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Tribal alliances: the state of Israel and Native American Christianity.

I. Introduction: Indians, Jews, and Jesus

But I having curiously examined whatever has hitherto been written upon this subject do find no opinion more probable, nor agreeable to reason, than that of our Montezinos, who says, that the first inhabitants of America were the Ten Tribes of the Israelites ...

... I prove that the Ten Tribes never returned to the Second Temple, that they yet kept the Law of Moses, and our sacred rites; and at last shall return to their Land, with the two Tribes, Judah and Benjamin; and shall be governed by one Prince, who is Messiah the Son of David; and without doubt that time is near, which I make appear by divers things ... (1)

--Menasseh Ben Israel (1650)
   So, now, when you touch me
   my skin, will you think
   of Sand Creek, Wounded Knee?
   And what will 1 remember

   when your skin is next to mine
   Auschwitz, Buchenwald?
   No, we will only think of the past
   as one second before

   where we are now, the future
   just one second ahead
   but every once in a while
   we can remind each other

   that we are both survivors and children
   and grandchildren of survivors. (2)

   --Sherman Alexie (1993)

As the end of the world draws near, per the theological calculations of many American churchgoers, more and more indigenous Christians across the United States are turning their hopes toward Israel. They do so with an eye to fulfilling the requisite Last Days prophecies, buoyed by a sense of solidarity with the tiny nation bom of a shared survivorship through centuries of oppression. Theories uniting Jews and American Indians in ancestral alchemy have flourished since Europeans landed on New World shores, beginning with Christopher Columbus. (3) Through most of that history, fascination with the presumed Jewish roots of indigenous Americans was located primarily--if not exclusively--among non-Native commentators on American Indians, captivating the religious and historical imaginations of European Christians and, occasionally, of European Jews.

More recently, however, the religious imaginations of a growing number of Native Americans have likewise been captured by the possibilities of a Hebrew origin. And, even among a swelling number of Native Americans for whom the Jewish-origins narrative seems unlikely, the allure of embracing a more symbolic expression of Jewish kinship is proving irresistible. In fact, indigenous expressions of solidarity with Israel have grown so common--and Israeli expressions of reciprocation so overt--that a number of prominent Native scholars, alarmed by U.S. tribal support of an occupying Israeli government linked to systematic Palestinian oppression, have signed onto the controversial "Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel." When the well-known Mvskoke (Muscogee Creek) poet, author, and musician Joy Harjo accepted an invitation to perform at Tel Aviv University in 2012, some of her Native peers in the academy begged her "to not cross the picket line called by Palestinian civil society." (4) Harjo refused to change course, publically expressing her disapproval of the boycott. This prompted considerable outrage from certain of her peers. (5)

Even more recently, the tribal governments of the Apsaalooke (Crow) and Navajo Nations have each formally established political alliances with the State of Israel, fueled by the promise of economic prosperity and staked to expressions of kinship between sibling tribes with long histories of collective suffering. While a rising chorus of voices is drawing attention to the cultural, political, postcolonial, and development implications of this burgeoning pro-Israel movement among U.S. indigenous peoples, less attention has been paid to the underlying religious convictions that are driving these developments. Barely obscured beneath the rhetoric of political alliances and economic partnerships, lurking in the comers of press releases and tribal policy speeches, a Native Christian theology--rife with Messianic Jewish influence, prophetic visions, and eschatological urgency--is the real impetus behind this surprising surge in Indian-Jewish cooperation.

An exploration of the remarkable pro-Israel efforts flourishing today among the Crow and Navajo Tribes offers a glimpse into the ways that Lost Tribes mythology, Pentecostal eschatology, biblical literalism, and a savvy coalition of Messianic Jewish organizations are making a new flower of Zionism bloom in the indigenous plains and desert soils of contemporary Native America.

II. "Jesus Christ Is Lord" on the Crow Indian Reservation

On April 8, 2013, the Crow Tribal Legislature joined the tribe's Executive Branch in passing a resolution carrying the following title: "A Crow Tribal Joint Action Resolution to Establish Crow Tribal Policy Officially Supporting the State of Israel on a Nation-to-Nation Basis." Tribal Chairperson Darrin Old Coyote served as the bill's sponsor. Perhaps due to the unusual nature of this bill, the legislation's preambulatory clauses offer a wide-ranging justification for such an alliance, using political, historical, and even biblical appeals.

First, the resolution establishes the tribe's right to enter into such agreements with any nation it chooses, insofar as the Apsaalooke Nation is a "federally-recognized sovereign tribal nation" with a history of entering into treaties with the U.S. "on a nation-to-nation basis." As for why Israel should receive special recognition by the tribe, the bill's framers begin with the claim that Crow Indians and the State of Israel enjoy a kinship by virtue of their respective histories of persecution. After highlighting threats posed to the Crows' "sacred homeland" over the years-- first by neighboring tribes (including "attempts to eradicate the Crow Tribe from its very existence") and later by non-Natives seeking access to the reservation's considerable mineral wealth--the bill's authors conclude that "the State of Israel has faced similar historic challenges as the Crow Tribe to its territorial integrity and survival, many of which are still ongoing today."

After noting Israel's support, (6) in 2007, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples--a declaration that was immediately supported by Crow legislative action (7)--the resolution takes a decidedly biblical turn:
   Whereas, according to the King James Version of the Holy Bible,
   Book of Genesis, Chapter (12) ... the words of the Creator
   ("Akbaatatdia") to the nation of Israel provide that: "I will make
   of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name
   great; and thou shaft be a blessing. And I will bless them that
   bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all
   families of the Earth be blessed."

Having expressed such bold confidence that divinely appointed blessings would visit not only friends of the ancient Hebrew patriarch but also friends of the modem State of Israel, the bill's authors declare, "The official policy of the Crow Tribe of Indians shall be to support the State of Israel, especially in its efforts to maintain economic, territorial and political integrity." Toward this end, provisions are made to ensure that copies of the resolution are delivered to the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and the United Nations. It also stipulates that "an official flag of the State of Israel is flown at the Veteran's Park in Crow Agency" as a "monument" to this declaration. The resolution passed with unanimous support. (8) In March, 2014, during a private ceremony in Washington, DC, Crow tribal leaders formally presented the resolution to Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

This conspicuous mingling of religious conviction with political action might have generated more surprise than it did among observers of Crow tribal politics, except that an even more stridently religious bill had passed in the Crow Legislature just one month earlier. On March 6, 2013, a special legislative session approved LR 13-02, titled "A Resolution of the Crow Tribal Legislature to Honor God for his Great Blessings upon the Crow Tribe and to Proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of the Crow Indian Reservation." In its preambulatory material, the bill claims that "today a large majority of Crow tribal members are Christians," highlights two Crow-language names for Jesus, and draws attention to an informal policy of offering prayers before legislative sessions, "all of which are typically done in the name of Jesus." The resolution then gives "recognition to the fact that God has guided the Crow Tribe throughout its history" in hopes that "future generations have extraordinary opportunities with continued guidance from God to significantly improve the social, economic, and political conditions of the Crow Tribe and Crow Reservation," adding, "and, more importantly, that everlasting life in Heaven (the 'Other Side Camp') is available to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal savior."

