Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God

By Kaitlin B. Curtice. Brazos Press, 2020. 208 pages. $35.99/hardcover; $17.99/paperback or eBook.

Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God is Kaitlin B. Curtice’s exploration of the fullness of her identity, particularly as a “white-coded Potawatomi woman” and a Christian. She had struggled in the past to make each of these identities her own. This work contains lessons from her journey: not only about her own particular identities but also about building Beloved Community, and consideration of our spiritual relationship to the Earth. She believes that through sharing and listening to stories with “grace and honor,” we will catalyze healing.

Curtice did not grow up immersed in Potawatomi culture, so readers benefit from her reflections on all she has gained from reconnecting with that culture and its teachings as an adult. She shares that Indigenous people “carry stories inside us—not just stories of oppression but stories of liberation, of renewal, of survival.” Throughout the book, she weaves lessons of the Potawatomi flood (the origin story) and the Seven Grandfather Teachings. I was particularly interested in the ways she discussed land acknowledgment, which she says “is about listening, it is about remembering, and it is about rejecting invisibility.” Her engagement with her Potawatomi culture empowers her to reflect anew about her spirituality. She finds herself longing to pray as her Potawatomi ancestors and relatives pray, to “a sacred belonging that spans time and generations and is called by many names.”

Curtice grew up with a strong, strict Christian identity, and now her “spiritual Potawatomi tradition enhances the celebration of God as liberator and the person of Jesus as a partner in that liberation.” What she has experienced thus far in her Christianity is that “the church wants what is white in me, but not what is Native in me.” She believes that “the church has to see its complicity in white supremacy throughout the centuries,” and that “[i]f we are to believe that the inclusive love of God is real, we’d better start building a bigger table.” She shares reflections on what decolonizing Christianity can look like, including centering the voices of those currently on the margins.

Ultimately, this book is a reflection on what grounds and connects us with respect to the Earth and each other. Curtice believes that “Mother Earth [is] a living, breathing being that we learn from” and that “[t]he only way we can make our way home is to support one another on the journey.” She invites readers to “enter into the work of truth-telling, of keeping watch, of being people who will ask hard questions and hold grace in the difficult spaces.” She underscores the urgency of this moment as we consider how to be the best versions of ourselves and how to build better systems.

Lauren Brownlee is a member of Bethesda (Md.) Meeting, where she serves on the Peace and Social Justice Committee. She also supports the Growing Diverse Leadership Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

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