Can I Be Native American and Christian?

One Native American student struggles with Christianity

By Nicholas Ross-Dick with Rich Atkinson   |  04/01/2009
nick-ross-dick-kelly-gorham-msu-news-service-465x280.jpg It was like I was giving up what sustained me for 21 years and that was the hardest thing. Photo courtesy of Kelly Gorham MSU news service

I grew up on the [Native-American] reservation in south central Washington, raised in a traditional spiritual belief system. It was non-Christian: We sang in the Yakama language, worshipped with hand drums and danced in a longhouse with a dirt floor.

When I came to Montana, culture shock hit me. My spirituality has always been a large part of who I am. I felt I was losing mine.

 I Rejected a Bible Study Group for Natives

One day, Sydney, who was in my bowling class, asked me to come to a Nations meeting. Nations  is a Campus Crusade for Christ ministry that reaches out to Native-American students. "Hey, I'm starting this Bible study group and I just want it to be for Native students."

I went once, but was turned off and didn't go back for quite some time. I was very skeptical and resistant to Christianity. My family was adamant in keeping me away from any church because of what Christianity had done to our Native-American people.

Could I Find an Answer for My Struggles?

Yet I struggled being away from the reservation, away from my traditions and my family. I tried to do life on my own, but I was lost spiritually. When my grandmother died, I was so depressed that I tried to commit suicide.

The Nations group grew and people kept inviting me to come. I went to a meeting about a year later and have been going ever since.

I was still adamant in my belief structure. This group of individuals at Nations, they are Natives too and they were really open. They acknowledged the fact that I struggled with things. They actually helped me to embrace that struggle.

How Reading God's Word Opened My Eyes

Then I was challenged to read the New Testament. That was my first real attempt in my own conscience of my own choice. One night last fall while reading Matthew 9, I started crying. Sometimes things just speak to you and this particular passage just stood out to me.

I had spent 21 years being raised in a different way of thinking, not only spiritually, but also culturally. It was like I was giving up what sustained me for all those years and that was the hardest thing. It was really heavy on my mind and in my heart and in my soul.  I was just finally able to let that go.

I needed to know I was forgiven. I finally gave my heart to the Lord. I was given a better heart and a clearer conscience and a new life.

I've set out to show that it's okay to accept this Christian life and still be Native.

Next: Would You Like to Know God Personally?

Nick is a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nations and is pursuing a double major in Philosophy and Sociology at Montana State University in Bozeman.  He loves writing, exercising and movies. About 300 Native-American students attend Montana State University on a campus of 12,000 students.