The legislation resolves to give "thanks and appreciation ... to God for all of the blessings which have been bestowed upon the Crow Tribe" and "honors the powerful works of God in protecting the Crow Tribe." Therefore, it resolves that "Jesus Christ is hereby proclaimed as 'Lord of the Crow Indian Reservation' by the Crow Tribal Legislature." Toward a public demonstration of this decree, the Secretary of the Legislature is entrusted with the task of displaying a monument to this proclamation in the Legislative Chamber, and the Legislature itself pledges support to the local pastors in erecting signage along Interstate 90 in Crow Agency, Montana ("and in other areas of the Crow Reservation"), declaring, "Jesus Christ is Lord of the Crow Indian Reservation." (9) The resolution passed without a single vote in opposition. (10)

LR 13-02 was sponsored by Senator Conrad J. Stewart of the reservation's Black Lodge District. The thirty-nine-year-old senator had run a hard-fought, social-media-savvy campaign to be the Tribal Chairperson the previous fall, though his bid ultimately fell short. Stewart is an outspoken Pentecostal Christian, being the proud great-grandson of Nellie Pretty Eagle Stewart, who was both daughter to Chief Pretty Eagle and founding pioneer of Crow Pentecostalism in the 1920's." (11) On the Facebook page dedicated to his senatorial reelection campaign, Stewart describes himself as "a Christian with Crow Traditional Values." The Bible headlines his list of favorite books, and he paraphrases Rom. 8:31 as his favorite quotation: "If God be for you! Who could be against you??" He describes his religious views in one word: "Christianity!!" (12)

In addition to sponsoring the "Jesus Is Lord" resolution, Stewart was also a key backer of the bill supporting Israel. In an interview I had with Stewart in July, 2013, he expressed great enthusiasm about passage of these resolutions, which he regarded as sister bills. He repeatedly explained that, taken together, these votes were

* Grant support for this research came from the Louisville (KY) Institute and Montclair (NJ) State University. My thanks go to Tim McCleary (Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT) and Michael Kogan (Montclair State University) for offering helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this essay, and to Suzannah Leydenfrost and Kathryn Goldner for their excellent work as research assistants for this project. "planting a seed of faith" that will usher in a wave of spiritual and economic blessings for the tribe. In a press release immediately following passage of the "Jesus Is Lord" resolution, Stewart announced: "This is a step forward for progress for the Crow people. Today the Crow Legislative branch supported me in planting a seed of faith to propel the Crow Nation into Greater Prosperity." (13) The subsequent resolution declaring support for Israel was seen as a logical--even necessary--next step toward realizing this "greater prosperity." Indeed, just before the vote was cast on the Stewart bill, legislators agreed that the next action to be taken up should be a formal tribal declaration of support for the state of Israel. (14)

III. Mineral Wealth and Spiritual Blessings

Consistent with language found in the Joint Action Resolution on Israel, Stewart believes that points of historical continuity between the Crow people and Israel constitute a solidarity that carries spiritual significance. He drew a parallel between the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve clans he says historically comprised the Crow Tribe. (15) He also noted the shared histories of persecution that link Jews and Crows, adding that, like Israel: "We were a small nation, we were battled from all angles; we're the same way. There's that history, those stories from the past, where we've survived 'til now."

Among Crow Christians, Stewart is not alone is feeling that Crow Indians and Jews share a peculiar kinship of culture and history. Among the surprising number of Crow Christians who have made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, some have returned with reports of miraculous experiences that have solidified their belief in an ancient connection between Jews and Crows. One Crow woman told me of the time she was praying in the Crow language at the Western Wall of the ancient temple in Jerusalem, when an elderly Israeli woman turned to ask what language she was speaking. While the elderly woman could not identify the language, she said she could understand the meaning of the words. The Crow pilgrim left the Wall more convinced than ever that ancestral ties bind her people to the Jews. I have spoken to a number of Crow tribal members who either believe, or express openness to the possibility, that they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. When I asked Stewart what he thought of this theory, he simply smiled and said, "The way I see it, anything's possible."

There is little doubt that these feelings of kinship--along with the certainty that God will bless the friends of Abraham's descendants per biblical mandate--serve as powerful motivation to pro-Israel sentiment among the tribe. Yet, it is only when paired with recent prophecies promising enormous prosperity for the tribe-- "prophecies of the Crow Tribe being a big player in international business" (16)--that these latent feelings of kinship and biblical promise have blossomed into the tribe's formal declaration of support for Israel. Stewart explained that such prophetic proclamations have been made by several nationally known evangelists, naming R. W. Schambach (d. 2012), Chuck Pierce, and Rod Parsley among them. These prophecies consistently speak of social, economic, and political blessings that God has in store for the Crow people. Stewart, like many other Crow Pentecostals, believes that friendship with Israel is the key to unlocking these promised blessings.

According to one such prophecy as described by Stewart, "the Crow people will be the lender and not the borrower, and we will be the head and not the tail. And we will be leading Indian nations, and the United States will be depending on the Crow people and their mineral resources to bring 'em out of dependency ... on oil with nations that don't care for us as Christians." The senator believes this prophecy is already being fulfilled in the tribe's Coal-to-Liquids Project now underway. As part of this plan, the tribe would lease 1,400,000,000 tons of coal to Cloud Peak Energy, which plans to sell and ship the liquefied fuel primarily to Asian markets. The project promises millions of dollars to the impoverished tribe that is currently plagued by an unemployment rate of forty-seven percent. (17) Prospects for the project appear bright, as the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave the plan its preliminary approval on behalf of the federal government in June, 2013. (18)

The interconnectedness of spiritual and mineral blessings has a long history among Crow Pentecostal leaders. One former tribal government official I interviewed who is also deeply involved in Crow Pentecostalism is among those who sees a direct relationship between profitable extraction of the reservation's natural resources and God's blessing on the people--a blessing contingent on the tribe's faithfulness to Jesus Christ. He views the opposition to mineral extraction as expressed by some Crow Traditionalists ("these culture people" who "think that the earth is sacred and all that") as obstacles to God's blessing. In his view, traditional Crow Indian religion is associated with the hardships and poverty of an earlier time. In contrast, he associates Christianity with the higher standard of living the tribe has enjoyed over the last century since being thoroughly Christianized by Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, and other denominational missionaries. (19)

It is no mere coincidence that the altar of the church that this politician-turned-preacher attends is adorned with a menorah. Nor is his church alone in overtly expressing religious ties to Judaism. In fact, the proclamation of an Israel-facing Christian gospel is pervasive among Crow Pentecostal churches. While attending an outdoor Pentecostal camp meeting last summer held at Veteran's Park in Crow Agency, the service opened rather unexpectedly with the blasting of two ram's horns, like those used in Jewish religious ceremonies since ancient times. The sounding of the horns was accompanied by the following declaration taken from Numbers 10: "When the congregation is gathered together, you shall blow the shofar horn!" The Crow preacher leading the service that evening explained to the congregation that "whenever there is a shofar that is blown, a proclamation is being made in a place called heaven." He continued, "And the people come together with expectation"--for "when the prophet blasted upon the shofar horn, that meant that God had sent a word." (20) He urged us all to enter the camp meeting with an expectation that God was about to send a healing word to us. After quoting a biblical passage about King David's bringing up the Ark of the Covenant, "the very presence of God," into Jerusalem amid the blowing of shofar horns, the horns were blown again. "The presence of God is now activated," he said, "because the word of God tells us to blow the shofar, and it proclaims the presence of God entering into this house."

