By Amy Grace Drinkwater
Mary Faus, 52, an Ojibway-Cree native of Ontario, doesn’t describe herself, or her people, as Native Americans, but older than Native Americans. She believes her people transcend America.
As an active member of All Tribes DC, a native formed Christian-based nonprofit, Faus is a spiritual leader and an advocate for her native people in taking back their culture and voice.
“A lot of what we do in First Nations and Native Americans is by relationship,” Faus said. “We are the host of this nation.”
Since October 2016, All Tribes DC has met annually in Washington, D.C., which sits atop of the land of the Piscataway people.
In these gatherings, there have been as many as 70 tribes recorded in attendance, according to Faus. These gatherings promote a spiritual connection to the land, restoration of the native languages and healing of the people.
Faus said that as a faith-based people, their primary objective is needing to forgive, but also learning how to forgive due to some of the atrocities being so embedded against the native people.
According to Faus, a prayer was crafted by Willie Jock, a Mohawk from the Iroquois Nation.
This faith-based prayer is spoken by native people to address the forgiveness of government, the church, and education, as well as addressing the people’s position and authority they carry as the original natives of the land.
All Tribes calls this prayer the “power to forgive.”
Faus explained how they meet where the government of America is seated, even though they don’t recognize that as their government. American natives have their own governments on their own territories and communities.
“The power of prayer still needs to be uttered in Washington, D.C. because that’s where the people who have governed and created legislation against our people are,” Faus explained. “That’s where the release of forgiveness had to be spoken first.”
Faus said that in order for the healing to occur, the original people of the land are responsible for unlocking what has been shut down and speaking revival to the land.
The violence, assimilation and killing of her people are still producing animosity and hatred across America, she believes.
“The land hears everything,” Faus said. “The land is a witness of what has been done on it. For restoration of all things, the land has to come into a place of healing.”
Faus said how the native people are not about a gnostic way of thinking, but about the spiritual connection to the land.
“There is an inherent understanding that we are one with the land,” Faus said.
Sitting face to face with Faus discussing the plan of restoration for native people, she reflected back to November 2014, explaining where it all began for her: gathering with a group of native people at Prayer Mountain in the Ozarks of Branson, Mo.
During that time, she had been training in a Christian school for spiritual warfare (fighting battles in the spiritual realm) under the Two Rivers Native American Center.
Many leaders of all different tribes of indigenous people like her, from Alaska to the Iroquois Nation to Canada and the South West, had been invited by Dr. Billye Brim to attend.
The gathering at Prayer Mountain had “ignited hearts” in the words of Faus, where many tribal voices came together.
“What it really did was bring like-minded people together for an awakening for native America,” Faus said. “What took place there kind of set the tone for what we would do the following year.”
In the following meeting, there was a commissioning from one generation to the other, from the elders to the younger people. Worship of the Creator and prayer took place during this time.
This event took place in Ottawa, known as the “Gathering of the Eagles,” hosted by the honorary Chief of Canada, Kenny Blacksmith. The native people began to find a way to usher in the prophecies spoken over the indigenous peoples, foretelling of raising up the tribes again.
“The Eagle is very sacred to our people,” said Faus, explaining how it’s a symbol of honor and seeing.
There have been many prophecies spoken over the indigenous peoples of America by various well-known people, proclaiming an awakening which Faus and others believe has just been ignited.
Faus mentioned Dr. Billie Graham declaring over the Navajo Nation back in the 70’s, saying native America is like a “sleeping giant,” who, when awakened, will be the evangelists that will bring revival to the Nation.
The Navajo Nation hosted a gathering in Page, Ariz. on May 2015, where something significant in the atmosphere happened, a spiritual stirring, according to Faus. Here, the sacred teachings of the elders, prayer and unity formed the basis for the gathering.
Faus explained how today’s society needs the native people. Due to all the meetings across the tribal territories, Faus explained how the voice for the “first people” has started to emerge, like it never has before in a spiritual way and not just in a political sense.
During All Tribes DC’s first meeting in D.C. in 2016, the United Nations was also meeting and in the midst of voting for the recognition of indigenous languages and rights of indigenous peoples. Faus believed there was a spiritual significance to the joint occurrence.
