2013: Signs of Hope in Seattle

I see broken inter-group relationships everywhere I go. This is part of my DNA as a peacebuilder, but it can become heavy. I must remind myself to celebrate the positive. There were signs of hope around Seattle in 2013.


Representative Jim McDermott introduced the Duwamish Tribal Recognition Act. There’s a history here of broken promises. The Duwamish are lacking federal recognition, and the rights and resources that come along with it. This particular bill may or may not solve the problem, but it’s heartening to see that the issue will not die.

The University of Washington, whose student body is less than 50% Euro-American, approved a new diversity education requirement for undergraduates. This effort will not add to students’ course load, but it will refocus it in a meaningful way. Great work, alma mater! I’m proud of you.

The Seattle Police Department is undergoing serious reform after being diagnosed with excessive use of force and suspected of racial bias. The process is not pretty; rumor has it there are significant pockets of resistance. However with the US Justice Department closely monitoring progress, there are bound to be some improvements.

Also in 2013, Seattle’s own Breakthrough Partners and Beloved Community launched the first annual Martin Luther King Jr Prayer Breakfast, adding a faith-based element to Seattle’s already impressive slate of MLK Day celebrations. The 2014 prayer breakfast will start early at 7 AM, but I trust we’ll have strong coffee. I wouldn’t miss it.

The County Council reached a compromise solution on hold requests from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). King County will end deportation holds on immigrants arrested for low-level offenses. This means that if you commit a traffic infraction, you pay the price for a traffic infraction – but you don’t get summarily deported. King County will continue to comply with ICE on larger offenses, so this policy may be reviewed again. For now, this middle-of-road compromise looks like a small victory for common sense.

Just yesterday, I read this uplifting quip from Indian Country Media Network:

“RESPECTFUL LOGO: The Spokane Indians baseball team, a Class A Northwest League team that’s affiliated with the Texas Rangers, have long collaborated with the Spokane Tribe of Indians in a partnership, and will make a logo in the Salish language the main logo on the front of its home uniforms for the 2014 season.”

This out-of-the-box solution that came through mutual respect and listening. I enter 2014 with a smile.

What does God think of Thanksgiving?

The turkey leftovers are gone, but I’m still thinking. Most of us know that the ‘Pilgrims and Indians’ story taught in school has been – ahem – sanitized. But the day is about being thankful, so it’s all good, right?

WhiteTurkeyBirdFaceWell, sort of. I do like Thanksgiving. It’s not about the food; it’s about being prompted to give thanks, to truly appreciate life. It’s counter-cultural act in an age of greed. The implication, often unspoken, is that many of us express our thanks directly to God.

So, what does God think about all this? I do believe God appreciates a grateful attitude. Not because God needs the ‘kudos’ but because God know it is the healthiest way for us to live. Giving thanks is a beautiful thing.

But what if it’s not just a simple harvest festival? What if we are commemorating a harvest that took place in a new land, where some other people were already living? And what if those other people were ultimately conquered and dispossessed?

Even today there is a disconnect between the views of ‘Indian’ and ‘Pilgrim’ descendants. For a range of feelings, check out the Thanksgiving coverage on Indian Country Today Media Network.  Some people are giving thanks, but others consider Thanksgiving a day of mourning and protest.

This disconnect is obvious, but I don’t hear many European Americans talking about it. In fact, the only white person I hear talking about it is comedian pundit Jon Stewart:

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”

The truth hurts. So, looking at this in spiritual terms, how might God see American Thanksgivings? In the path of Jesus, which I aim to follow, the scriptures teach that we can’t fully worship God when our human relationships are messed up. Right relationships are a prerequisite for true thanksgiving.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.” (The Gospel According to Matthew 5:23-24, Today’s New International Version)

I know that other faiths have related teachings, and I hope readers will share them with me. Let’s explore the possibilities together. How might a more holistic understanding of thanksgiving prompt us to do things differently? How could we rewrite the future Thanksgiving story in a way that God can really celebrate?


Photo by US Department of Agriculture, Public Domain.