“Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God” by Kaitlin B. Curtice, released this May, is an approachable piece of religious non-fiction that covers race, connection to nature, feminism, Christianity and Native American spirituality.
Curtice is a Potawatomi woman who was raised in the Christian church. She has a background that includes the language and theological structure of evangelical Christianity with the cultural beliefs and traditions of the Potawatomi nation.
Because of this background, though written as a Christian book, “Native” is accessible to anyone. To Curtice, her personal connection to what she calls “Mystery” is more important than aligning with any particular religion. This personal connection is described as the author analyzes the intersections and differences between Christianity and Potawatomi spirituality.
Beyond being a religious book, “Native” is a book analyzing race and culture in America. As an indigenous woman, Curtice is deeply troubled by what she sees as a white supremacist streak throughout the evangelical church. To her, some types of evangelism risk erasing non-Christian’s culture, beliefs and tradition.
“The problem isn’t that we search for truth; the problem is that we become obsessed with our belief that we hold the truth, and we destroy entire cultures in the process,” says Curtice.
Curtice seeks to “decolonize,” or fight against the erasure of non-white culture, within the evangelical church in America. The decolonization is essentially a search for justice for Black, indigenous, people of color within the Church.
“Decolonization doesn’t mean we go back to the beginning, but it means we fix what is broken now, for future generations,” Curtice says in her book.
This theme of making things right and seeking justice goes throughout the entirety of the book. Curtice has a strong personal focus on social justice, a focus that she believes the church is called to share. In a stark departure from much of mainstream evangelical theology, Curtice believes that a Christian’s focus should be on seeking to make things right within the greater picture of the world, rather than focusing on personal sin.
“While we sit in pews singing songs about personal sins and salvation, we are ill equipped to go into the world to face systems of injustice, many of which we helped create,” Curtice states.
In addition to her strong focus on anti-racism and colonialism, Curtice offers some beautifully lyrical thoughts on spirituality.
A huge focus of “Native” is connection to humanity throughout time through the practice of interacting with the Divine. To her, this interaction creates “a sacred belonging that spans time and generations and is called by many names,” as she says in her book. Curtice writes poetically about this human connection in her book.
Another place that “Native” waxes poetic is through descriptions of connection to nature. In an example of intersection between Christian and Potawatomi ideals, safeguarding the land is hugely important to Curtice. She writes extensively about environmental spirituality and her feelings about connecting to the spirit of the Divine through Nature.
For example, a Potawatomi spiritual practice that connects to the land specifically is that of praying while burning sage or laying tobacco leaves down on water.
“When I burn sage or lay tobacco down, I know that I am tethered to a love that has remained steady throughout the centuries and that always calls me back to its own sacredness. And that sacredness will always lead me back out to the world to do the work of love.”
Altogether, the main focus of “Native” is intersectionality. Curtice is careful to include a diversity of people in her discussions of justice, talking directly to “women, Indigenous peoples, Black people, other people of color, disabled people, immigrants, those who journey with depression or anxiety, those who grieve, and those who are gender nonbinary, transgender, or queer.”
This intersectional focus makes “Native” stand out in the field of Christian literature, and it makes it an accessible read for people from a variety of backgrounds.
This is her second book, the first being “Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places.” “Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God” is available for purchase wherever books are sold.
Anna Grace Askelson is a writer for The Alabamian. She is a second-year art major with a passion for writing, fashion and design.