Why Are You Doing This?

“Why are you doing this? Why look to the past? We’re here now, let’s move forward!”

These are some things that were said to me today, when I had been expressing my excitement about having visited the Mennonite Heritage Archives and having so much exciting reading and exploring to do.

Okay. Well, when I had that travel blog, I often wrestled with the question of why. As I mentioned the other day, it makes much more sense for me to ask questions about the place I actually live. I’m the 4th or 5th generation here, and yet I know next to nothing about Mennonites… and that’s kind of ridiculous, considering I am one, and live in a menno-mecca of sorts.

But okay, let’s look at the question a little closer. I came across an article on broadly.vice.com, entitled Indigenous Women on the Ongoing Fight Against Colonialism and Capitalism, in which Sarah Lyons asks Lauren TwoBraids Howland, “If non-native people wanted to help you in this fight, what are some steps you think they should take?” Lauren’s response: “What we need is for you, as a non-indigenous person… to re-establish your connection with (Mother Earth) through your own indigenous practices and culture. We need you to… recognize yourself as an indigenous person to the earth, because although you aren’t indigenous to Turtle Island, you are indigenous to somewhere.”

Well that’s just it. While “our people” are not from Manitoba… we are from someplace here on this planet. But we’ve become disconnected from our relationship with the earth.

Maybe that disconnection happened when our great-great-grandparents uprooted themselves and traveled across the ocean… pursuing dreams and finding a reality that likely didn’t entirely line up with what they’d been told, and what they’d imagined.

Maybe that disconnection happened in 1500’s Holland, when many of the earliest records suggest the Mennonites first began to migrate around Europe.

Or maybe that disconnection happened now, as small family farms have disappeared, and everyone’s either citified or running a factory/corporation now. I think this might be what Raylene Hinz-Penner was talking about at the Mennonite/s Writing conference, when she asked: “When did Mennonites become white?”

I’m not sure I’ll ever trace my ancestry back much past the 1500’s, but I can at least ask questions and take a look at why my people are here, why did they (we) do the things they (we) did, and are some of our assumptions… wrong? Assumptions about ourselves, our right to be here, and our relationship with the earth?

I’m thinking… yes.