Soon afterward, while reading a lengthy passage from the Hebrew Scriptures, the preacher draped over his head a fringed prayer shawl--his own tallit--according to Jewish custom. As he preached with animated passion deep into the warm August night, he wiped his brow with a small red towel, which he referred to as his "mantle" in the manner of Elijah, the ancient Hebrew prophet whose own mantle was symbolic of God's power and authority. (21) When prompted by the Holy Spirit, the preacher would suddenly throw his mantle into the crowd, occasionally causing congregants to fall, "slain in the Spirit." In these and many other ways, this Crow Pentecostal camp meeting was awash in a remarkable blend of sacramental objects and distinctly Jewish rituals.

To be sure, Crow Pentecostal appropriation of Hebrew narratives and Jewish religious practices is evident in myriad ways across the reservation. While recently visiting a Pentecostal church in Crow Agency, curiosity led me to pick up a free copy of "The Messianic Passover Haggadah" made available in the foyer. El Shaddai Church, located in the southeast reservation town of Wyola, is completing construction of a "tabernacle" to facilitate what Pastor Myron Falls Down refers to as "Davidic worship." The dedication service for this structure was scheduled to take place during Passover in April, 2014, during which time a designated team of ark carriers would transport a replica of the ancient Hebrew Ark of the Covenant to remain on the altar of the tabernacle "until Jesus comes back." (22) Like El Shaddai, the names belonging to many Crow Pentecostal churches herald a distinctly Jewish flair: El Bethel (Lodge Grass), Lion of Judah (St. Xavier), Rose of Sharon (Wyola), Zion (Crow Agency), and the Foursquare community outreach program named Nissi Transformation (Crow Agency) after the Hebrew title Jehovah Nissi, often translated "the Lord is my banner."

Among the Crow Christian organizations demonstrating particular interest in Jews, Judaism, and the state of Israel is Day Chief Ministries. The ministry is led by Jim (Chippewa) and Faith (Crow) Chosa who live near Fort Smith in the heart of the Crow Reservation. The ministry focuses on intercessory prayer and the waging of spiritual warfare for the realm of God, especially for the deliverance of Native people. They often prefer to use the Hebrew names "Yahweh" and "Yeshua" when referring to God and Jesus, respectively. Their ministry logo features a large Star of David inscribed within a dream catcher. Jim Chosa works closely with C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, and Cindy Jacobs, all of whom lead international ministries that preach a decidedly pro-Israel gospel and freely blend Jewish symbols and rituals with a prophetic-oriented Pentecostal Christianity. (23)

Indeed, when exploring factors contributing to the recent surge of support for Israel among the Crow tribe, we should not ignore the role played by a number of internationally known, pro-Israel, non-Native Pentecostal preachers who enjoy considerable influence on the reservation today. Among them is Chuck Pierce, President of Glory of Zion International Ministries, who has been formally adopted into the Crow tribe by Shirleen and Gilbert Glenn. In May, 2012, at the request of tribal chairperson Cedric Black Eagle, Pierce led a two-day conference just off the Crow Reservation; he also works closely with the Chosas in a variety of ministry-related activities on a national level. According to Stewart, Pierce is one of many modern-day prophets who has declared bold prophecies over the tribe, promising imminent prosperity. Pierce is deeply concerned with the role that Israel continues to play in God's ongoing plans for humanity. The ministry's statement of faith opens with the declaration that God "formed a land and a people, Israel, to fulfill His plans in the earth. God will not violate His covenant," adding, "God has promised great blessing to the land of Israel and its people (Dt. 28), and we can share in those blessings by faith." Glory of Zion is "a ministry that aligns Jews and Gentiles," believing that "God's goal is for Jew and Gentile to be united in faith as 'One New Man,' enjoying together the fullness of Abraham's blessings." (24)

The recently dedicated 215,000-square-foot headquarters for Pierce's ministry in Corinth, Texas, prominently features a five-acre "Israel Prayer Garden," designed to reflect the twelve tribes of Israel and anchored by a large "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" sculpture. The dedication service itself was rife with Jewish symbolism, from the blowing of a shofar horn to the lighting of a Shabbat candle. (25) Pierce, together with his wife Pam, teaches that the health of the Christian Church and the health of the State of Israel are inseparable, writing in 2012 that "the Church gains insight, understanding, and revelation through the history of Israel and shares a common heritage with the people and land of Abraham. We don't have to choose one over the other, because they are joined in Jesus Christ. In this Year of 5773, the Year of Kinsman Redeemer, as the nation of Israel blooms, the true apostolic church blooms." (26)

As this prophecy-laden, pro-Israel, Pentecostal message--proclaimed by tribal legislators, local Crow preachers, and non-Native mega evangelists alike-- continues to spread across the Reservation, the Apsaalooke Nation is hardly alone in its efforts to court an alliance with Israel in the hope of securing spiritual blessings and economic prosperity for its people. For, even as Crow church services and legislative sessions remind Native Christians of their birthright and responsibilities as spiritual--and perhaps literal--children of Abraham, the Navajo Nation, the most populous tribe in the U.S., has been busy orchestrating its own burgeoning relationship with Israel.

IV. Christian Zionism Blooms in Navajoland

In December 2012, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly left the tribal capital of Window Rock, Arizona, for a trip to Israel that was part religious pilgrimage, part agrobusiness diplomacy. The trip was organized and funded through the efforts of Robert Tso, senior pastor of Victory Life Church in Shiprock, New Mexico. Tso describes the church as a Spirit-filled, nondenominational, Bible-based community of faith that believes in holding Christianity separate from traditional Navajo religion and culture. Shelly was accompanied by his wife, a political aid, Pastor Tso and his wife, and four others who were making the trip for primarily religious reasons. In addition to visiting several holy sites and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, President Shelly also went to the Knesset where he was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Tso, the motivation for the trip was to deliver to Netanyahu a "Declaration of Support for Israel" signed by Shelly and hundreds of other Navajos at a 2011 conference co-hosted by Tso's Victory Life Church. The document expresses both political and spiritual solidarity with Israel, and affirms Israel's unique role in God's plan for humanity. When Netanyahu was unexpectedly called away on business, Deputy Prime Minster Ayoob Kara received the document in his place. (27)

While at the Knesset, Shelly delivered a speech inviting a partnership between Israel and the Navajo Nation in order to advance desert farming technologies. Shelly also met with Josh Reinstein, Director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, who, according to an official Navajo Nation press release, "committed the political resources of the Knesset caucus to working with the Navajo Nation in securing agriculture, technology, and infrastructure." (28) At Haifa University, Shelly met with faculty to discuss plans for a student and faculty exchange program between the Israeli university and Dine College on the Navajo Reservation. The trip concluded with visits to farms and greenhouses in Israel's Negev Desert so Shelly could observe, firsthand, how farmers there are utilizing innovative techniques to make productive farmland out of land similarly arid to that found on the Navajo Reservation.

In February, 2013, just weeks after returning from Israel, Shelly took part in an invitation-only dinner event sponsored by the brand new Arizona Israel Business Council (A1BC). It was the organization's first-ever event. (29) There he met with David Siegel, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, who pledged Israel's support of Navajo prosperity, telling Shelly, "You will always be honored guests in Israel." (30) Two months later, Shelly was among the honored guests and a keynote speaker at the Navajo and Israeli Agricultural Gathering for the First Nations in Shiprock, New Mexico. Indicative of the religious motivations fueling this burgeoning economic relationship with Israel, it was once again Tso's Victory Church that sponsored the event. The church also covered travel expenses for the Israeli farmers who led seminars at the event. Among them were Avi and Miriam Amzalag who run AMA Agricultural Industries in Israel's Negev Desert. Both are Messianic Jewish believers who, enroute to the Shiprock conference, delivered a presentation at the Baruch HaShem Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Dallas, Texas, a congregation united "by the simple belief that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel and thus King over all the nations." (31) Miriam's father is David Stem, a major voice in the Messianic Jewish movement and author of the influential Jewish New Testament. AMA Agricultural Industries was among the agrobusiness sites Shelly visited in December, 2012, while touring Israel.

