As we approach Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 10, Father Chris Collins, vice president for Mission at the University of St. Thomas, held a conversation with Maka Black Elk from the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota about the “culture of encounter.” Collins used to work on the reservation and has continued a relationship with the community.
A culture of encounter, Collins said, is about the wounds, injustices and pain in the lives of groups of people. He mentions how at one time the suppression of Native culture and language “was really part of an American policy – that the Church in many ways was complicit in.”
Black Elk is the executive director for truth and healing at Red Cloud Indian School, which is where he also attended high school and returned as a teacher and administrator after college. In the video conversation with Collins, he describes his current role at the school as it relates to a truth and reconciliation process.
“In a truth and reconciliation process, the truth comes first,” Black Elk said, “The story has to be told and heard and understood, which leads into the second stage, which is understanding, meaning that you have to take that history and that harm that has been committed and understand its deeper impacts, understand the ways in which it might still be relevant to us today.”