In the city of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, it is estimated that there were as many as 4 million Native inhabitants before European contact in 1496. By 1570 that number had been reduced to 125. In Central Mexico one third of the Native people died of smallpox within ten years of exposure by the Spanish conquerors.
In 1607 there were approximately 24,000 Algonquins living in the area that became Virginia. By 1669 that number was reduced to about 2,000. In what is now the state of Maine, between the years 1610 and 1675 the population of Abenakis went from 12,000 people to about 3,000. Southern New England tribes were reduced from 65,000 to 10,000 people during that time period.*
And this is just the beginning of the history of North America, the class I am currently teaching. The decimation or near extinction of entire people groups because of violence committed against them or as a natural result of the exposure to European diseases for which they had no immunity, is sobering to say the least. Teaching these facts (as a person of European descent) to Native American students is difficult. Of course there are always two sides to every story. The Aztec people apparently conquered and nearly destroyed the Mayan and Mixtec people before they, in turn, were conquered by the Spanish. The Navajo and Apache people likely took over their place in the Southwest U.S. from the little-known Anasazi. The Lakota people prided themselves on the fact that they had displaced other people groups when they moved from the woodlands to the Great Plains. But nothing else on this continent rivals the scope of destruction that occurred when Europe invaded North America.
We are all sinful human beings, capable of unimaginable atrocities, and we live in a sinful world. At IBC we work together as people who may have legitimate reasons for bitterness against one another. We need the grace of Christ. We need to see each other as equals in the Body of Christ. Native people must extend forgiveness. Anglos (Whites) must give grace and may need to acknowledge the depth of the pain people of our ethnicity have caused.
This is one reason Jesus came to earth. He came not as part of a conquering people but as one of the conquered (Jews under Roman rule). This should make it easier for Native people to identify with Him, but when the message comes through their conquerors (Anglos), it is often rejected. Our oneness as Native and Anglo Christ followers should be a strong testimony to the world of His reconciling power.
Praise God that He sent His only Son in the form of a baby to live among us, to experience our suffering, to know injustice, prejudice, and hate. At this season may we grow in understanding the depth of His forgiveness and the cost of our ultimate reconciliation with God. May we be reconciled to all those who have committed wrongs against us or whom we have wronged.
Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support as God directs. Have a blessed Christmas!
*Information taken from our course text book, Tindall, George Brown, and David Emory Shi. America: A Narrative History, 7th ed. New York: Norton, 2007.