Members of Beth Emunah Messianic Jewish Synagogue outside Los Angeles, California, demonstrated Davidic Dance during the conference while Corry Bell of Lev Shelo, a ministry specializing in Messianic Jewish music, led attendees in praise songs to Yeshua. Describing the event in an article published by The Messianic Times, Bell highlighted the spiritual currents moving beneath the agricultural and economic aspects of the Navajo-Israeli partnership, affirming Tso's conviction that cooperation between the two sovereign nations will "be the catalyst for a spiritual awakening within the two communities; a blooming of the deserts." Her article opens with a lengthy passage taken from Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad in which Twain described his impressions of Palestine after a visit to the land in 1867: "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its field and fettered its energies ... It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land." (32) Bell then adds her own commentary: "Yet, under its Jewish caretakers, Israel has flourished--an agricultural success story." (33)

In comments delivered during the event, Shelly alternately expressed his faith in Jesus Christ and extolled the possibilities of economic, agricultural, and technological partnerships with Israel related primarily to desert farming. He also promised to produce a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two nations in order to better facilitate economic cooperation between Israeli agricultural firms and Navajo business partners. According to Corry Bell, it was during this conference that "Shelly professed for the first time, publicly, his faith in Yeshua as the Son of God." (34) Shelly's first formal announcement that the promised MOU had been ratified came seven months later. Fittingly, he chose to make the announcement while speaking at a Shabbat service at the Reform Jewish Congregation Albert in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (35)

V. White Roots beneath Red Soil: Messianic Judaism and the Mormon Church

Shelly's energetic pursuit of an Israeli partnership represents more than an item on the president's personal agenda. Rather, it reflects a much broader movement among Navajo Christians eager to embrace the state of Israel--politically, economically, and culturally--on decidedly religious grounds. And, more often than not, those grounds are well-tilled and sown with the seeds of Messianic Judaism, Last Days preaching, and Christian-Zionist leanings by off-reservation ministries eager to reap a ripe Native harvest. The "Navajo One New Man Conference" held in December, 2011, in Farmington, New Mexico, offers a perfect case in point.

The conference was co-sponsored by Tso's Victory Life Church (Shiprock, NM) and Robert Wolffs Majestic Glory Ministries (Los Angeles, CA). Wolff is a self-described Messianic Jewish rabbi. His 2011 book, Awakening the One New Man--from which the conference took its name--is an edited collection of essays calling for Jews and gentiles to find unity in a shared identity as followers of Yeshua, the Messiah. The event was designed to bring together a number of influential Messianic Jewish leaders to teach Navajo Christians more about the Jewish roots of their faith while celebrating and strengthening the tribe's support for Israel. Shelly, who was among the roughly 300 Navajo attendees at the conference, received special recognition for his work in building bridges with Israel. When taking the podium, Shelly donned a yarmulke and a fringed tallit.

Among the keynote speakers was Rabbi Russ Resnik, executive director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) based in Albuquerque. The organization promotes the establishment and growth of Messianic Jewish congregations across North America and offers educational training programs for Messianic Jewish leaders. The vision of the organization is decidedly eschatological. According to Resnik,
   After centuries of estrangement, Yeshua is regaining his presence
   among the Jewish people, and increasing numbers of Jews are
   welcoming him home individually and in congregations. In the
   future, this Jewish remnant will expand in numbers and influence to
   call out the words of welcome that herald Messiah's return to rule
   over all the earth, "Baruch ha-ba b'shem Adonai-- Blessed is he who
   comes in the name of the Lord!" (36)

Promise Keepers President Raleigh Washington joined Resnik as a featured speaker for the event, (37) as did Ray Gannon of The King's University, Los Angeles, a Pentecostal/Charismatic college and seminary founded by Jack Hayford. As director of the school's Messianic Studies Program, Gannon oversees an overtly evangelistic training program for Messianic rabbis, Jewish laity, and others "who are feeling a strong urgency from heaven to successfully reach All Israel for Yeshua." (38) Gannon is also an ordained Pentecostal pastor with the Assemblies of God, where he serves as U.S. Missions National Representative for Jewish Ministries, a position focused on Christian evangelism among Jews. Like Resnik, Gannon is compelled in his Jewish evangelism by a Last Days urgency staked to the conversion of Israel. "Between the resurrection and the Second Coming [of Yeshua], this team of Messianic Jews and grafted-on Gentiles are to be out preaching the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth, to all places of human habitation, to all people groups. Only then will salvation history climax, come to its epitome, and reach its crescendo in God's praise" (39)--a "mission to the nations [that] can only be accomplished when Yeshua is the desired kingly presence within a repentant, submissive and faithfully obedient national Israel." (40)

The conference culminated in the signing of a "Declaration in Support of Israel," the document that Shelly would later deliver to Israeli leaders at the Knesset during his 2012 trip to Israel. He was among the signatories. The eight-paragraph statement highlights points of continuity between Native Americans and the people of Israel, declaring: "As with Israel, the First Nations have been persecuted, but we choose to bless. As with Israel, the First Nations are called to be strong in the face of adversity. As with Israel, the First Nations were once exiled and now returned home." It asserts that Israel holds a privileged place in God's salvific plan, and supports Israel's right to possess and defend its "sovereignly promised land." It concludes:
   The First Nations of America honor the First Nation of Israel. The
   First Nations respect the Promised Land the Creator has designated
   for you. Our First Nations are the recipients of your First
   Nation's blessings. We recognize the gift your Nation has been to
   humanity. With grace, humility, and joy we call you our brothers.
   We Declare the First Nations are One.

As with Crow Pentecostal congregations, the growing prevalence of pro-Israel passion among the Navajo Nation has powerful drivers in Christian ministries based off the reservation. Of these, none has exercised more influence in the unfolding narrative of Jewish-Native alliances in the religious imagination of Navajo Christians than the Mormon Church. When counting the number of Mormons among the Navajo Nation, estimates range from twenty to thirty percent of the population. Shelly, accordingly, has maintained a visible relationship with the Mormon Church. In June, 2011, he met with national leaders of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City to discuss a variety of issues facing indigenous peoples and the Mormon Church's role in addressing those challenges. (41)

While other Christian groups in the U.S. have invested in Native missionary efforts comparable to, or even more extensive than, those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, none can boast affording American Indians a more prominent place in either their sacred history or their vision for the future. The Book of Mormon casts the indigenous people of the Americas as direct descendants of Lehi, a Jewish prophet of the tribe of Manassah who fled Jerusalem in 600 B.C.E. just before the Babylonian conquest. Lehi, his family, and the small company that joined their exodus journeyed southeast to the shores of the Arabian Sea, where, instructed by God in a vision, they built a boat that carried them across the Indian Ocean, then the South Pacific, until landing safely on the west coast of South America. (42) Once in the Americas, the children of Lehi grew into a mighty colony that spread across the isthmus and into North America. Almost from the start, however, a deep rift developed between the lineage of two rival sons of Lehi: Nephi, who was the divinely appointed prophetic successor to Lehi, and Laman, who is described as disregarding the commandments of God and "manifesting implacable hatred and hostility toward their Nephite kindred." (43)

