 288 pp. $29. Bibliography. Index. Marquette University
If you google, you'll find much more information. Look for the Billings Gazette.
Rocky Boy Cree Chippewa pow-wow
Also, Clutterback has written an article about another Montana rez which begins this way:
Sweet Grass Mass and Pow Wows for Jesus:
Catholic and Pentecostal Missions on Rocky Boy’s Reservation
Carl Starkloff, borrowing imagery from a prayer he once heard by an Arapaho medicine man, often encouraged Native Catholics to permit a confluence of tribal and Catholic traditions to take place in their own religious lives, like the meeting of two rivers into one. As a Catholic theologian and longtime Jesuit missionary among Native people in the United States and Canada, Starkloff began challenging the prevailing winds of “syncretophobia” at a time when many religious leaders and scholars regarded syncretism as a dirty word. Through the last two decades of his life, he came to see syncretic process not only as inevitable, but as a process possessing rich possibilities for increasingly authentic religious expressions—especially among communities, like Native American tribes, who find themselves living at the intersection of two or more religious traditions.
In July 2008, I spent ten days among the Chippewa-Cree on Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana, exploring through interviews the ways in which Native Christians are navigating the mingling of religious currents taking place there today. I was particularly interested in the syncretic confluence occurring among Native Catholics in contrast to Native Pentecostals on the reservation. During the course of my stay, I interviewed members of two mission congregations—Living Water Assembly of God and St. Mary’s Catholic Church—to hear firsthand how Christian and traditional ways are brought together, or kept apart, in their own lives. Whether one-on-one or in a group setting, we talked in Sunday School rooms and living rooms, on Sun Dance grounds and in parish halls. Our conversations continued over Indian tacos and buffalo stew, pulling weeds and splitting wood. My questions for them revolved chiefly around issues of religious and cultural identity. What tensions, if any, do you experience by being both Native and Christian? Are there traditional Indian practices your Christian faith prevents you from performing? Should traditional Native rituals be blended with Christian liturgical practice? What does Jesus mean to you? . . .
Mark Clatterbuck has been actively engaged in the Christian-Native encounter for more than fifteen years, including teaching and parish work on the Rocky Boy’s Chippewa-Cree Reservation in Montana. He holds a PhD in Religion and Culture from the Catholic University of America. Currently he lives with his wife and two daughters in Lancaster, PA.
Repeating history, it appears that some Crow folks went looking for spiritual inspiration and guidance at a Los Angeles powerful Pentecostal church. They came back “on fire,” to use a Pentecostal metaphor. The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” It comes from the ancient Christian expression pentekoste hemera, which means “fiftieth day.” In turn, that comes from Jewish history. This is just enough to label a movement which is expressed both as a denomination and as an independent force within and without Christian context.
The remarkable event on the Crow reservation is that Pentecostal ideas have become conflated with the traditional pre-Christian ideas and practices. (It's called "syncretism.") This has caused some people to say the Pentecostals are heretics and others to object that they are destroying their identity as Indians, which means keeping alive the old ways and ideas as much as they can know them. Militantly, they mutter about “Stockholm Syndrome” which means identifying with one’s captors, as Patty Hearst did.
“Primitive” Christianity -- meaning “prime” or “first” as in the Canadian phrase “First Nations” -- was about tribes, warriors, protecting resources -- not so different over there in the Middle East even though they were herding, fishing, trading people rather than buffalo-dependent. But modern Christianity is hegemonic -- meaning it imposes its European culture as a source of power and money. The United States as founded was hegemonic but probably other major factions of Crow are powerful enough to challenge even the feds. Being Christian is good for business, but smart pastors -- like the ones here in Blackfeet country -- include Native American ceremonial elements in their services. They are syncretistic. Not all whites recognize the wisdom of that.