Thursday, July 7, 2016

Vacation Joy (with Backstories)

Slightly revised from what was originally posted.

The Dahlin Cabin on Durphee Lake
I last wrote (on July 2) from my uncle Glen and aunt Betty's cabin on Big Sandy Lake in Minnesota. On Saturday I drove from there to another cabin, the one I've mentioned many times before on this blog over the years. It's about 10 miles south of Hayward, Wisconsin on Durphee Lake and been in my wife Toni's family for 50 years. Toni and I have been here for a week or more every year since the 1980s.

Grandkids & Grandparents
at the Durphee Lake cabin
Our kids love this place. So does Toni's whole extended family. This week we had up to 20 people here, but now all our kids and grandkids have gone home. It's very quiet, and the quiet has a charm of its own.

I'm very thankful for this time away: playing games, relaxing in the water and on the shore, enjoying the children and one another, and lots of good food. A couple of us got out on the sailboat a bit too -- that's one of my favorite things.

As this vacation time winds down I realize, once again, what a privilege it is for us to be able to be here. Many people don't have places to get away to, and many don't have families that they really want to be away with. Once again, I thank God for this time.

One thing I thought I'd be doing during this vacation was to continue study of some of the deeper things of God so I can do some writing. When I've been out for a couple short runs in the morning, I've have managed to listened to a couple more hours of the lectures I mentioned last Saturday. But when it came to reading, I got sidetracked by a book with an extremely provocative title. 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End.

I do like history, so that's something that would draw me to it, but it's not a book that I would have chosen on my own. I only have it because it was in a little backpack that was found on one of the buses I drove sometime in the last few weeks. [Note added July 17 - when I got home from the cabin I found the lost and found tag. It was dated May 18, my birthday.] I turned the backpack into lost and found, but, because no one claimed it, I had the option of taking it for myself. I did, and found the book inside.

Perhaps it was God's way of pointing me to a subject that I haven't thought about much. I made my way through the book this week, between times playing with the grandkids and helping with a few chores. And, as I read, I was reminded that vacation cabins like this have a backstory, a backstory from the time before any of them were built.

This cabin, and so many others, are build on land was opened up for "whites" (like me) during the late 1800s. Until around the time that is described in 38 Nooses, the land that is now the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin was the homeland of various Native American people groups (tribes).

Here's a map that shows where those tribes lived after the Europeans began to arrive, but before treaties pushed them onto reservations.

The treaties are old history, but they are really a key part of what allowed cabins like this to be built. The "1842 Treaty of La Pointe" (such a long time ago!) established many reservations in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota--including the "Lac Courte Oreilles" reservation, so close to this cabin. That same treaty established the "Sandy Lake Indian Reservation" on land that is now owned by my aunt and uncle and many other cabin owners. That Indian Reservation was erased by the federal government in 1889 and the land opened up for white settlement. 

It's sobering to consider how many of our beloved homes and cabins are sitting on land that was, at one time, the home of Ojibwe (a.k.a. Chippewa), Dakota (a.k.a. Sioux), and other Indian people. My ancestors, white settlers all, followed traders, missionaries and explorers onto land that was already occupied by other people.

Today we don't think about those people, or this history. Or, when we do think of them, we think of Casinos and treaty rights connected with fishing. It's good for us to know a little bit more.

The period of time described in 38 Nooses (the 1860s) is a part of the historical back-story for the peaceful and privileged week that we've had here at the cabin this week. It's not a pleasant story. It's actually a story of what we would probably call terrorism if it happened today. Terror came down on both settler and native.
Here's a quick summary of the story that's told in the book:

The United States government's neglect of treaty obligations in the early to middle 1860s brought many natives to the point of starvation and despair. Some Dakota Indian men, we don't know just how many, went out to get rid of the settlers who were occupying the lands that were now closed to them--perhaps thinking they could drive other whites out with fear. Several dozen Dakota plundered, raped and murdered. Several hundred white men, women and children were killed in the area near the Minnesota River. It was horrible.

The U.S. government's response was horrible too. 38 of the the Dakota men were hung in Mankato. Some were innocent. Meanwhile, almost all the Dakota men, women and children in Minnesota were forced into concentration camps, the largest being at Fort Snelling. And then soldiers went out to get violent revenge while plans were made to push all those "evil Sioux" out of the state. Most were eventually sent west to reservations on land no one else wanted. In the end most were forced to give up their way of life.
Some on each side did what they could to prevent violence. There were some heroes. But many more, for one reason or another, joined in the killing or at least applauded those who sought revenge. Fear and hatred reigned. Sadly, some of what was done to the natives, especially in taking away their way of life, was done in the name of the Christian church.

The truth is that much of what we descendants of settlers take for granted in the United States came to be out of a history of violence, racism and revenge. It's not what white Minnesotans prefer to think about during a vacation week, but this history, and the other incomparably painful racial histories that are still with us, do mark us profoundly. Though it was a loss for whoever left their backpack and book on my bus, I'm grateful I was invited, in that way, to read 38 Nooses. Maybe even especially when we're on vacation we should be remembering the backstory of our joy.

Fortunately, there is a bigger backstory, a story that brings redemption and forgiveness to the smaller stories of our individual and family histories. Here are three paragraphs abridged from a section of The Christian Frame of Mind, a book I've been studying in depth.
The redemption of the universe is the bearing of the Cross upon the way things actually are. It represents the refusal of God to remain aloof from the disintegration in what he has made, or merely to act upon it "at a distance."

Through the incarnation of His Word and love in Jesus Christ, in his life and passion, He who is the ultimate source and power of all order has penetrated into the untouchable core of our existence in such a way as to deal with the twisted force of evil entrenched in it, and to bring about an atoning reordering of creation.

In the life and passion of Jesus Christ the order of redemption has intersected the order of creation, judging, forgiving and healing it of malevolent disorder, and making it share in the wholly benign order of divine love.

(Abridged from a section entitled "The Atonement and the 'Re-ordering' of Creation" in The Christian Frame of Mind: Reason, Order, and Openness in Theology and Natural Science, by Thomas F. Torrance. Helmers & Howard, Publishers, Colorado Springs, 1989, pages 103, 104.)
That's what we need. We need deep dive, in every way, into the "wholly benign order of divine love." Knowing Jesus and letting others know about Him is part of that--knowing Him and telling in a way that is truthful and not full of our own small opinions. We need to be studying carefully so we can speak about Jesus as clearly and completely as we can. But we also need to tell the truth about the pain of life, so we don't stay "aloof from the disintegration," but instead stand with our Lord in dealing with the "twisted force of evil."

Let's pray that God will lead us in that, bringing blessing instead of cursing to everyone, guilty and innocent alike. I hope to be a part of that in the next 40 years of my life.

God bless you all.


P.S. - This afternoon, after the grandkids left, I saw that our daughter Naomi had posted news of a modern day racial horror. According to the Minnesota Public Radio website that posted a picture and a video taken by a dead man's girlfriend, "Philando Castile, 32, was shot Wednesday night by a police officer in suburban St. Paul, Minn." The shooting happened within 3 miles of our home in Roseville. The website says this was "the second fatal encounter between police and a black man to gain national attention this week."

O Lord, have mercy. Have mercy on all of us who need to remember the love of Jesus before we remember our own pain and fear. Overwhelm us with your Holy Spirit so we react in a way that honors You.

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