The negative treatment of the indigenous peoples of America and Canada can be traced back to the beginning, when these nations were formed. Faus said the gathering of her people is the beginning of addressing and restoring things that have been out of order regarding systemic issues of these nations.
“When you have a spiritual understanding of some of these things that have taken place, in history, they still matter today,” Faus said.
“These issues have born the fruit of what we are seeing today.”
Faus believes systemic racism in America is not just about slavery, but that the treatment of her people opened the doors for slaves to be brought onto American soil.
She relates it to America’s current battle over immigration and how that also is connected to the origin of our country.
“We are a foundational people,” Faus said, speaking on how native people transcend the history of the country since her people existed prior to those times.
Faus explained how as native people, there is an understanding between them, and when they speak, it is coming from a genetic code and memory of a people that existed before America was even founded.
According to Faus, it’s become very clear that the issues systemic to the natives have to do with the government, church, and education.
“To be part of a church you have to lose your identity,” Faus said, referring to what the organizations, churches and government did to her people in the past.
She explained how the organization of the Christian church has always carried an agenda of assimilation and that only few in the body of Christ (Christians) understand the spiritual connection native people have been given from God, the creator.
“We can’t compartmentalize who we are as [Christians], but also the spirituality of the native people,” Faus said. “For too long I feel like the church has compartmentalized us.”
“We had to put off who we are as natives in order to run in the Christian circle and that has only served to silence our people and to push them aside,” Faus said.
She said the education system has been used to assimilate her people through a cultural genocide at the hands of the government alongside the church.
At each gathering, this has become the primary issue in which all tribes have decided to address and change, Faus said.
When the tribes gather, languages, dances, and the sacredness of regalia, the different forms of ceremonial dress, are brought out. Native dances and prayers are extremely important to the native people.
Faus stressed the importance of the restoration of the native identity through
ancient sounds, languages and movements needing to be known and heard again,
because the native people are still here and they are here to bless and not curse.
According to Faus, the drum is sacred to the indigenous people and is used to draw the people back to their identity and prayer, which had been removed by the church in the past.
“In the place of reclaiming our heritage, one of the pieces has to do with the drum,”
Faus said. “There is also the necessity to understand how to use this drum. It is a call to worship. We call it the heartbeat of the creator.”
Faus moved to Pennsylvania from her reservation in 1989 to marry her English husband. She attributes her native upbringing to her aunt who helped her maintain the Anishininiimowin language of her elders.
Faus grew up in the Anglican Church and attended an all-girls Mennonite school. Her native culture, such as the dances, language, drums, and regalia, had been removed from her upbringing.
Faus shared that when growing up she had been told that the drum, core values and customs of her people were not for her.
“How dare people embed their ideas into another people’s group and tell them what they can and cannot do,” Faus said.
These were the same core values that were disregarded because they were “not Christian,” even though they were the same as the seven core values of the Bible, which had been later revealed to her as the seven grandfather teachings or “sacred teachings” of her people.
There are attributes and characteristics of her people and their Creator: truth, love, compassion, courage, respect, honesty, humility and bravery.
Faus mentioned how the organization of the church and the government have tried to take away her people’s culture by removing these principles.
Faus explained how she has struggled with the indignation of being robbed of the traditions of her people, but has reconciled it through the realization of how it had been imparted to her through her upbringing anyway.
According to Faus, her people have never had much of a history written down, but they have preserved their stories, legends, and way of life through verbal tradition.
She said many tribes are facing extinction and on the verge of losing their languages, which are consequences of the assimilation to residential schools and the genocide of indigenous people.
“To cut people off from their languages is to cut people off from their culture,” Faus said. “The language is our foundation. Our language is very much connected to land.”
Furthermore, Faus and All Tribes DC strongly believe that the caretakers of the land need to come together and address the same issues that concern their people.
One of the most devastating current concerns is the missing and murdered indigenous women, which is a prevalent issue in the U.S.
The advice Faus leaves for those interested in her native people is, “When you read things about my people, consider the author.”
All Tribes DC and Faus are continuing to work together to be a voice, providing workshops to bring unity to the native peoples and encourage healing throughout the nations.
The next All Tribes DC gathering is Oct. 2 from 9-6 p.m. in Washington D.C.
Check out alltribesdc.org to find more information about this organization, meeting times, ways to donate and more.
Contact Amy Grace Drinkwater at firstname.lastname@example.org