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Gene L. Green


Toward a Native Theology

The legacy of Richard Twiss.

Richard sat around the large powwow drum with Terry and Matt LeBlanc, Randy Woodley, and Ray Aldred as the late sun of a summer afternoon streamed in through the stained-glass images of Wesley, Luther, and Jesus in Gary United Methodist Church. The squared sanctuary, with its dark wood and large pipe organ, resonated with loud synchronized beats of the powwow drum mingled with singing in another tongue. At the transition of each round in the song, thunderous honor beats rang out as worship was offered to the Creator. The space and our hearts reverberated with the heartbeat of the drum, which had been lovingly carried by four Natives through the streets from Wheaton College.

Richard Twiss, whose heritage was Sicangu Lakota from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, had come to Wheaton to participate in the annual symposium of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS-An Indigenous Learning Community). Opening ceremonies were held on the quad of the college, with Vincent Yellow Old Woman overseeing the protocol. The symposium closed with a fire ceremony on the same ground, once Potawatomi land. The ceremony began with smudging. Each person in the circle drew the fragrant smoke of sage up over their head, around their body, and down to their feet in an act of spiritual cleansing. Prayers were offered to Creator as Natives and non-Natives renewed their commitment to walk in the Jesus way.

Richard had read a paper at the symposium entitled "Rescuing Theology from the Cowboys: An Emerging Indigenous Expression of the Jesus Way in North America," the title of the dissertation which earned him a DMiss at Asbury Seminary. The essay, subsequently published in the NAIITS journal,[1] does not reflect the pathos of Richard's oral presentation. He seemed weary and spoke of longing to be with his people. He was true to his name, Taoyate Obnajin, which translated means "He Stands with His People." A few months hence he ...

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