Melinda Schmidt talks with Dr. Terry LeBlanc about his journey to faith as a First Nations person raised in Canada and the difficult and often misunderstood journey Native people have travelled ... alongside followers of Christ.
For more information about the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), visit their website or find them on Facebook.
What Do I Know About the Marginalized?
by Anita Lustrea
As someone who is white and hasn't known racial discrimination, I was extremely nervous writing about the Native American experience in northern Maine. Who am I to try and step into someone else's experience and attempt to write about it? I enlisted friend and fellow author Caryn Rivadeneira to co-author Shades of Mercy with me.
Northern Maine is where I'm from. It's the place I was born, and the place I moved away from much too soon for my liking. It has been Oz for me. The place where, when I return, everything turns to vivid color.
One day I woke up and realized it has not been Oz for everyone. For every person’s Oz, there is someone else having a Wicked Witch of the West experience. What does that look like? I began asking questions and making observations which began to take shape as a novel.
A strong sense of justice was handed down to me on both sides of my family. I saw what it looked like to help the poor, the hurting, and marginalized. I learned early that everyone has a story worth telling and to listen is not only love in action, but can help restore someone's dignity.
As Caryn and I wrote the novel, we researched the project, and I conferred regularly with the Tribal Administrator of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Brian Reynolds. When I sent an advance copy to Brian to read, I held my breath. In his first email back to me, he said the first few chapters were painful to read and he didn't like seeing the truth of how his people had lived. I wondered if I'd gotten things all wrong. Brian followed up and explained that a reality had begun to emerge in the book. This reality didn't describe his people, the Maliseet, as bad people, but people who were living in, and living with, very difficult circumstances. He affirmed the message of the book, but wondered how the white inhabitants of the actual “Watsonville,” where I grew up, were going to read it.
The Maliseet, along with all Native Americans, have been wronged so many times. I didn't want to be one more voice from the dominant culture spreading lies. When Brian sent me a final email, affirming the message of the book, I knew I was on the right track. I knew I'd struck the right balance, which indeed, is the recognition of imbalance.
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Terry is Mi’kmaq/Acadian, from Listuguj First Nation and Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada. He and his wife Bev are in their 38th year of marriage. Together, they have three adult children – twin daughters and a son. Terry has served in full-time Native ministry since 1979 and has been ordained since 1983.
Melinda appreciates observing how the complexities of culture and faith influence one another. Her core words are freedom, orderliness, twirling, beauty and connecting/seed-planting ideas. This time of year she enjoys quiet, backyard beauty and summer meals on the back porch with her husband, Dave, and dog Pippa, a long-haired Chihuahua/Min Pin – you'd love 'er!