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Kaitlin Curtice talks about ‘everyday glory’ and her Native American heritage

Kaitlin Curtice, Native American author, speaker and worship leader. Photo via kaitlincurtice.com

(RNS) — Kaitlin Curtice grew up Southern Baptist and now attends an Anglican church. She doesn’t necessarily identify herself with either denomination, she said, but she does call herself a Native American Christian.

Then she watches a look of confusion cross people’s faces.

“They don’t understand what that means,” Curtice said.

The popular 29-year-old worship leader has been working that meaning out in her writing — including a blog, titled “Stories,” and a well-reviewed book published this month by Paraclete Press, “Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places.”

When she isn’t traveling around the country to speaking engagements, Curtice is in Atlanta with her husband, two young sons and two dogs. She home-schools the boys, she said, and with them, she is learning their Potawatomi language and culture.

This first book of Curtice’s is full of stories about everyday moments infused with meaning, the books that “opened something up” in her and reconnecting with her Native American heritage. She talked about all these things earlier with RNS.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“Glory Happening,” released in November 2017 by Paraclete Press. Photo via Kaitlin Curtice

Early in the book, you mention your journey to learn more about your Potawatomi heritage. What set you on that path, and what has that journey looked like for you?

We live in Georgia, and there are a lot of Native historic sites here. It’s Muscogee Creek land and Cherokee land — there are areas you can go hiking, and there will be a plaque that tells you who lived there. We went hiking at one of our favorite places, Sweetwater Creek, and my youngest son was 1, and he was hungry, and I had to breastfeed him. I was like, well, I’ll just try and feed him while we walk because there’s no place to sit down.

It was just this moment where God stopped me and time stood still and God was like, “This is what your ancestors did on the Trail of Death. This is what your great-great-great-grandmother did.”

It was that moment where somebody points at you and says, “This is who you are, and this is who your children are, and this is what you’re called to be.” It was just really beautiful, and it just switched on this light for me. From then on, it was just constantly reading and writing and processing and trying to learn as much as I could and having these memories of childhood come back to me that I had forgotten.

What are other Christians’ reactions to you as a Native Christian?

In the church, it’s been really interesting. I have fair skin, so it’s not like you look at me and you think, “Um, she’s a Native American.” I just look like a white person. If I don’t say anything about it and no one knows, I’m just like everybody else. But when I mention it, I can tell that there’s some discomfort or people trying to understand. Am I an immediate threat to the institution?

Because I have grown up in the church, I love the church but also criticize the church. I think we have so many of these conversations happening with people of color, and I want indigenous people to be part of those conversations, too, so that the church understands there’s this foundational problem that started at the very beginning of our country with empire and Christianity and the treatment of Native people. And I think we have to be able to come to the table and talk honestly about it, and the church needs to be ready to listen — just be quiet and try to understand what that has meant for indigenous people all this time.


RELATED: Brian McLaren, others apologize to Native Americans in video series


Where do you think Christians’ confusion over your identity comes from?

To the church, it’s like Native American and Christian — those are two things that cannot go together because of what we’ve been taught: “You’re a Native American. You worship trees, and you worship nature” — all the stereotypes.

I’ve met other indigenous Christians who say, “They do go together in my life,” and some Natives do not practice Christianity (because of its association with colonialism). I’m certainly trying to decolonize my faith.

I get asked a lot: Your Native faith and your Christian faith — do they go together? My answer is always, yes, of course, they do. They do go together. There’s nothing that hinders them. It’s the American colonial version of Christianity that hinders them.

Glory Happening from Kaitlin Curtice on Vimeo

How do you see the Christian and Native parts of your heritage fitting together?

I didn’t grow up in the culture a lot. I knew I was Potawatomi. We went to powwows and stuff like that, but it wasn’t us sitting down and learning our language or learning our culture in a systematic way or a way that was every day in our lives. When I was 9, my parents got divorced, and it kind of disconnected me from my culture for a while.

I’m kind of learning it again as an adult. It’s only been a few years. I feel like a child again — I’m curious and I’m trying to understand things that are hard to understand. It’s been amazing to see how beautiful it is, that I can engage my culture, that I can see God in nature and I can see God in the land and I can read Bible stories differently now. I can read the Bible from a non-Western perspective, even from an indigenous perspective. I came see those stories differently.