Mormon history teaches that the "Nephites advanced in the arts of civilization, built large cities and established prosperous commonwealths," while the Lamanites devolved into an uncivilized and murderous race. In the words of the revered Mormon authority James Talmage (d. 1933): "The Lamanites, while increasing in numbers, fell under the curse of darkness; they became dark in skin and benighted in spirit, forgot the God of their fathers, lived a wild nomadic life, and degenerated into the fallen state in which the American Indians--their lineal descendants--were found by those who rediscovered the western continent in later times." (44) Ultimately, in 400 C.E., the Lamanites completed the extermination of their Nephite kin near the hill of Cumorah in what is now Ontario County, New York. Talmage added, "The degenerate remnant of Lehi's posterity, the Lamanites or American Indians, have continued until this day." (45)

Despite the shockingly inauspicious origins afforded them in this history, Native Americans today carry considerable eschatological weight in Mormon theology by virtue of their Jewish roots--a significance affirmed by Jesus himself according to Mormon Scripture. (46) In the book of 3 Nephi, we read that Jesus descended bodily to the remnants of Lehi living in the Americas shortly after his Ascension from the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem, personally sharing his teachings and healings with the "other sheep," the "other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land." (47) Among the teachings Jesus gave to these lost Jews was a prophecy that gentiles would one day rise to great prominence in America, gentiles divinely ordained to bring the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the wayward Lamanites. (48) This "gathering in" of the lost ones of Israel "from their long dispersion" would serve as a final indication that the Last Days had arrived in which the New Jerusalem would be built and Christ would establish the reign of God on earth. (49) As found in the Articles of Faith set forth by Joseph Smith: "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (50)

As such, the role that Native Americans are expected to play in the culmination of God's plan of salvation for the human race remains absolutely pivotal. While the Mormon Church officially insists that no one knows the time of Christ's second coming, they nonetheless teach that "through watchfulness and prayer may the signs of the times be correctly interpreted and the immanence of the Lord's appearing be apprehended." (51) Among the telltale signs of Christ's immanent coming and subsequent establishment of the millennial reign is a large-scale conversion of the Lost Tribes of Israel--including the descendants of Lehi found in the Americas. (52)

Mormon eschatology flows easily into the currents of Pentecostal Millennialism and Messianic Jewish expectation, for, in addition to placing great emphasis on the second coming of Jesus (Yeshua), each teaches that Israel will play a pivotal role in ushering in the Last Days, following an anticipated massive conversion of Jews to faith in Christ. As the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, the world's largest Pentecostal denomination, recently wrote, "At the present time, the majority of Jewish People may not believe in Yeshua haMashiach, but Paul prophesies that they will as the Second Coming draws near." He therefore admonishes his flock, "Failure to witness to anyone, but especially the Jewish people, makes rotten the fruit of our faith." (53)

Significantly, the Mormon Church--much like the Full Gospel and Messianic Jewish movements--is aggressively leveraging the agricultural angle to promote its own spiritual vision among the Navajo. As recently reported in a New York Times feature article, the Mormon Church is enjoying explosive success in its efforts to reach Navajos through teaching traditional farming methods and helping Navajo tribal members plant small gardens beside their reservation homes. After starting the program in 2009 with twenty-five gardens, that number has risen to more than 1,800 today. The strategy is designed to lead Navajos into a closer relationship with the agricultural roots of their traditional ancestors, even as they move into a closer relationship with the Mormon Church. (54)

Smith is believed to have prophesied, "But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose." (55) Coupled with Isaiah's famous prophecy of the desert blooming again, it should come as no surprise that so many Navajo Christians believe the culmination of history is taking place before their very eyes as Mormons, Pentecostals, and Messianic Jews join together with Navajo farmers to turn the tribe's arid land into fields ripe with harvest before the long-expected coming of Yeshua, the Messiah. (56)

VI. Protest and "Redwashing"

Not surprisingly, the escalating support for Israel among Native American communities has attracted its share of critics. In addition to the many grassroots protests that have sprung up among the Navajo, Crow, and other tribes over a range of concerns related to these partnerships, a strong voice of disapproval has also been registered by a group of deeply concerned indigenous scholars who contend that Native partnerships with Israel represent a betrayal of indigenous values, history, and identity. One of the most prominent voices among them is Robert Warrior (Osage), a professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the founding president (in 2010) of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). He studied under the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said and authored the highly influential essay, "Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians" (1989), in which he critiqued the biblical Exodus narrative for its enmeshment with the conquest narrative of "the indigenous inhabitants of Canaan" that immediately follows it--a narrative that has too often been used to justify subsequent conquests of indigenous populations, including in the U.S. He argues that "[t]he obvious characters in the story for Native Americans to identify with are the Canaanites, the people who already lived in the promised land." (57)

In a letter sent to Shelly in April, 2013, Warrior, on behalf of nine other prominent indigenous scholars whose names appear on the letter, expressed "grave disappointment" over Shelly's ongoing public support for Israel. He wrote, "As indigenous educators, we find your support for the state of Israel to be in complete contradiction to our values and sense of justice." Challenging the tendency among Native supporters of Israel to feel more solidarity with Israelis than Palestinians, Warrior argues: "Like the Dine people, our various peoples (Osage, Choctaw, Dakota, Lenape, Kanaka Maoli, and Pohnpeian) have suffered the process of settlement, colonization, or militarization of our homelands. Thanks to the wisdom of our ancestors, we have persisted"--pointedly adding:
   A similar process has unfolded for Palestinian people over the past
   half century. Indeed, Israeli demolition of the homes of
   Palestinian families is not all that different than the Long Walk
   your people endured in 1864. Your collusion with the Israeli
   government is a betrayal of that shared history and of the wisdom
   that has helped all Indigenous peoples survive for centuries.

The letter concludes, "We ask that you rethink your partnership with this corrupt and contested state and seek out international relationships that better reflect on all of us as Indigenous peoples." (58) Warrior has yet to receive a formal response from Shelly.

Another prominent voice expressing sharp opposition to Native-Israeli alliances is that of J. Kehaulani Kauanui (Kanaka Maoli), a Native Hawaiian activist and associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT. As reported in Indian Country Today, Kauanui expressed her opinion of Shelly's posture toward Israel in this way: "The contested State of Israel perpetuates the violent domination and removal of the Palestinian people from their homeland, much like the US settler colonial state's treatment of Native nations. Why any tribal leader would want to partner with Netanyahu is beyond curious; it is morally repugnant." (59) She has popularized the term "redwashing" to describe the process by which Israeli institutions are using alliances with U.S. tribes to their own political advantage. Specifically, she defines redwashing
   as the promotion of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas as a
   deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of the
   Palestinian people. In these cases, Israelis typically appeal to
   indigenous peoples by drawing parallels between their respective
   claims to indigeneity, legacies of genocide (evoking the Jewish
   holocaust), and ongoing adversity regarding threats to "cultural
   extinction." In turn, many indigenous groups and individuals have
   responded. (60)

In January, 2014, Kauanui led a panel discussion dedicated to exploring the topic at an international conference hosted by the American University of Beirut. Additionally, she has served on the advisory board to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel since 2009, an effort that calls for a comprehensive boycott of all Israeli institutions that fail openly to oppose Israeli policies toward Palestinians. In December, 2013, clearly with an eye on the rising tide of Native-Israeli partnerships, the Council of the NAISA issued a formal statement of support for the Boycott, declaring: "The NAISA Council protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold." (61)

VII. Conclusion: Spiritual Warriors and the New Indigeneity

With nods to the U.N., appeals to past oppression, and dreams of economic prosperity, the official rhetoric surrounding Crow and Navajo partnerships with Israel appears to suggest, at first blush, that political concerns and business interests are the driving forces behind them. However, a closer look reveals that religious convictions are every bit as much responsible for these emerging alliances--if not more so. While such outspoken critics as Warrior and Kauanui have tended to focus on the troubling political, cultural, and colonialist dimensions of these alliances, too little attention has yet been paid to the foundational influence of an emerging Native theology that blends a spiritualized vision of tribal kinship, a prophetic zeal born of biblical literalism, apocalyptic fervor, and a strong current of Messianic Judaism. Not only is this wave of blended religious currents giving rise to a new breed of tribal alliances, but it is also ushering in a new generation of Native Christian warriors charging headlong into battle, trampling popular notions of Native authenticity under the banner of a radically revisioned indigeneity for the twenty-first century.

