Six Common Perspectives on Native Americans

Caricatures, Perspectives, and Reflections

I have met a lot of people with various perspectives on Native Americans. After a life-time of living among non-Indian Americans, and being one myself, I feel somewhat confident in my knowledge of what non-Indian Americans believe. Although not exhaustive, the list below provides a good cross-section of perspectives I have encountered during this past year in particular. I would like to say that they all are exaggerated caricatures, but I would have to cross my fingers behind my back. The reality is that many of us hold to a combination of these perspectives. The challenge for all of us is to read through the list and see where we find our reflection, and ask the Lord to give us His perspective through the lens of the gospel.

Six Common Perspectives on Native Americans

1. Relatively Oblivious – This person has little to no knowledge of Native Americans today. This person has never met a Native or at least has no knowledge of meeting one. This person doesn’t not know that reservations still exist, yet when they learn of that fact wonder if Indians still live in teepees. I have even met people who thought the Indians were all gone.

2. History buff/antagonist perspective – This person read a lot of American history and is very eager to point out the sins of Native Americans by educating you on Indian attacks on white settlers. Recent court cases ruling in favor of a particular tribe that resulted in restitution are often cited.

3. Hollywood-informed, sympathetic perspective – You generally cheer for the underdog. You saw some movies like Indian in the Cupboard and Dances with Wolves. You have actually memorized the epic scene with Wind in His Hair’s emotional farewell to Dances with Wolves. Just thinking about, you really want to watch it again. Go ahead and watch it here.

4. Hollywood-informed, unsympathetic perspective – This person saw a lot of John Wayne-type westerns and believes the narrative that the Indians were irrational, blood-thirsty savages who were getting in the way of the progress of American civilization. “The only good Injuns are dead.”

5. Politically-driven perspectives* – This person sees life mostly through political goggles, which usually have either red or blue lenses.

  • Blue lenses seem to create an overwhelming sense of the proverbial “white guilt,” which can only be relieved by creating new tenants of political correctness enforced by yet more big government solutions. Oddly, the blue-lens perspective is just as paternalistic as our forefathers on both sides of the aisle in Washington, which has caused most of our problems today.
  • Red lenses have a tendency to reject anything that smacks of political correctness. Typical mantras in this camp include: “Disband the reservations, tribes are socialistic anyway. Tax the casinos. Build that oil pipeline through their land, and frack, baby, frack! It’s all about jobs. Make them assimilate! Go Redskins!” The red-lens view often sees reservations as welfare states attributing all the social ills such as high addiction, crime, and suicide rates to the dependence on government subsidies. Although it recognizes the tragedies of the past, it believes that the best thing to do for Native Americans is to disband the reservations and take them off government “hand-outs.” Problem solved.

6. Pro-Western, seemingly biblically Reformed perspective **– This perspective is related to the politically driven perspective, but now mixed with just enough theology to sound biblical. Foundational tenets include: 1. God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, 2. This is a nation based on Judeo-Christian principles, and 3. Providence has shown that God judged the Indians using a Christian/Western nation. Therefore, the U.S. was justified in its conquering the land and Natives. There are multiple variations of this view.

More can be added to the list, but these common perspectives are the most frequent I encounter when talking with people about our mission to Cherokee.

Excerpt from HOW: Where you informed about Native Americans?

MLK, Native Americans, and the Rest of Us

On this day of recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments for all Americans, I would like to take this moment to draw attention to a people group who are usually not at the forefront of our minds when we think about racism, civil rights, and inequality — Native Americans. Below is an excerpt from an article, HOW: Were you informed about Native Americans?, I wrote challenging us to examine our views about Native Americans and  consider the ripe mission field in Indian Country.

How many of us have ever gone through the age-old ritual of that standard, cliché, Indian greeting? You know the one where you put on your best blank stare, raise your right hand as if to take an oath in court, and with monotone voice, you say, “HOW.” In case you didn’t know, it’s not a real greeting, and it’s not real funny. But it is a real sign that you may be misinformed about a real people group living among us.

