This is the final post in our Friday Watershed Discipleship series. Matt Cumings (Settler, Scottish) works on Eloheh Farm and attends Wilderness Way Community. He is finishing up an internship with EcoFaith Recovery which intends to explore intersectionality, both barriers and benefits, in social justice and ecological justice movements. Emily Rice (Settler, Ikalahan, Philippines) is an organizer focused on the intersections of racial justice, indigenous solidarity, feminism and faith. She is a co-founder of the activist collective Killjoy Prophets and serves on the board of Evangelicals 4 Justice.
The Christ & Cascadia Conference was held Sept. 26-27 in so-called Seattle, Washington, once home and still traditional land of the Duwamish people. Christ & Cascadia seeks to evolve the conversation about faith in the Pacific Northwest Community, or Cascadia, and specifically “Cascadia” as the manifestation of the bioregional movement. Although the bioregional movement was not centered by the conference it was discussed in the opening panels and the theme of a few presentations. One such presentation was by Emily Rice and myself. Both of us are NAIITS students, we highlighted the Duwamish people in the presentation we gave that discussed settler colonialism, white supremacy, and watershed discipleship in the Cascadian bioregion.
Seattle was once home to 13 Duwamish villages, and the -amish people as Vine Deloria points out were already utilizing watershed discipleship long before they were invaded and colonized by Europeans.
It was natural that people would keep track of each other according to river systems or drainages. The suffix –amish, which is found on many of the tribal names, for example Swinomish, Stilaguamish, Snohomish, Suquamish, Duwamish, and others, indicates that they are the ‘people of’ a certain river system.
By centering decolonization and adopting a watershed disciple politic, we can challenge settler colonialism and support Indigenous sovereignty. In this way perhaps we can prevent such pitfalls as the Israelites soon encountered after their colonization of the Canaanites. Glen Coulthard (Dene) quotes Philip Blake (Dene) saying:
I believe it is in the self-interest of your own nation to allow the Indian nation to survive and develop in our own way, on our own land. For thousands of years we have lived with the land, we have taken care of the land, and the land has taken care of us. We did not believe that our society has to grow and expand and conquer new areas in order to fulfill our destiny as Indian people…. I believe your nation might wish to see us, not as a relic from the past, but as a way of life, a system of values by which you may survive in the future. This we are willing to share.
By highlighting Indigenous peoples’ devotion to their watersheds we can recognize the displacement and genocide of Indigenous peoples was part of an individualistic and eurocentric worldview brought by colonial settlers. Furthermore the devastating effects of boarding schools fragmented the stories, spirituality, and culture of communities to the point of almost complete abandon. No church in the United States has neither formally recognized their complicity in Native American genocide through boarding schools, nor have many engaged in meaningful repentance. When one highlights the amount of resources expended on worldwide missions in the last 60 years since the end of “colonialism” in post-WWII era, subsequently giving birth to neocolonialism, it is plain to see neocolonial missions take a major precedent over more local decolonial movements such as Idle No More (see this) and other local Indigenous grassroots groups. It is vital for all Christian churches and organizations to become accomplices with Indigenous communities in subverting the colonial structures. Ecologically-minded congregations, watershed disciples especially, should center Indigenous sovereignty in their outward endeavors or their imaginations will remain constrained to eurocentric worldviews which promote settler colonialism.
Indigenous women’s and children’s health is directly related to the well being of their watershed in which they reside. Katsi Cook writes, “…as a Mohawk midwife, reproductive justice and environmental justice intersect at the nexus of women’s blood and voice; at the very centrality of woman’s role in the process and patterns of continuous creation.” Thus the struggle for Indigenous women’s health should be a core decolonial project Christian communities support with their/our resources. Though there is still much work to be done to foster this vision and bring it to fruition, we know that our God is the God of the Oppressed and that we must focus our attention on the needs of the most marginalized if we are to help work towards shalom in our bioregion.
Suggested further study:
Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith
Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley
Organizations to support:
 Vine Deloria Jr., Indians of the Pacific Northwest: From the Coming of the White Man to the Present Day, p.5
 Audra Simpson & Andrea Smith, Theorizing Native Studies, p.72
 Melissa K. Nelson, Original Instructions, p. 155-56