By the Right Rev. Craig B. Anderson
At the recent Governor’s Council for the Year of Reconciliation meeting, the following mission statement was unanimously adopted: “to identify issues, attitudes and historical experiences that have contributed to the need for reconciliation and to implement strategies for change, utilizing education, governmental policy review and cultural awareness activities with the goal of better understanding and respect for one another.”
It strikes me, that there are three R’s in our attempt to understand the efforts and aims of this Year of Reconciliation between Indian and non-Indian people in the State of South Dakota. These three R’s could provide us with a focus and sense of direction as we look to this year as the beginning of a new decade and century in addressing the need to celebrate our diversity as a prelude to unity.
To Remember: Steve Young in his three-part series in the Argus Leader of March 25-27 helped us to remember the massacre of Wounded Knee. His weaving of historical events and images of the Pine Ridge coupled with reflections by those whose lives were touched by this tragic event in South Dakota history aided our understanding of the need for reconciliation. While we cannot be responsible for the past, we are called to be responsible to the past by remembering.
Human beings have the unique capacity and skill to remember. In recalling the past we have the opportunity to avoid repeating those destructive elements of both our individual and corporate history. We are all familiar with the truism that “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Rehearsing the past helps us from falling into a false consciousness, a consciousness which would delude us into thinking that we are not responsible to the past and that solutions and reconciliation in the present need only address current issues. To rehearse our history is to rehearse our story as a people. In the rehearsal and in the remembering we discover our identity. Having a clear sense of identity is a prerequisite for any serious attempt to be reconciled.
To Repent: Reconciliation presupposes repentance. This fact reminds us that reconciliation is not only a political, psychological, and relational task; it is a religious calling as well. To repent is to recognize our dividedness in noting the original definition of sin as a state of separation, separation from God, separation from one another and separation from self. It is the same understanding of sin as separation that is the root of apartheid, pronounced apart-hate.
To repent is to acknowledge our divisions, to ask for forgiveness and to make restitution if and where possible. Such repentance allows us to openly acknowledge our failures and shortcomings in an honest and forthright way. Such repentance invites absolution rather than the harboring of grudges and the nurturing of hatred. To seek reconciliation presupposes a willingness to repent.
Given the spiritual nature of repentance and reconciliation, the churches and various religious groups in South Dakota could provide spiritual and moral leadership by repenting of our religious divisions.
I also call on the churches to repent of the cultural insensitivity, and unintended racism that attended 18th and 19th century missionary efforts. Such sensitivity and repentance to the past might serve as a safeguard against racism in the churches in the present and future.
To Resolve: John F. Kennedy once said, “All this will not be finished in the first hundred days, nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor will it be finished in the life of this administration, nor even, perhaps, in our lifetime on this planet.
But let us begin…”
Remembering and repenting allow us to begin… Resolution is the decision to start anew informed by our past and our awareness of our present imperfections and shortcomings. Resolution is an act of courage. It calls for the best within us; to be courageous enough to love when it is easier to hate, to forgive when it is easier to hold a grudge, to reach out when it is easier to nurture anger.
Resolution is a volitional act, an act of the will. To resolve is also a uniquely human action. It requires not only memory and reason but also the virtue of patience and hard work. The courage undergirding resolution allows us to truly be, to truly be fully human as creatures who care.
If during this Year of Reconciliation we are able to begin the arduous task of in some way approximating the three R’s of remembrance, repentance, and resolution, we may discover a fourth and unanticipated “R,” the ability to rejoice.
Argus Leader – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Monday, April 23, 1990