It has been a year since I wrote and published the first post on this blog. To celebrate I thought I would share a little about my personal journey. It may surprise a few people, but I didn’t want to start this blog. I had plans to start a blog, but it had nothing to do with what it became, and more times than I can count along the way I wanted to quit. The amount of “Lamanite” documents I have read have been a constant weight – triggering emotions I experienced as a member that I would rather leave buried in the past. The shock over such blatant cultural genocide is now constantly on my mind.
For months after leaving the church I had been searching for anything I could find on the internet that would help me heal. At the very least I hoped to find similar stories that validated the pain I experienced in Mormonism. I wanted stories of Indigenous people who had left the church, something that would help me not feel so alone. I was astonished at how little was out there. I remember turning to my husband at one point and saying that someone should create an online space where people who were identified as Lamanite within the Mormon church could go and know they were not alone, nor wrong for being hurt and upset. We didn’t imagine what had happened to us, what we were taught, or how we were treated.
As days turned into weeks I kept thinking about how someone should do something . So I reached out to Mormon stories and shared my story. It was scary being so open on such a public level. In a way embarrassing because of how I had viewed my own skin. As someone who views herself as a strong woman, all I could see were my weaknesses. I couldn’t forgive myself for betraying my people when I was a Mormon, and I couldn’t forgive myself for being ashamed of my own skin. After the interview instead of feeling like I had done my part, I felt like I hadn’t done enough. I hadn’t expressed what had hurt me more than any other thing within Mormonism, the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is many stories, but it is also prediction of things to come and the reason why Native Americans and Indigenous peoples lost the right to their lands. The Book of Mormon is a prediction of God approved genocide. This was my heritage as a so called “Lamanite”. During my interview on Mormon Stories when John Dehlin asked me about why heritage was painful I couldn’t answer. All I could think was that my Tsimshian heritage did not cause me any pain. My betrayal of it caused me pain, but that was different. It was later that day, after the interview, that I wanted to kick myself for not sharing the very thing I had talked about so many times beforehand. Indigenous people were cursed by God with genocide, this had caused me pain for as long as I could remember as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
As I beat myself up for not saying that I realized I could sit around wishing for someone to do something or I could try to do more myself. So I decided to do a blog which admittedly felt overwhelming. Though I loved research and had already put countless hours into it, it was more of a hobby. This was not something I felt I was fully qualified to attempt. Plus, though the Mormon Church put all Indigenous people in one category, there is vast differences in experiences and cultures. Would I be able to show love and respect for all peoples labeled as Lamanites, including the ones who choose to stay in the church? Would I be able to honor individual journeys? Even now I am hesitant to say yes. However I will say this, in the year that I have been blogging I have learned one thing, I have a right to honor my own journey.
Strange that honoring my own journey is a realization that I only figured out recently. I have been so worried about other people, especially my family still in the church, that I didn’t apply the idea of honoring journeys to myself. It took speaking with my beautiful Navajo Aunt to suddenly feel ok. She is wonderfully outspoken and said things I didn’t even know I needed to hear. I’m ok, and this has been my journey too. Even now as I think of the conversation I had with her I get choked up and tears stream down my face. Family is family, no matter what the individual journey is. I am family still with my Mormon family members, regardless of what path I feel I must go down.
There have been many Indigenous people who have reached out to me. They have shared their stories and I have cried with them. So many have this deep need to heal from the experiences of cultural genocide and being silenced. One thing that still makes me ache is that they have virtually all expressed a need to stay anonymous. This is the very feeling I have had every step of my journey, and it has cost me and my family greatly at times to be so public about my experience. But the more stories I hear the more strength I seem to find. Truth will not be silenced.
Though the blog is a part of my journey, it is not the largest part. The largest part of my journey is in reclaiming my life. I have run between 4,000 and 4,500 miles during this year of blogging and have watched countless hours of comedy. Both of those things have helped me center myself. I have gone dancing, played in the rain with my kids, and connected with old and new friends. I have driven my kids nuts with all my singing to the point that they completely tune me out now when I say it is “concert time”. lol And every step of the way I have pulled my little family along with me for the ups and downs and everything in between. If there is anything I have learned so far in my journey it is that life is beautiful and worth living, but only if I embrace it. For me that means unplugging from everything to enjoy my children’s laughter and the rain.
Just want to add a little side note – in late 2015/ early 2016 when I was in the process of deciding to leave the church I added Philosophy as a minor to my degree. I was confused and stressed, and as usual turned to educating myself as a way to cope. Let go of emotions and look at common sense. Not always an effective way to deal with stress, but still always helpful. I was blown away by how much I didn’t know, how old and rich philosophy world wide truly was, and the beauty of humanity. Personally as someone who fully lived and loved the Mormon culture and found myself in transition – I found the following Plato quote meaningful, “Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.”
Thank you to everyone who has come along for the ride and helped me along the way. Thank you for the new friendships, emails, and phone calls. And a special thank you for the kind words and comments that people leave on my blog. Though I have not met many of you, your words have meant more than you know!