What Happens When You Settle for a Theory Without Investigation?

settle Never Settle for a Lack of Knowledge

The whole Flat Earth Theory started me thinking about how, throughout history, people have espoused theories without testing them for truth—and ended up hurting other people. Take the theory that North America only had a few people living on it in the 1400s and needed a new race to settle and tame the land. I learned that theory back in grade school, and nothing in my high school or college classes taught me anything different.

But, what if the theory proved false? What if the consequences of the belief in the theory prove horrific? Do our responsibilities to our fellow humans change when we learn new information? I’ll let you decide.

My journey started six years ago when I began my job as a high school English and history teacher at a school for Native Americans. I wanted to understand what makes my kids’ lives so different from mine. My reading list that first year included Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Both books helped me understand the reality of growing up on a reservation: Hardscrabble and violent come to mind.

Next, I spent five weeks in North Carolina learning about the Trail of Tears from a Cherokee’s perspective. Sure, I’d heard about the event—every history book has the obligatory paragraph and one sad black and white photo of a painting depicting a mother and child huddled under a blanket. My understanding started to shift in ways that I never expected. I had learned history from the aggressor’s standpoint. That’s like only listening to the rapist’s point of view in a trial.

A White Man’s History of the World

When I read Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, I came to understand how little we actually know about the ‘New World.’ The theory that a pristine land of opportunity awaited enterprising people willing to risk disease and privation in order to settle it lost a lot of its luster in the face of reality.

Of course, I assured myself, these histories pertain to secular white men. They don’t involve me. I hold no responsibility. But then I read Massacre at Sand Creek: How Methodists Were Involved in an American Tragedy, which opened a whole new vista of violence.

This time, ‘good Christians’ in Colorado (both males and females) perpetrated the violence. The book, commissioned by the Methodist church leadership, sought to explore the question of how a Methodist minister could mastermind one of the most heinous (unpunished) crimes in the United States. It served as a springboard of apology and reconciliation between the Methodist church and the tribes affected by the Sand Creek Massacre.

The next stop on my eye-opening journey involved a book titled The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History. This book chronicles  the longest war on U.S. soil. I can no longer hear a careless call of, “Geronimo!” without cringing and wondering what the caller knows about the one whose name they invoke.

I recently finished reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (ReVisioning American History), which once again made me evaluate all I thought I knew and learned about history.

What Does it Mean?

In our attempt to settle the land we ran roughshod over those who owned it, used it, loved it, and called it home. We justified our actions with a mix of religion, science, and superiority complex. Our aggression and greed found release in violence, carnage, subterfuge, and inhumanity.

And so, I have arrived at a point where I don’t know what to do with my knowledge. I know we have done great wrong, but from whom do I ask forgiveness? Will my tiny voice make any difference to those whose ancestors my ancestors raped, pillaged, and oppressed?

Will my tiny voice make any difference to those whose ancestors my ancestors raped, pillaged, and oppressed? Please forgive me. #nativeamerican Click To Tweet

All I can do is hope that it does. I am sorry. Please forgive us. Furthermore, please hold us accountable when you see us rushing to settle disputes between other nations . Especially if we haven’t first taken taken care of our problems at home.settle

Remind us that Jesus died for each of us—regardless of our creed, religion, skin color, or happenstance of birth. We all hold equal value. If we devalue someone in any way because of their creed, religion, color, or happenstance of birth, we devalue ourselves.

If we devalue someone in any way because of their creed, religion, skin color, or happenstance of birth, we devalue and degrade ourselves. #Christianity Click To Tweet

May history never repeat itself.

A Battle Cry for Today

Today, we need to set aside “Remember the Alamo!” and pick up the cry, “Remember the Cross!”

The cross will never lead us to violence, prejudice, racism, or rejection. Instead, it leads us to reconciliation. It symbolizes vertical reconciliation between us and God, as well as horizontal reconciliation between us and everyone else who lives on this planet.

The cross will never lead us to violence, prejudice, racism, or rejection. Instead, it leads us to #reconciliation. Click To Tweet

The cross will never lead us to violence, prejudice, racism, or rejection. Instead, it leads us to reconciliation. It symbolizes vertical reconciliation between us and God, as well as horizontal reconciliation between us and everyone else who lives on this planet. #reconciliation #foregiveness, #imsorry

Q4U: Who do you need to reconcile with?

22 Comments

  1. Wow! You accomplished a lot in five minutes! I enjoyed reading this! This is something I have been thinking about as a teacher to my children

  2. I loved to read about the journey you took on this new series of revelations in your life. Thanks for sharing and for challenging me to rethink old beliefs that might need to be called into question. Your FMF neighbor #13

  3. Remember the Alamo is still relevant for those who are enduring their own private Alamos, whether under Taliban guns or in the dread privacy of cancer.

    They are coming over the walls; my doom is upon me, but I will fight to the death.

    Even if no one knows, or cares.

    Deguello given; deguello returned.

  4. I want to learn and listen to both sides of an issue too. I think it’s so important. I really like this: “It symbolizes vertical reconciliation between us and God, as well as horizontal reconciliation between us and everyone else who lives on this planet.”

  5. Thanks anita for sharing some of your reading sources as well as this information you have learned about the people you love and have worked with for years. it is interesting that we as humans are so much quicker to move across the world than next door when it comes to reconciliation. i have not learned about the native american issues. this might be a good time to do it. thanks anita.

  6. Your “Battle Cry for Today” is so powerful Anita and needs to be repeated over and over in this world we live in! Your writing is inspirational and amazes me, Cindy

  7. As I read this, I’m shocked by the mental picture I carry even yet from my childhood picture of North America as one big patch of woods, prairies and mountains with a crude little bunch of primitive people who just sort of “shrunk,” and disappeared as we pushed forward. As recently as a month ago, a shirttail relative in his eighties voiced the conviction that God designed and gave us this land so we could develop it and make it something wonderful. That’s a painful concept to relinquish in light of what actually happened.
    What I most appreciate in this article is the picture of you yourself diving in with the humility and eagerness of what you didn’t know, and being brave enough to ask and read the testimony of those to which history “happened.” As you said so well: “I had learned history from the aggressor’s standpoint. That’s like only listening only to the rapist’s point of view in a trial.”
    I think those of us who have listened, who are listening, are all also trouble about what we should do. We inherited this mess, and this is our lives and our homes. Although it’s not lost on me that the same was also true of the indigenous Americans. Many nations near me no longer have enough members to “qualify” officially as a tribe. It seems to me that one way to start making amends to those injured might at least be to quit making demands that they leap our hurdles and fulfill our requirements in order to be the nations and peoples they struggle to preserve.

  8. I found this thought-provoking, Anita. You make an excellent case for seeking one’s own answers, rather than simply accepting pat talking points. In the context of your piece, though, I wonder about the ending–didn’t religion play a huge role in what happened to the Native American culture? I wonder sometimes if perhaps thinking of christianity as warfare isn’t part of what can make it so toxic in certain situations.

  9. Anita, like you, I asked the Lord “what do I do with knowledge?” He showed me corporate repentance. I have spent some time prostrate on the floor repenting the sins against Indians, the sin of slavery, the sin of abortion. As He brings these things before me, I repent for our country or our church or whatever/whoever has been the instigator. It is helped me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

You may also like

Follow Me!