Dying in Indian Country - The Roland Morris Story

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Mother, holding baby, enjoying time with others after service at the Christian Church  Several people take part in Baptism in Leech Lake August 2005.  Roland Morris's Grandson assists the Pastor  Several Children enjoying Sunday school, eating a snack at the table while coloring pictures  Child Writing on chalk board in Sunday School class, Louie Bull Reservation, Alberta

To our Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ;



Through the years, we have watched nephews, nieces and grandchildren suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and

neglect. Maybe this isn't what happens to every family on every reservation, but it is what is happening to many people on ours. We have gazed at the body of a two-year old niece, beaten to death by her mother, cried for a nephew who had been found stabbed on the streets, identified the body of a sixteen-year old niece who had hanged herself, chased an inebriated man off of a ten-year old niece, and watched the county coroner bring a sister's body down from the room in which she had drank herself to death. We opened our home to a number of nephews, nieces, and grandchildren, only to watch them return to destructive lifestyles a short time later.

After watching so many friends and relatives die physically, spiritually, and emotionally through the years from alcoholism, violence, and suicide, we can no longer stand aside and do nothing. We want the cycle of self-destruction to stop. Our concern is for the overall spiritual, emotional, and physical health of all families and their children. The heartbreak going on is just the symptoms. What is the fuel for the self-destruction?


First, there is no life outside of Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:15, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, (Adam) and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned."

Romans 5:18-19, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness (Jesus) was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."

Romans 6:11-12, "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires."

Traditional culture (whether it be Tribal, Irish, Jewish, Japanese, or any other) is appreciated by all, and the worth and dignity of all people is valued. But the main problem in Indian Country is the darkness that has been, and continues to be, nurtured through New Age Religion, traditional religion, and the hate and anger that is fostered by encouraging people to feel as if they are life long victims. This is opposite of the attitudes and perceptions God wants us to carry and the opposite of the fruit the Holy Spirit offers.

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Second, We have Scriptural Responsibility for Involvement in issues of this world that affect the spiritual, social and physical health and welfare of men, women and children.

1 Tim 2:1-4   "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

Luke 4:18-19   (Jesus quoting from Isaiah 61)   "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

2 Cor. 3:18   (Disciples)   "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Ps. 82:3-4   (Psalmist to the kings)   "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the week and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prov. 29:7   "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."

Prov. 31:8-9   "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Prov. 31:20,   "She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy."

Gal. 2:10   "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."

Isa. 1:17   "learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless , plead the cause of the widow."

Isaiah 10:1-3   (God, through Isaiah, to the Israelites)   "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Jer. 22:16-17   "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?...."

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Third, Indian Child Welfare Act is only one facet of the difficulties within the reservation system.   There are many.

Through the years, many in the community, both tribal and non-tribal, leaders and non-leaders have approached us. Many approach us in private and tell us not to let their story go any further. They tell us that things are not right and ask us to continue speaking the truth. Tribal members tell us they wish they could speak out, but fear losing their tribal job or tribal lease. One tribal member said, "My sister works at the tribal complex and I don't want her to lose her job, so please don't use my name." Another said, "They almost took away my home, so I'm afraid you to tell my story..." A few non-tribal members have said, "A lot of my business is tribal, so I can't afford to make the tribal government mad..."

1) We believe there are men in power in both the federal government and tribal government that are benefiting from the reservation system and are not concerned with what is good for the average tribal member. Some tribal governments, as well as officials within the BIA, have become corrupt with unchecked power and money. Because of this corruption and unwillingness to let go of power and money, it is the reservation system itself that is ultimately keeping people in the bondage of poverty and oppression.

2) Federal Indian Policy views Native Americans as helpless wards. Families are raised believing it. Even while Tribal governments have made many financial and educational advances in the last twenty years, there remains some thing holding people back.

