Native American Sunday brings message home

PORT TOWNSEND — When Terri McCullough was growing up, she sometimes overhead conversations she wasn’t meant to hear.

With the Boldt Decision creating discord in the Northwest, the comments were often painful.

“I’d be walking through town or sitting in Don’s Pharmacy having a soda and hear people say, “The Indians stole half my catch,'” McCullough said.

“I’d think, ‘You are making judgments about a group of people who have been stereotyped, not the person sitting next to you.’ “

A member of the Makah Nation, McCullough was the guest speaker at Trinity United Methodist Church’s service on Native American Ministries Sunday.

Taking her theme from the “Road to Emmaus” scripture, McCullough spoke on the importance of being aware of who is walking beside you on the road.

“Sometimes people said words when they didn’t know who I was,” McCullough said. “Once they knew how hateful it was, they changed the way they thought.”

McCullough titled her message, “Hey, I Know You,” noting that running into someone you knew from childhood or have heard about is common occurrence in a small town.

But for McCullough, the meaning of the phrase also means recognzing that people around you may be different from you.

It was her mother, Mary McQuillen, who told her the story about the disciples not recognizing Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and asked her what she thought they really said.

McQuillen also taught her daughter not to respond to thoughtless comments in anger, but to use the opportunity to bring about understanding.

It was a lesson she always tries to put into practice, McCullough said, knowing she will have to account for her words.

“When I get to heaven, I want God to say, “Hey, I know you,'” McCullough said.

The service was opened by Terry Reitz playing “Rivers” songs on the flute, with four drummers — Mark Reitz, Jenny Peterson, Laurel Ankeny and Chet Rideout — standing in the corners of the sanctuary, drumming.

Reitz, the church organist, is a descendant of the Sioux tribe.

In support of the observance, Donna Abbott wore a red shirt with a Native design and white buttons.

The congregation sang a version of “We are One in the Spirit,” written for a Native youth conference in Oklahoma in 1977.

McCullough said she had attended the conference as a counselor for the Makah youth’s delegation and met the song’s composers, Elizabeth Haile and Cecil Corbett.

Haile was the first Native American woman to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, McCullough said, and Corbett ran a school that encouraged Native Americans to enter the ministry, something McCullough has considered.

“He was the first person to put me in front of a pulpit,” McCullough said.

McCullough also asked for prayers for fishermen at the start of season, noting that her brother is a fisherman and is leaving for Alaska.

The one-year observance of the death of their mother, a Makah matriarch who died last March, is being planned when her brother returns in the fall, McCullough said.

Observed by the United Methodist Church on the second Sunday after Easter, Native American Ministries Sunday recognizes the contributions of Native Americans to church and society.

A special offering goes to scholarships for Native American seminarians and funds local and urban programs in partnership with Native ministries.

For more information, visit the UMC Global Ministries Web site,

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