Decolonizing Psalms

PilgrimageBy Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Delegate

Originally posted in the April-June 2017 CPT newsletter  

I co-led the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights on April 23-May 14, 2017. As I walked–kilometer after kilometer–I listened to music. One song, based on Psalm 23 struck my soul. I know that this psalm is often read at times when people need comfort. I thought about the role of Christianity in colonization of the indigenous peoples of Canada. I imagined that the young children forced into residential schools run by the churches had been forced to listen to the King James version of this psalm- in situations where they were not able to derive comfort. Everything presented was foreign and they were not given space to draw on what they knew to be good and right.

So, I sat down to rewrite this psalm, with symbolization that is sacred and good to my indigenous relatives. This is one reason that I walked- to break down the oppression that has existed for over 150 years in my land and to work on the colonization of my own mind.

Psalm 23 revised – May 6, 2017

Creator is my protector like a grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, auntie, uncle. I lack for nothing. I have places to lie down and rest under the cedar trees and on grassy plains.You lead me beside quiet waters that are pure enough to fish in, to swim in and to drink. My whole being is nourished and restored.

You guide me along the right paths: learning the right way to live with all creation. Even though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Creator, your loving kindness comforts me.

You prepare a table before me in the midst of those I love and those I disagree with. We have time to talk and discuss and settle our differences while eating wonderful food. You provide medicines and smudge for my healing and my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and mercy and humility and honesty and respect and bravery and wisdom and truth and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will live in the house of Creator for as long as the sun shines and the rivers flow.

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