By Fr. Greg Barras
This sacred land the Maritime Conference Center occupies was inhabited from the 600’s to the 1600’s by Indigenous peoples.
In the Baltimore area, the Paskestikwega Band of the Chaptico, Moyonane, Nanjimoy, Potapoco, Lumbee, Piscataway, and Cherokee nations and tribes; and many Algonquin language-speaking communities, lived, thrived, loved, learned, grew.
In the D.C. area, the Pamumkey, Rappahannock, and Upper Matta nations and tribes thrived.
For over one thousand years, children, women, men, elders, families tilled the soil, hunted the bounty of animal roaming the forests and fields, fished the abundance of the rivers and Atlantic ocean,
In the 1600’s and 1700’s, the Indo-Europeans began to settle in the same area. Note, not discover. Indigenous people were here for over one thousand years.
In 1642, the province of Maryland declared Indian War. For the next two centuries, systematic fighting overtaking Indigenous peoples ensued. Guns were brought in by the settlers and became bartering items with the Indigenous peoples as well as alcohol, African slaves, and false promises. All caused many deaths, diseases indigenous peoples had no resistance to, and widespread havoc.
In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed into federal law. This came under the leadership of President Andrew Jackson and lasted until 1841 under President Martin Van Buren.
These peoples were coerced, brutally, to move their families, elderly, walking to an arid, bleak place in Oklahoma. On foot, they died of stress, lack of food, medicine, and cruelty, no medical help, sheer abuse.
Some 90,000 Indigenous people and African slaves were violently and abusively moved from familiar homes, and life-giving work, to a barren piece of land.
This is what we call the HOME OF THE BRAVE AND THE FREE!!!!!!!
Many of us are descendants of the Indo-Europeans, not all present here.
In the recent twentieth century, we limited and controlled others when those in control were frightened. Africans from the 1600’s to the present. Germans in WW I and WWII, Italians in WW II, Japanese in WW II, and Asiasians in Vietnam War. Those in control use voter rights then and now as we see states harshly rewriting voter rights.
Today, there are 4,000 Indigenous people in the D.C. area. There are some 7,000 Indigenous people in the Baltimore area.
Please, pray with me,
God of Redemptive love, though we were not directly involved in this violence, hate, and abuse, help us, those present, to raise our conscience that the land we stand on was not discovered by our ancestors. It was forcibly taken. Help us to embrace the interior hurt and pain present Indigenous peoples and all people of color carry: not valued as human beings made in God’s image and likeness, profiled wrongly, devalued by non-acceptance, rejection, treated as if guilty just by being a color different from white.
Aid us in accepting the discomfort, awkwardness, and responsibility of the rigorous truth. Give us he grace to dream reconciliation with our brothers and sisters and moved forward with a voice of conciliation, truth, and healing that only God can give us.
Raise our conscience to work toward a more equitable relationship with all people, today, now, in the moment. We seek forgiveness and our transformation of mind, heart, and soul. When we change interiorly, then all life matters: people, climate, nuclear weapons, sexism, racism, refugees, immigrants.
Holy Spirit come, dwell within us. Amen