Artwork: Nagamtadizowag (They Sing For One Another) by Elizabeth LaPensée
American journalist Dorothy Thompson once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict…”
So if that is a definition of peace, what is love?
Is it the absence of hate, abuse, oppression and death?
Like peace, love creatively and sustainably fills the spaces around it.
Love is an active force, and wherever it is used, it bears good fruit.
I have Potawatomi Citizen Band and Cherokee blood, and in this season of my life, I am learning what love does for a heart that is broken by the realization of years and years of genocide.
I have only been able to trace my family line back so far, but the more I learn, the more I understand that my ancestors once walked the Trail of Tears and the Trail of Death, and on those long journeys, love must not have been absent from them.
So does love become the absence of genocide and oppression over time?
Because, as we’ve seen in recent months and years, native peoples are still fighting to be seen and heard and valued for the lives that our ancestors once lived, and for the ways that we want to live in our native cultures today.
So now, what does love mean for us?
Love is a slow and steady prayer-fight, not with guns or weapons, but with the constant consciousness of peace, of unity, of a dependence upon our culture, the Spirit and this land.
Love is both what we hold in our tired hands and altogether something bigger.
Love is what we see across the way in our brothers and sisters and what we hear in the stories of our elders.
Love is the constant goodness present in every season of our lives.
Love fills up our lacking places and tells us we are not alone.
Love gives our children their cultures back and reminds them that the spirit of the earth and the Creator will always be there for them.
And love is something that crosses every threshold. It meets us in our spirit and carries itself into our bodies and back again, a beautiful force.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Because love is a beautiful and powerful force, it has no room for fear or trembling.
Because it is a beautiful and active force, it has carried our ancestors for centuries and will continue to carry us, still.
Just as peace does not run from conflict, love does not run from hate, but engages it prayerfully, steadily and boldly.
Love always wins in the end, because love is always there.
In the coming years, my children will learn our tribal language, where our ancestors came from, what it means to honour the spirit, to have integrity, to care for others and for the earth, to have hearts that seek justice.
And if they learn the best lesson, they will learn that love, and peace like her, are the only tools necessary to make this world more of what it should have always been in the first place.
Kaitlin Curtice is a Native American Christian writer and worship leader living in Atlanta. She is of Potawatomi and Cherokee descent. She is an author with Paraclete Press, a blogger at www.kaitlincurtice.com and writes on the intersection of culture and faith.