Liberally interspersed in the religious rhetoric of Native Christian support for Israel is the imagery of spiritual warfare associated with a religious movement that is sometimes referred to as "dominion theology." (62) It is a movement preoccupied with spiritual conquest, with "spiritual mapping" to identity regional "demonic strongholds" and "territorial spirits," with waging "intercessory warfare," and with retaking land stolen by the devil. Through this lens, catastrophic unemployment rates, rampant alcoholism, and a variety of public health concerns among Native communities are primarily regarded not as consequences of failed economic policies or systemic racism or centuries of colonial oppression; rather, these are the work of "territorial spirits" and "generational curses" to be discerned and overcome through the strategic intercessory prayer of spiritual warriors. For Native believers allied with this theology, a long-overdue reclamation of lost ground is taking place right before their eyes. Although the literal soil of Native lands may be lost for good, Native Christian supporters of a pro-Israel eschatological vision are taking back the spiritual inheritance they believe was previously lost through the greed of settlers, the work of demons, and the pagan practices of their own ancestors.

Understood this way, Native adherents of this theology experience it as greatly empowering, as a means of reclaiming their cultural inheritance as warriors, and as an assertion of their birthright as the original spiritual caretakers of this territory. In a 247-page handbook, Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done, Native pastors Jim and Faith Chosa from the Crow Reservation devoted considerable time to questions of indigenous identity in the context of global and national spiritual warfare, teaching that, just as God "set forth relational principals, which would apply to all nations, through His relationship with the First Nation of the globe, Israel," so the indigenous peoples of North America likewise carry a heavy spiritual responsibility with respect to "the true ownership of the spiritual landscape of the continent." This "true ownership" persists despite the fact that "the land they were given by God was stolen from them by broken treaties." Therefore, "Native Americans are still the earthly host authority for the land of America, and the Native believers as new creatures of Christ restored to Heavenly authority in the Name of Jesus are the only ones who can righteously and permanently deal with any and all ancient issues of iniquity affecting the spiritual and natural landscape." (63)

In the unfolding dialogue between Native critics of the pro-Israel movement and the movement's Native supporters, I find it particularly significant that many of the voices being raised in defense of Israel do so by appealing precisely to this issue of indigenous identity. This comes even as Native critics of Israeli policies often imply that U.S. tribal support is detrimental to indigenous interests, an affront to the struggles endured by Native people everywhere. In short, they see it as a betrayal of Native identity. Against such accusations, many Native Christians are not merely defending their support for the Israeli state; they are also actively redefining the terms of the debate over what constitutes Native authenticity, who has the right to speak on behalf of Native people, and how to define and defend indigenous interests. To that end, they are simultaneously asserting their credentials to speak as Indians on behalf of Native interests, even while calling into question the legitimacy of their critics to do the same.

I first noticed this development in conversation with a Crow tribal legislator about his support for the "Jesus Is Lord" and "pro-Israel" resolutions. When I asked him to discuss opposition he has faced from the tribe over these bills, he pointed to a handful of online attacks posted by Crow tribal members who, he noted, "live miles and miles away from Crow Reservation but they're Crow--maybe just a portion Crow." He went on to say: "And I didn't understand that, you know? We live right in the heart of everything and I'm almost full-blood Crow--and yet there's some out there that might not even be one-quarter Crow and yet they wanted to say something bad against that. So it's kinda funny how that worked out that way." (64) His message was clear: The loudest critics of this legislation do not speak as real Indians. Rather, the full-blooded (or nearly so) Crow tribal members who are living on the reservation and who were voted into elected office by the people of the reservation are the true carriers of that distinction. And, according to the voting records, the majority of those voices proclaim "Jesus as Lord" and support the State of Israel. Even while sparring with critics across a variety of online forums, Native supporters of Israel consistently question the indigenous authenticity of pro-Palestinian Native voices. (65)

Therefore, as baffled and furious opponents persist in regarding these Native-Israeli alliances as blatantly antithetical to indigenous interests, a sell-out to the conquerors, and a betrayal of oppressed people everywhere, participants on the inside are experiencing a radically different reality. Through the forging of alliances with Jehovah's Chosen People, these spiritual warriors are advancing the Reign of God on earth, ushering in the King of Kings, inviting spiritual and economic blessings on their chronically impoverished people, and reclaiming enemy territory they lost to colonial oppression while living under the spell of pagan darkness.

So, the wave of Native Christians across the country who are blowing shofar horns, performing Davidic dance rhythms, signing declarations in support of Israel, and booking pilgrimages to a Zion all too eager to welcome them home will likely continue to swell as this remarkable confluence of spiritual streams convinces many that they are engaged in a victory celebration for the resurrection of the once-mighty First Nations, freshly blessed for daring--in the face of critics, boycotts, and even the devil--to befriend Israel, the friend of God.

Mark Clatterbuck (Catholic with deep roots in Pentecostalism) has been an Assistant Professor of Religion at Montclair (NJ) State University since 2010, and will lecture at Lancaster (PA) Theological Seminary during the summer of 2015. His previous teaching positions have been at Lancaster (PA) Country Day School (including directing the Hague International Model U.N. program), 2008-10; York College of Pennsylvania, 2007-08; Moravian Academy, Bethlehem, PA (where he was also the interreligious chaplain), 2003-06; The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 2000-03; Trinity Academy, Wichita, KS, 1998-2000; and Stone Child Tribal College, Rocky Boy's Reservation, Chippewa/Cree, MT, 1997. He co-directed and coordinated the program for a Native American Youth Camp in Montana, during the summers of 1992-98. He holds a B.A. from Messiah College, Grantham, PA; an M.A. from Wheaton (IL) Graduate School; and a Ph.D. in religion and culture (2008) from The Catholic University of America. An Oblate of the Order of St. Benedict since 1995, his specialty is Native American Christianity. He has published Demons, Saints, and Patriots: Catholic Visions of Native America (1902-1962) (Marquette, 2009), and his peer-reviewed articles have appeared in Spiritus, U.S. Catholic Historian, Horizons, Missiology, and Latin American Indian Literatures Journal. He has presented at several national and regional academic conferences of the American Academy of Religion and the American Anthropological Association, as well as at numerous other academic and ecclesiastical gatherings in Montana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He has received several research grants, especially for his work with the Crow tribe.

(1) Menasseh ben Israel, The Hope of Israel, ed. Henry Mdchoulan and Gerard Nahon, Liftman Library of Jewish Civilization (Oxford, U.K., and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 101-102. Originally published 1650; E.T., Moses Wall, 1652.