I learn something about my culture, and I see how it ties to everything I’ve been taught as a Christian. The seven grandfather teachings are these ideas of love and humility. These are the same things we’re taught in church, but we say that those could never go together because one is from a Native tradition and the other is from the church. That’s not true.


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Do you think the church and Americans, in general, are becoming more aware of Native history and misperceptions about Natives since the action at Standing Rock made headlines? Is this a turning point?

From my small bubble, yes, because I talked to people who were affected by it. But if I look outside that, there’s a huge portion of the church that probably doesn’t even know Standing Rock was a thing.

I want to say yes. Standing Rock was a huge movement. It brought Natives and non-Natives together — and the church — in a huge way. And the church did respond. There were clergy members who went. I think it did open up some conversations.

We’re almost to the year anniversary when people were blasted with water hoses. I think the conversations have died down a lot. I think the thing now is trying to keep them going. That’s why I write. Indigenous People’s Day was awesome because there are a lot of people responding and trying to listen. But then the day after Indigenous People’s Day, we’re still here. Remember that. We’re still doing the same thing we did the day before.


RELATED: Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day? It depends where you live


Your book is a series of short meditations — what you’re learning from your dog, your kids, your garden, your everyday life. What do these things from everyday life have to do with glory?

I love looking up words. One day, I looked up the word “glory” because I was wondering, what if the glory of God is something simpler? When I looked up the definition of the word, it was “magnificence and great beauty.” That, to me, is something I can grasp pretty easily.

The glory of God always felt like something far off. God is way up in heaven, and if we’re lucky enough or work hard enough, we can see it. That’s not how it is. It was this shift to wondering if glory was all around and we’re just missing it, to truly seeing and paying attention and noticing things.

To look at it through the lens of a tangible story helped me to see it better, and what I wanted was for people, if they read my story — to have it remind them of something in their life that is tangible, that speaks that God is there.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

25 Comments

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  • I hope that she doesn’t really attend an Anglican Church. The church in the US that is part of the Anglican Communion is the Episcopal Church. Churches that use Anglican in their name in the US are usually part of ACNA, the Anglican Church in North America. ACNA is a conservative breakaway movement trying to replace the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. ACNA is anti-womens ordination in many jurisdictions and anti-LGBTQ in all jurisdictions. ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion.

  • One area where you are incorrect. The Anglican church is pro-homosexual and pro-women. The church wants both to have a relationship with Jesus and be blessed. Everything I have heard about Episcopal is they send people on their way to death and destruction – not good.

  • Good gracious – they’re pro-women??? How horrible!

    How easily you dismiss and – through your god and bible, of course, not your opinion – condemn most everyone. And I can picture you sitting on a cloud enjoying the plight of those in hell.

  • I hope you don’t mind, sister Kaitlin Curtice, that I’m going to compare (1) your take here on the GLORY OF GOD, with (2) that of apostle Paul’s and (3) of apostle John’s.

    (1) According to you, the “GLORY [OF GOD is A-]Happening … in Everyday Places. … [God’s] magnificence and great beauty … [is] all around … [People’s] life that is tangible … speaks that God is there.”

    (2) According to apostle Paul, it’s only “through our Lord Jesus Christ … [that] we exult in hope of the GLORY OF GOD. … For God … has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the GLORY OF GOD in the face of Christ.”

    (3) According to apostle John, “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the GLORY OF GOD … has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the GLORY OF GOD has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb [of God, Jesus].”

    [Sources: (2) Romans 5:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 4:6. (3) Revelation 21:10-11, 23.]

  • I don’t follow. Denominationalism is relevant to this interview, and vice-versa? Must we always be off-topic on the get-go around here?

    Just x to grind, then, saab? (That’s sir in Hindi.)

  • It isn’t off-topic to many folks who read here. Homophobic churches and churches that condemn the ministry of women are not folks that someone who is being lifted up to respect, as in this interview, are who I would expect them to be involved with.

  • The article says, “Kaitlin Curtice … now attends an Anglican church”, and straightaway you jumped on that to bash Anglicans. That’s all I see that you’re doing, when in fact you should’ve fact-checked her. Had you done so, you’ll read something like, “a colonized faith [is] one that I grew up in and am now slowly trying to disconnect from. I was the worship leader [see] for the FCA.”

