Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation in Montana
Emergency medical technician, member of the Chippewa Cree Council of Rocky Boy and of the ELCA Church Council

I’ve been the church council president of Our Saviour for seven years. One thing I’m very proud of is that we are housing a Cree language revitalization program. There are nine trainees and two instructors. One of the instructors is my paternal grandmother, Pearl. One of my younger brothers is the program’s director. It started in February, and after 14 months the trainees will be fluent Cree speakers. Those are prayers answered from our ancestors. When our tribal leaders and elders helped build this log chapel, they had intentions, prayers and hopes that our language would carry on, and now in this day, our language is being housed in the mission.

Our congregation is really small, but the community knows we are there, and they can rely on our church for different things. To me, our congregation is our community, even though they don’t all come to church every Sunday. We have lots of our ceremonies at the church, and our community members utilize prayer services. I believe we all pray to the same creator, the same God.

One of my earliest church memories is of going to church with Great-grandma Minnie. I remember looking up at her in the little log chapel. She was a very calm, kind, generous lady. She would take trips with Women of the ELCA, and I remember wanting to be like her and travel to new places too.

I think being an EMT goes hand-in-hand with my faith. Almost every time you go out on a call, you’re praying all the way to the scene, praying the whole time you’re driving to the hospital and, even after you leave, those prayers are on your mind. You have to have faith in those prayers and in our Creator. I think my faith helped me to have a strong mind and a strong heart to be able to work in that kind of a job.

A big part of my family’s life is powwows and traveling to and from them. I am a jingle dress dancer and my daughter, Aynjel’lya (Gigi), is a fancy shawl dancer. I’ve been doing this since I was about 7 or 8 years old, and my daughter has since she was able to walk. My dad dances and so do my brothers and their children too. It’s an important part of our lives.

I’ve witnessed God’s presence in my life the most through becoming and being a mom.

The main things I pray for are my family and our language. I was always taught that family comes first. I was raised that way, thankfully. I am always praying for my family and extended family.

You have to have faith in those prayers and in our Creator. I think my faith helped me to have a strong mind and a strong heart to be able to work in that kind of a job.

I really like being on the ELCA Church Council because of all the different individuals I’ve been able to meet and become friends with. There are so many prayerful individuals I’ve gotten to know, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m also thankful for being able to learn from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and the other council leaders. They’re faithful and open to listening. I hope that we can have more people from younger generations be involved in our church—locally, nationally and globally.

I’m a Lutheran because of what I learned from my grandmas and my great-grandmothers—from their faith lives, prayers, beliefs and teachings. Because of them I know the Creator is with me and leading me.

Someone who has helped mentor me in my faith is one of our former pastors, Linda Webster. She introduced me to the national church. I traveled with her in 2015 for the American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association gathering, where I was nominated and elected to a four-year term as the board’s secretary. And in 2019, I was nominated and elected to the ELCA Church Council.

In 2019 our tribe called a state of emergency on our language. Thankfully the language program was developed and is going well. Being a tribal leader—I sit on our Chippewa Cree Council—I really believe we should be speaking our language. Unfortunately, I’m not fluent, but I’ve been attending classes at our tribal college because they recently created an associate’s degree in the Cree language. Our language is our identity—it is who we are as a tribe.

There is a lot of historical trauma from what our ancestors went through that we as Natives still have to deal with. It probably still reaches within my daughter. We are still dealing with all of those years of surviving; it’s an awful truth.

Ever since I was a young girl I have wanted to work in the medical field. Now I have been an EMT for almost 16 years. That has been my calling, and I’ve dedicated and sacrificed a lot of time and energy into it. I love helping people and really feel that is my vocation—helping in any way I can.

From going to church and also being part of my culture and traditional ceremonies, I see so many similarities. There are a lot of similarities between Bible stories and our creation stories, and they both go back thousands of years. I think I experience grace by being within those two worlds—by feeling the prayers from both of those sets of beliefs.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is a content editor of Living Lutheran.

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