As non-Indian American Christians, let’s turn that around and get informed. Perhaps we can convert an uncouth greeting into a prompt for a series of questions that will better align us with Christ’s purposes:

  • How can we better love our unbelieving Native neighbors?
  • How can we be better witnesses to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to Native Americans?
  • How can we avoid age-old, man-made stumbling blocks that get in the way of the Great Commission?
  • How can we be better brothers and sisters to the Native American church?
  • How can we change our assumptions, ignorance, and unchallenged ideas about Native Americans?
  • How can we reach out to Native Americans as emissaries of peace for the kingdom of Christ rather than repelling them as just another misinformed generation of non-Native Americans?
  • How can we better pray for Native America?

. . . and the list could go on.

To learn more about misinformed views of Native Americans and how we can better love our neighbors, please read the rest of the article HOW: Were you informed about Native Americans? here.

All for His Kingdom!

Patrick Lennox

Unless the Lord Builds the House…

Lennoxes enjoying family time at the Old Carriage House on Scarborough Beach, Rhode Island.

Lennoxes enjoying family time at the Old Carriage House on Scarborough Beach, Rhode Island.

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Here we are at the beginning of a new year, looking forward to see what the Lord will do with us as we continue our journey to Cherokee. One lesson we have been reminded of again and again is that no matter who we are, what we have done or thought we have done, or who we know or thought we knew, or what plans we have made, “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps 127:1, ESV). This is both humbling and encouraging. This passage reminds us of our weakness and dependence on the Lord, while assuring us that He can establish our plans for His purpose and glory. Of all the worldly vocations Jesus could have engaged in, providentially He was a carpenter, and He didn’t retire went He went to glory (Jn 14:1-4, ESV). Jesus still is the Master Builder, and He challenges us to believe that today. I hope you will accept that challenge and labor with us to see what the Lord builds in Cherokee.

Excerpt from Lennox Letters January 2015

Please take time to read our latest newsletter: Lennox Letters January 2015. Click on the Newsletters tab to see past issues. To subscribe to Lennox Letters eNewsletter, sign up here. 

A Recommended Article: Faithful Over Little by Tony Carter

As I prepare for our January issue of Lennox Letters Newsletter, I was reviewing last month’s issue and re-read this piece entitled Do Not Despise Small Beginnings:

We worship a God who does not despise small beginnings (Zech 4:10). There are many other ministries doing great things worthy of your support. Unlike many of the big ministries, missionaries don’t have much to offer you except first-hand reports from the field and opportunities to pray. There are no big conferences, multimedia productions and broadcasts, or cool t-shirts (yet?). There are many ways to minister to Native Americans, but our primary effort right now is to plant a church in Cherokee. If the Lord wants to do more, which we are pretty sure he does, we joyfully and eagerly await his leading. Please join us in this journey and see where the Lord takes it. (excerpted from Lennox Letters December 2014).

At the risk of being redundant, I felt encouraged to re-post this after I read an article written by an old friend, Tony Carter, who pastors East Point Church in the Atlanta area. Yeah, I guess I am name-dropping, but that’s okay, because Tony really is my friend, and he has been a source of encouragement to me since we worked together at Ligonier Ministries (did I just drop another name?).

Well back to the article. It doesn’t take much set up, and I won’t spend much time tying my thoughts above with his article except to say that it is our job to be faithful to the Lord and he will worry about the size of our ministries. I couldn’t help but think of my first pastor, Carl Guiney and the many pastor friends I have who have been pouring their lives into the Bride of Christ in seemingly obscurity outside the glow of the limelight.

The article is entitled Faithful Over Little, and you can read it here: http://thefrontporch.org/2015/01/faithful-over-little/. Be sure to join Tony and his other friends on The Front Porch from time to time. You will be blessed.

All for the Kingdom!

Patrick