(2) Sherman Alexie, "The Game Between the Jews and the Indians is Tied Going Into the Bottom of the Ninth Inning," in Sherman Alexie, First Indian on the Moon (Brooklyn, NY: Hanging Loose Press, 1993), p. 80.

(3) In a remarkable compilation and exegesis of biblical texts titled The Book of Prophecies (1501/02) prepared for the King and Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus claimed that he had discovered remnants of the Lost Tribes of Israel among the Caribbean Islands, inhabitants who would now--by God's grace and his own ingenuity--have the gospel preached to them. He declared this would precipitate a mass conversion of New World Jews to reinforce the Christian army that would retake Jerusalem for the Catholic Crown, rebuild the temple, and usher in "the end of the world," an event Columbus predicted to be a mere 150 years away. In 1650, roughly one year before the date identified by Columbus as the culmination of history, Dutch-Jewish philosopher Menasseh ben Israel penned his own arguments asserting "that the first inhabitants of America were the Ten Tribes of the Israelites." And, like Columbus, Menasseh ben Israel wed the Indians' Jewish origins to the consummation of history, at which time these children of the Lost Tribes "shall return to their Land" of Israel and "be governed by one Prince, who is Messiah the Son of David." A la Columbus, he added: "no doubt that time is near." See Delno C. West and August Kling, tr., The Libro de las profecias of Christopher Columbus: An en face edition (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1991), pp. 105-111; and Menasseh Ben Israel, The Hope of Israel, pp. 101-102.

(4) The appeal not to cross the picket line was made by J. Kehaulani Kauanui, a Native Hawaiian scholar and activist, as quoted in Ali Abunimah, "Acclaimed feminist author, musician Joy Harjo lands in Tel Aviv to find boycott calls from Native American peers," The Electronic Intifada, December 7,2012; available at -lands-tel-aviv-find-boycott-calls.

(5) Writing from Tel Aviv, in a lengthy posting on her blog, Harjo responded to the pressure from colleagues to boycott the event by defending her decision to perform, even while acknowledging the right of her critics to disagree: "I admire and respect the scholars and artists who have backed the boycott. I stand with their principles, but they will not see it that way." She concluded: "I will perform at the university as 1 promised, to an audience that will include Palestinian students. The students have written in support of me being here" (Joy Harjo, Joy Harjo's Poetic Adventures in the Last World Blog [December 10,2012]; available at

(6) Despite the resolution's claim that Israel voted in support of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September, 2007, Israel was actually among thirty-four U.N. member-nations that were absent for the vote.

(7) Joint Action Resolution 07-07, "Resolution to Urge Support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," July 18, 2007. Approval of JAR 07-07 preceded, by almost two months, the United Nations General Assembly vote on the Declaration, with the authors of the resolution urging the U.S. "to fully support the adoption of the Declaration." However, the U.S. joined with Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as the only four U.N. member nations to oppose the Declaration. In December, 2010, President Barack Obama, who was adopted by the Black Eagle family of the Crow Tribe in 2008, announced that the U.S. was giving its belated endorsement to the Declaration, the last of the original opposing nations to reverse course.

(8) The official tally was: 13 Yes, 0 No, 0 Abstentions; five senators were absent for the vote.

(9) LR 13-02, "A Resolution of the Crow Tribal Legislature to Honor God for his Great Blessings upon the Crow Tribe and to Proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of the Crow Indian Reservation," March 6,2013; sponsored by Senator Conrad J. Stewart, Black Lodge District, Crow Reservation, Montana.

(10) The official tally was: 14 Yes, 0 No, 1 Abstention; three senators were absent for the vote.

(11) For a detailed study of Crow Pentecostalism, see Mark Clatterbuck, "Healing Hills and Sacred Songs: Crow Pentecostalism, Anti-Traditionalism, and Native Religious Identity," Spirilus 12 (Fall, 2012): 248-277; available at.

(12) Available at sentative/273528969328494?sk=info.

(13) Conrad J. Stewart, "Jesus Christ Is Lord on the Crow Reservation!!!" (Crow Tribal Press Release, March 7,2013).

(14) Conrad J. Stewart, interview with author, June 17, 2013 (Crow Legislative Branch Office, Crow Agency, MT).

(15) Historically, among the Crow Tribe, fully functional clans numbered ten. The pioneering anthropologist Robert Lowie, in his important 1935 work on Crow history and culture, mistakenly identified eleven or thirteen clans, and those numbers are still often referenced today. (Timothy McCleary, Chair, General Studies Dept., Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, MT, in personal correspondence with author, January 31, 2014). See Robert H. Lowie, The Crow Indians (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1935; repr.: Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1983), p. 9.

(16) Stewart, interview with author, June 17, 2013.

(17) I take this unemployment rate from Tribal Chairperson Darrin Old Coyote's Congressional testimony given to the U.S House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, "Mining in America: Powder River Basin Coal Mining," July 9,2013, p. 3.

(18) For more details on the proposed project, see Matthew Brown, "Feds approve 1.4B ton coal deal with Crow Tribe," Bloomberg Businessweek (June 20, 2013); available at http://www. approve-l-doMb-ton-coal-deal-with-crow-tribe. In addition to support from the B1A, the project also received a formal endorsement from the National Association of American Indians at their Annual Meeting in October, 2013 (Resolution #TUL-13-019). The mineral extraction project has been named "Big Metal" after a legendary figure in Crow oral history.

(19) Crow tribal member (anonymous), interview by author, July 15,2011.

(20) Carpenter" Camp Meeting, Veterans Park, Crow Agency, MT, August 11,2012.

(21) See, e.g., 1 Kings 19 and 2 Kings 2.

(22) Myron Falls Down, phone interview with the author, February 2,2014.

(23) Jim Chosa has served both as a member of C. Peter Wagner's Apostolic Council for the International Coalition of Apostles and as a regional director for Dutch Sheets's U.S. Alliance for Reformation. The Chosas also work closely with Cindy Jacobs in a variety of capacities. Jacobs recently attracted increased notoriety when one of her 2013 online teaching videos ("The Spirit of Leviathan") went viral for urging people with "Native American or other indigenous bloodlines" to "renounce that" and "repent for the sin of animism." The video is available on the website of Jacob's Generals International at http:// www. generals. org/prayer/ prayer-school.

(24) The ministry's full "What We Believe" statement can be found at gzihome/beliefs.php.

(25) See Steve Strang, "Chuck Pierce Dedicates Israel Prayer Garden during Pentecost Celebration," Charisma Magazine Online (June 11,2011); available at -news/featured-news/13800-chuck-pierce-dedicates-israel-prayer-garden-during-pentecost-celebration.

(26) Pam and Chuck Pierce, "Why the Israel Prayer Garden?" September 26,2012; available at http://

(27) Robert Tso, phone interview with author, January 28,2014.

(28) "Navajo President Ben Shelly Meets with Deputy Minister at Knesset, and Honors Survivors of Holocaust at Yad Vashem," Navajo Nation Press Release (December 13,2012).

(29) Leisah Woldoff, "New entity aims to strengthen Arizona-Israel business ties," Jewish News, February 7, 2013; available at

(30) "President Shelly Meets with Israeli Diplom ats and Arizona Israel Business Council," Navajo Nation Press Release (February 1,2013).