Another problem might be the culture of dependency that has grown within the reservation community in the last fifty years. A man has needs to feel strong and able, but as long as government is taking care of the man's family through welfare, food stamps, fuel assistance, Medicaid, and HUD housing, the man loses that feeling of being needed and important to his family. One middle aged tribal member said, "I knew that if I went drinking and was gone awhile, my family would be okay. They had a HUD house and food stamps. If I had thought they wouldn't be okay, I would have stayed." Federal Indian Policy today doesn't help families: it tears them down. Chief Joseph was right when he said, "we only ask a chance to live as other men".

From the book, "Caring for the Flock," David Larsen notes, "Viktor Frankl and his "logotherapy" do not derive from Christian presuppositions but nevertheless make a significant statement about the importance of a sense of purpose in life for survival, this coming from a survivor of Hitler's death camps."

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Fourth, the State and federal governments are doing little about the situation.

Time and again as legislation has been introduced to make minor changes in the circumstances, it has been rebuffed. One legislator confided that they are afraid of lawsuits by the tribe and how much such a lawsuit could end up costing the state. But there is little State government can do anyway. Federal Indian Policy is inherently federal. However, Washington DC also avoids the issues. While we have been able to bend the ear of some Congressmen, others seem to approach Indian affairs tentatively, viewing tribal governments as victims in need of special care and tribal members as non-US citizens under the sovereignty of tribal government. They seem to refuse any other perspective. In addition, some Congressmen are currently receiving large campaign contributions from tribal casinos and other entities.

Many in the media, likewise, view tribal governments as victims and portray reservation life romantically. One reporter stated that unless he sees large numbers of tribal members take to the streets in protest, just as during the civil rights movement of the 60's, he won't believe there are any problems. As a result, the general public remains unaware and views tribal issues with a spirit of guilt. Hence, as long as the general public continues to feel to blame for the problems in Indian Country, Congress will not change Federal Indian Policy.

Many of our tribal communities have been in a struggle for years. At times the struggle is played out in the neighboring public and is painfully obvious to everyone who lives on or around a reservation. Other times the struggle is just under the surface, percolating, waiting for the next opportunity to erupt. But the truth, as much as we wish otherwise, is the struggle cannot disappear until what is wrong at the heart of the reservation system is resolved.


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What can we do?

"Is one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective.

"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced crops.

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way shall save him from death and cover a multitude of sins." James 5:13-20 (NIV)

  1. We will pray for the Reservations in the United States and the Reserves in Canada
  2. We will pray for the spiritual leaders, (Christian and non-Christian), and political leaders on the reservations.
  3. We will assist local churches in direct spiritual ministry, communicating the Good News through mime, music, communication, Bible study, devotions and prayer with residents in various areas.
  4. We will help others in the Church learn through Scripture that they have a responsibility to be World Christians, and that there are people right next that need help.
  5. We will pray for organizations on both sides of the fence that are working to change Federal Indian Policy, including,

    CERF, CERA, NCAI, NARF, the First Nation Accountability Coalition, Native Christian Coalition and Aboriginal Accountability Coalition in Canada, and AIM.

  6. We will pray for members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the U.S. Congressional Native American Caucus, the U.S. Secretary of Interior, the Canadian Minister of Indian Affairs, officials in the U.S. BIA, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and others who are directly involved in Federal Indian Policy.
  7. We ask you, in the name of Jesus and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to please help us and pray with us.
  8. We will write on the issues as God leads us
  9. We will continue, when led by God, to respectfully approach our leaders in Government with the Truth.

"Expect Great things from God; Attempt Great things for God."

- William Carey, the father of the missionary movement

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"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6: 19, 20 (NIV)

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him." Psalm 67

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28: 18-20

"Go out into all the world and preach the good news". Mark 16:15

"This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sin will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:46-47

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8

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 "Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love." Eph. 6:24, 24 (NIV)    

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Roland Morris Senate Committee Testimony   Drug Store Racism   Raising Racism   

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