GOD & TEXAS: Broken arrows
“As a race they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, and their springs are dried up; their cabins are in the dust. Their council fires have long since gone out on the shore and their war-cry is fast dying out to the untrodden west. Slowly and sadly they climb the mountains and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave that will settle over them forever.” These words referring to our Native Americans, were spoken by former President of Texas Sam Houston, as he addressed the United States Senate in 1846.
The plight of the Native American has disturbed many noble Americans since the pioneers moved West and populated ancestral tribal lands. At one time, Texas was home to hundreds of tribes that were eventually vanquished. According to the Bullock Museum in Austin (2021), “only three federally recognized tribes still have reservations in Texas, the Alabama-Coushatta, Tigua, and Kickapoo. The state recognized Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas is headquartered in McAllen. The Caddo, Comanche, and Tonkawa are headquartered in Oklahoma.”
But the story of their journey to the 21st Century is disturbing. While many tribes have been eradicated, the survivors have struggled. The Alabama-Coushatta tribe remain the most peaceful. When settlers came to the Big Thicket, this tribe quickly submitted to the inevitable, and accepted the new language and customs.
In the 1880s, when Presbyterian missionaries started churches, the Alabama-Coushatta people followed the lead of their Chief John Scott, and converted to Christianity. After being scolded for their unacceptable traditions of ceremonial dancing, language, dress, polygamy, and the green corn ritual, the tribe abandoned those traditions. They even encouraged the building of a church on their sacred dance grounds.
But later generations have complained that the decisions of their elders robbed them of their cultural identity. More recently, the Alabama-Coushatta have encouraged their youth to grow their hair long, learn their native language, and to restore ceremonial dancing. In this way, they hope to instill a sense of ancestral heritage for future generations.
There is a strong message here for each of us. Bringing people to Christ should not mean the obliteration of their past culture unless it is Biblically sinful. It is possible to win the lost without robbing them of their folkways.
More recently, our missionaries have devoted themselves to encouraging all souls who commit to Christ, whether Native American or otherwise, to continue to treasure their culture, preserve their native tongue, and to live in Christ as a fulfilled individual. Indeed, we are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:26)
All souls who accept Christ are welcome in Heaven. Revelation 7:9 (ESV), “Every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne!”