(31) "Who We Are," Baruch HaShem; available at

(32) In defending Israel's right to Palestine as a Jewish state, Benjamin Netanyahu has employed these same words by Twain as "proof that pre-Israel Palestine was barely inhabited, that its Arab residents made little use of its natural resources, and that nothing like a national identity or anything worthy of being called an "independent country" existed there. See Benjamin Netanyahu, A Durable Peace: Israel and Its Place among the Nations (New York: Warner Books, 1993), pp. 42-46.

(33) Corry Bell, "From Negev to Navajo," The Messianic Times 23 (July/August, 2013): 15.

(34) Ibid.

(35) This announcement came on November 1,2013; confirmed by Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Congregation Albert, personal correspondence with author, January 20, 2014.

(36) Russ Resnik, Introducing Messianic Judaism and the UMJC (Albuquerque, NM: UMJC, 2010).

(37) For an interesting study of the relationship between the Promise Keepers movement and Native American Christians in the 1990's and early 2000's, see Andrea Smith, "'The One Who Did Not Break His Promises': Native Nationalisms and the Christian Right," chap. 2 of her Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), pp. 74-114.

(38) The King's University website is

(39) Ray Gannon, "The Hebrew Bible's Foundation for the One New Man," in Robert F. Wolff, ed., Awakening the One New Man, ed. Don Enevoldson (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2011), p. 79.

(40) Ibid., p. 80.

(41) Jason Swensen, "Visit from Navajo Leaders," Church News: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (July 2, 2011); available at Visit-from-Navajo-leaders.html.

(42) The story of Lehi's flight from Jerusalem and subsequent ocean crossing to the Americas is recorded in 1 Nephi, The Book of Mormon.

(43) James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith: Being a Consideration of the Principal Doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 49th ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1968), pp. 259-260.

(44) See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission according to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modem, Classics in Mormon Literature Series (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1982; orig., 1915), pp. 52-53, n. 3, "Nephites and Lamanites." See also "Growth of the Church followed by the Apostasy of the Nephite Nation," pp. 688-690. (The comparable pages are p. 56 and pp. 741-742 in the 1971 ed.)

(45) Ibid., p. 689 (1971 ed., p. 742). See also "The Nephite Nation," in Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 258-260.

(46) Steve Pavlik observed: "To the Navajo, one of the most attractive aspects of the Mormon faith is the inherent position they and other Native Americans hold in church doctrine. This is extremely important to a people who are just as inherently excluded from many other aspects of white American society." He added, "While there are obvious racial and paternal implications to LDS church doctrine, the ultimate promise of salvation and honored status has proved alluring to many Native Americans" (Steve Pavlik, "Of Saints and Lamanites: An Analysis of Navajo Mormonism," Wicazo Sa Review 8 [Spring 1992]: 23).

(47) Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 16:1 and 15:15 (from The Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1986; [C] 1981; 1st English ed., 1830]).

(48) Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 21:22-25. For more on the "gathering" of the western hemisphere Jews, "their acceptance of Christ as their Lord," and the privileged role that gentiles are predicted to play in this process, see Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 334-336.

(49) Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 21.

(50) Talmage, Articles of Faith, no. 10, p. 2.

(51) Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 729 (p. 785 in the 1971 ed.).

(52) Ibid., pp. 729-732; see also the apocalyptic vision of Joseph Smith in Sections 18, 19, and 133 (especially 18:26, 19:27, and 133:8) in Joseph Smith, The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1971), pp. 115, 119-120, and 476, respectively. (In a 1957 edition, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, UT, the comparable pages are 26,29, and 246.)

(53) George O. Wood, "Foreword," in Wolff, Awakening the One New Man, p. 12.

(54) Fernanda Santos, "Some Find Path to Navajo Roots through Mormon Church," The New York Times, October 30,2013, p. A12.

(55) Smith, Doctrine and Covenants, 49:24, p. 198 (p. 78 in the 1957 ed.).

(56) Seels. 35:1-2 and 41:18-20.

(57) Robert Allen Warrior, "Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians: Deliverance, Conquest, and Liberation Theology Today," in James Treat, ed. Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Identity in the United States and Canada (New York and London: Routledge, 1996), p. 95; originally published in Christianity and Crisis 49 (September 11, 1989): 262.

(58) Robert Warrior and others, letter to the Honorable Ben Shelly, April 3, 2013; made available to the author by Robert Warrior.

(59) Gale Courey Toensing, "Indigenous Scholars Oppose Navajo President 'Becoming Partners' with Israel," Indian Country Today Media Network (April 6,2013); available at http://indiancountrytodaymed

(60) Excerpted from the abstract of Kauanui's paper "Redwashing: Israeli Claims to Indigeneity and the Political Role of Native Americans," prepared for presentation as part of a special panel dedicated to exploring the concept of "redwashing" at a conference hosted by the Center for American Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, in January, 2014.

(61) The full statement is available on the NAISA website: of-israeli-academic-institutions,html?highlight=YToyOntpOjA7czo2OiJpc3JhZWwiO2k6MTtzOjc6lmJve WNvdHQiO30%3D.

(62) C. Peter Wagner is a founding voice in this movement, to which he has assigned the name "New Apostolic Reformation." The titles of published works by him and a network of self-described prophets and apostles associated with this movement--religious leaders whose influence, as detailed above, have made significant inroads among Native Christians--illustrate the movement's underlying narrative of spiritual conquest. See, e.g., three by C. Peter Wagner: Prayer Shield: How to Intercede for Pastors, Christian Leaders, and Others on the Spiritual Frontlines (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1992), Warfare Prayer (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997), and Territorial Spirits: Practical Strategies for How to Crush the Enemy through Spiritual Warfare (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2012); two by Chuck Pierce: Worship Warrior: Ascending in Worship, Descending in War (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2002), and Time to Defeat the Devil: Strategies to Win the Spiritual War (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2011); Cindy Jacobs, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy: A Training Manual for Militant Intercession, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, Ml: Chosen Books, 2009); and Jim and Faith Chosa, Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done : A First Nation Perspective on Strategic Keys for Territorial Deliverance and Transformation--A Resource. Equipping Manual for Repossessing the Earth One Acre at a Time (Yellowtail, MT: Day Chief Ministries, 2004).

(63) Chosa, Thy Kingdom Come, pp. 98 and 137. The conclusion of their Day Chief Ministries Vision statement highlights this hope for a reclamation of the "ancient Indian warrior" waging spiritual battle for the Great Warrior Yeshua: "Think of it! Countless thousands of young Native Americans brought to a newness of Spirit-life, and given the vision of becoming 'Mighty Warriors' with the Lord Jesus Christ as their indwelling, Great Warrior Chief and partnering together with all ethnic peoples of the world to advance the Kingdom of God." See the full "Outline of Vision and Mission" statement of Day Chief Ministries at

(64) Anonymous, interview with author, June, 2013 (Crow Agency, MT).

(65) E.g., see Jay Corwin (Tlingit, Alaska), "Native American academics do not endorse the boycott of Israeli academics," The Times of Israel (December 25, 2013); available at native-american-academics-do-not-endorse-the-boycott-of-israeli-academics/; and Ryan Beilerose (Mdtis, Alberta), "Don't Mix Indigenous Fight with Palestinian Rights," Indian Country Today Media Network (January 11, 2014); available at http://indiancountrytodaymedia palestinian-rights. For a robust rebuttal to Beilerose, see Robert Warrior, "Palestine Without Smears: Why Israel and Natives Aren't Natural Allies," Indian Country Today Media Netn'ork (January 29, 2014); available at israel-and-natives-arent-natural-allies.
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Author:Clatterbuck, Mark
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 22, 2014
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