An Interview with Fern Cloud: Part 2


Unbound curated a series of articles and interviews on the doctrine of discovery and it got a lot of interest and people wanted to know more and to hear the perspectives of Native people. Because I feel like people don’t know how to connect issues. We have kind of conditioned ourselves to compartmentalize things.

Oh absolutely.  The average citizen is not going to know about this but tribal people who were born into this relationship with the government, this is part of who we are. And we listen to our elders talking about these issues.  I’ve listened to that all my life and experiencing my relationship with the Indian Health Service or the Bureau of Indian Affairs and how the bureaucracy is overwhelming. And this has been my concern since I was a teenager. Because I listened to this a lot.

Yeah. And if you were taught it correctly. I grew up in the South and we might’ve mentioned Native American history maybe once that I can remember. And even then, it probably wasn’t taught to us in the way that was the reality especially about the doctrine of discovery.

Well that’s another thing that you have to understand about native people and public school. Of course, whoever wins the war gets to write the history books. And so, we know that. And I’ve known that since I was young.  I come from a very unique family. My great-great grandfather was a chief in Minnesota. My family always was very involved in issues that affected the people.  We’ve always been involved not politically more spiritually because my family’s always been ministers.

My dad was Episcopal minister; my uncles were Presbyterian ministers  and also just coming into a leadership positions we had to be good. We had to show a lot of diplomacy with everyone. And so this is what I was taught growing up. And so that’s just been my journey. We realized going to school that  we got a watered down, whitewashed version of history and it always made native people look so inferior. But I have the strong family support of who I was as a native person and how I should be proud of the things that we’ve accomplished and our ties to the land, the environment and that we are stewards of this land given to us from our creator.

We always acknowledge that this is where God placed us. This is the land he gave us to take care of. And this is the way we are. We migrated around because we never wanted to overwork the land in one spot to let that land heal. And then it pained my ancestors to see the farmers coming in and overdoing the land and using chemicals that are killing the land and the rivers. For us this is not something we are doing because of the stewardship that God gave us. So it’s part of our faith journey to be stewards of this land. It goes deeper than just being an activist in environmental issues. It’s like that full circle – it’s all connected for us as native people.

It’s spiritual. And for me, in Christianity, creation and the land should be spiritual for us. As a white man, my experience is so different from yours, but being raised to believe in the Word, in Genesis, the land and creation is part of our faith. And so that disconnect there along with the capitalism and the money making goes against our faith.

Yes, and we understand that as native people and we probably understand more about politics than the average person. We know this is a capitalistic country. And looking at  how those wheels turn and how they’re connected to the economy and the environment. It is destroying the environment.  Money is more important than the environment and it affects everyone. We don’t just do our activism for native American people. We’re doing this for everyone.

I read this like past week and I’ve heard it said a lot that the earth is taking a breath. What do you think about that?

Well, we’re not using our cars as much. I’ve seen pictures of Los Angeles  before and after and you can see a difference. And that is a picture of how powerful nature is and all these natural things that God created how powerful they are to heal themselves.

Nature is reclaiming itself…a lot of good coming out of this unfortunately.  If we allow ourselves to look on the bright side of this, you can see it. The news and all of that is so fear-based and people in this world listen to that every day.   It’s going to have a negative effect. But if you look on the bright side, there’s a lot of people with faith who are realizing that we should start reclaiming our spirituality as nature is reclaiming.

Philippians tells us whatever things are good, whatever things are honorable, what are the things that are building you up? Think on those things. So that’s the message I’m trying to always give out to my congregation, to my people that look to me for leadership but I think that’s a message that the whole world is grabbing onto.

If you look on that side of all of this there’s a lot of good  people doing good work. We aren’t bombarded to go shopping  and our minds aren’t cluttered with spending. So I hope we get back to basics and goodness that’s inherently in our hearts.

Interview conducted by Lee Catoe, Managing Editor of Unbound.

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