The Gift of Time and Wonder: The Old Country

June 15, 2017. One of my sabbatical goals is to visit with family, something I don’t often get to do because of distance and our busy lives. This past week, I flew to Madison, Wisconsin, to see my older sister, Rebecca, and my brother, Jonathan.

Rebecca is a social worker for the State of Wisconsin, specializing in care for youths impacted by trauma. She travels statewide to inform communities about the effects of trauma on youth and the need for intervention and care. Rebecca is married to Leland, a member of the Oneida Tribe of Indigenous Peoples. Leland has served in a number of capacities in the Oneida Tribal government, including as a tribal judge with a specialty in mediation. They have two adopted children who are also members of the Oneida Tribe. Elijah lives with his family in British Columbia (expecting a baby in July,) and Rachel lives in Green Bay with her family (expecting a baby in August.)

Spending time with Rebecca and her family, I am reminded of the many social injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples in our country. It is painful to consider the ways in which non-Indians have exploited and continue to oppress Indigenous people. The Episcopal Church has been a part of this oppression, as it was an Episcopal priest and missionary who led a group of Oneidas from New York State to Wisconsin, most likely in an agreement with the U.S. Government to ‘relocate’ them.

After graduating from college, I worked on the Oneida Indian Reservation near Green Bay with a group of churches (including Holy Apostles Episcopal) to address social problems in the community. Each week, I joined the Grandmothers as they gathered at Holy Apostles to pray and quilt. I wasn’t very good at quilting, but felt honored to be included in their circle and to hear their stories. It was these women who first taught me the Rosary (Hail, Mary!), and introduced me to Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be made a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. When I left Oneida, the Grandmothers gave me a picture of Kateri, which I have hanging in my home office.

My husband, Paul, and I met in Oneida. Paul was the head of Planning for the United Way of Green Bay, and came to a meeting in my office building. A few of us watched in amusement as Paul came up the walkway wearing a three piece suit on one of the hottest days in August. He was overdressed for the meeting, but I admired his style.

After visiting with Rebecca in Madison, I drove to Green Bay to see my brother, Jonathan, his wife, Cheryl, and their son, Keaton, a recent college graduate majoring in Biology. Cheryl has been a Green Bay City Planner for thirty years, and she and Jonathan took me on a tour to see all the redevelopment she’s been a part of, including partnering with Habitat for Humanity. She and Jonathan are deeply committed to building neighborhoods and strengthening communities.

I got a taste of local life when we attended St. Mary of the Angels Church’s Booyah Festival. Booyah is a delicious soup made with both beef and chicken, and lots of veggies. Of course, the highlight for me was the dessert table, which featured homemade cakes and pies and a specialty called knee caps, made of fried dough topped with sugar, whipped cream, and cherry preserves. The perfect accompaniment to the food? A live polka band!

 

Life in Wisconsin seemed very different from how we live in New Jersey, especially as I drove from Green Bay back to Madison and enjoyed the miles of green fields, silos, and cows – and very little traffic!

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