They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. – Micah 4:3
July 18th will be the 2nd annual Peace March on the 1st anniversary of the shootings where a Northern Arapaho was massacred and another Northern Arapaho was seriously injured by a white Riverton city employee with a machine gun at the Center of Hope, a detox center in Riverton. At the workshop I co-facilitated last month, I asked who knew the names of the two victims. The Native Americans there all raised their hands; few of the whites present knew the answer.
Stalone Trosper was killed; Sonny Goggles was critically injured.
Let us remember what happened. Wherever there is violence, we, as people of faith, should stand with the victims.
I will be leading a 5-week discussion starting July 24th at the First United Methodist Church in Riverton of a book entitled Massacre at Sand Creek: How Methodists Were Involved in an American Tragedy, by Gary L. Roberts. Gail Ridgely, a Northern Arapaho and a leader in the commemoration of the Sand Creek Massacre, will speak the last week.
As I prepare for this class, I am asking how the massacre more than 150 years ago is connected to what took place on July 18, 2015 in Riverton. For many non-Indians, there may seem little connection. But I expect that for many Northern Arapaho who live in Fremont County, the same mentality that led to the massacre in 1864 still exists today in Wyoming, where little is taught about either the Eastern Shoshone or Northern Arapaho people. This ignorance perpetuates the hatred and provides the setting for the unthinkable to happen.
Following the shootings in 2015 was a Peace March and community dialogues. It is critical that our churches and people of faith participate in the 2016 Peace March to demonstrate our (re)commitment to stand with the Native Americans in Wyoming until racism is no more.
Ironically, the Wyoming Association of Churches was criticized for being involved in both the 2015 Peace March and the community dialogues that followed. A white male critic who asked that WAC step out of that role obviously does not understand the role that churches played in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. I moved to Riverton to better implement a resolution that we stand with Native Americans in Wyoming. We certainly fail to “stand with” if we are not present.
Please plan to come. The Peace March is on Monday, July 18, 10 am and begins at the park across from the Center of Hope at 223 W. Adams Street and ends at the Riverton City Park. Bring your signs and banners and show that you stand with the victims of the on-going tragedy.
Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.