Acknowledging And Learning The Truth About Native American History

First Americans Museum

The First Americans Museum is located in Oklahoma City. (Photo by UM News Service)

Taking part in immersion events is both educational transformational, writes Ruth Bowen

November is Native American Heritage Month. Ruth Bowen is a member of First UMC Denton and co-Social Action Coordinator for NTC UMW​.

I am often asked how and when I became interested in Native American history and culture. My mom, Donna Ruth Lindsey, provided the spark and Ruth Davis McGuire kept the fire going. Both were strong, dynamic United Methodist women who modeled lifelong learning and who encouraged and supported me on my journey as a lifelong learner. Both were advocates for and allies with Native American communities.

Ruth BowenIn junior high school, after reading a biography of George Armstrong Custer I began to realize the false history narrative taught in schools for generations. I began having conversations with my mom that continued for decades. She introduced me to the Billy Jack movie series and more. We supported indigenous organizations at local and church events.

In October 1992, Ruth Davis McGuire asked me to co-host a UMW study celebrating Native American history. By this time, we both knew the truth about colonization and its aftermath. I have continued to build on this foundation of learning by reading Native American literature and poetry, history books written by Native and credible non-Native authors, watching documentaries and films by Native Americans, attending UMW Mission U studies about Native American culture and history, and being in community with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Immersing myself in the OIMC cultures and communities has provided me with knowledge, understanding, truth and connection that deepens my commitment to justice and speaking truth to power. Since 2018, I have attended three in-person OIMC Immersion events and one virtual event. All have been transformational, offering different opportunities and experiences. Visiting the same place more than once affords me the opportunity to learn something new, meet new people and hear different stories from the people in those communities about their lived experiences and their heritage.

Each of the 39 recognized tribes in Oklahoma have their own stories and culture to share. Sharing a meal and conversation with a survivor of the boarding school horrors is more impactful than reading about them.

Acknowledging and sharing the truth about American history means acknowledging and learning the truth about Native American history. It’s all wrapped together in a not so pretty package. We are all connected as children of God, made in his/her image. It’s our responsibility to participate in the acts of repentance. Participating in the OIMC Immersion events, sharing what I learn, is one way I can advocate for and be an ally with Native American communities.

Published: Monday, November 15, 2021