    That’s your cue to find this: that “the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) is a global network of conservative Anglican churches which formed in 2008 in response to what it claimed was an ongoing theological crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Conservative Anglicans met in 2008 at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), creating the Jerusalem Declaration and establishing the FCA. … The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) was held near Jerusalem in June 2008 at the initiative of theologically conservative African, Asian, Australian, South American, North American and European Anglican leaders who opposed the ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions by member churches of the Anglican Communion. The meeting came as the culmination of a series of controversies in the Anglican Communion which began in 2003 when the openly non-celibate gay bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated by The Episcopal Church in the USA. GAFCON was organised as a conservative alternative to the 2008 Lambeth Conference which was boycotted by many traditionalists.”

    C’mon, man, stop with the Anglican-bashing already. It’s so un-cool. Just comment on things relevant to things on these pages. Want me to show you how?

  • It’s sad to me that your reading comprehension is so poor that you have failed to understand my comments. As to bashing, you’re the only one bashing anyone here. I wouldn’t bash Anglicans as I an one. I’m a confirmed member of first the Anglican Church of Mexico and now the Episcopal Church in the US. Both churches are constituent members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

    Bizarrely, with your post here you have but confirmed what I originally posted. ACNA folks are part of the FCA and you have shown that their purpose of existance is their opposition to LGBTQ Christians, their homophobia.

    It would be nice if you moved on and paid your purulent interests to someone else.

  • She says, “I … am now slowly trying to disconnect from … the FCA”, and you go Anglicans bashing on her that’s-not-enough progressivism? You think too highly of yourself, saab. That’s sir in Hindi to say when you’re “sad”. I wonder what’s crocodile tear in Hindi, do you know from experience?

  • …who told you not to judge others. But you do, and constantly.

    So you don’t even believe that yourself.

  • People tell me, judge not lest ye be judged. I always tell them, twist not scripture, lest ye be like Satan. Paul Washer

  • You may be correct that the Anglican Church of Canada ordains women and gays and lesbians. However, the worldwide Anglican Communion’s views on these topics is a lot more complicated, due in large part to the influence of the African (former British colonial) church.

  • If they ordain homosexuals and women, they’ve fallen away and my statement was incorrect arb. African Anglicans are very devout though.

  • Psa 19:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

  • Ever since Christianity moved out Jewish communities in the first Century, there have been Christians with all kinds of backgrounds from Africa, Asia, Greece, Rome, Australia, India and Europe. Each group adding something from its old culture to Christian ideas and traditions. (Easter eggs, Holly and Christmas wreaths?) From her appearance, her European ancestors were Christian for centuries and some Indigenous people have been Christian since the Spanish Conquistadors . There are in some parts of the country congregations that focus on serving primarily American Indians

  • It’s obvious and tragic that you didn’t know that Psalm 19:1 is actually a Messianic prophecy, the fulfillment of which is written in Romans 1:1-4, 18-20:

    “The gospel [was what] God … promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, … who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead … For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature [cf. Psalm 19:1], have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

  • Our daughter (adopted with aboriginal ancestry) has looked into indigenous religious practices. She has concluded that aboriginal religious practices and Evangelical Christianity do not mesh .
    The question about Standing Rock seems very leading. It did not seem very objective.

  • How does that negate the notion that the glory of God is revealed through nature? It actually seems to reinforce that idea, considering that God doesn’t change, didn’t need to do differently but continues the purpose from beginning end, and still uses nature to draw humanity to him through the revelation of Christ (Messiah).

  • “… still uses nature to draw humanity to him through the revelation of Christ (Messiah)”. Nature plus, you mean? Or Christ plus, you mean? Show me how that worked before, from the time Jesus was born, until now. I think you’re just trigger happy syncretizing, without the wisdom of God.

  • 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in [8] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers— all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in [9] him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in
    everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

    Harper Bibles. NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Kindle Locations 67247-67248). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
    The anointing of Christ fills every atom of creation which exudes the fullness of the grace of God because of him who created all things. Though Christ is not created or creation, divine essence has a fingerprint on all creation so that seeing, whether spiritually or naturally one may hear the voice of Christ.

    Some who see the glory of God reflected through creation may not recognize it as Christ, but as they keep following that light they will eventually get a full revelation of Christ, because Christ actively emanating divine glory toward humanity. Wesleyans call it “prevenient grace.” Calvin called it “common grace,” as in, grace that is common to all humanity.

  • Read Romans 1 again. When the Messianic prophecy in your Psalm 19:1 got all fulfilled, says your apostle Paul in Romans 1:1-4, 18-20, nature, or “creation”, or “prevenient grace”, or “common grace” has run its course. That project was a smashing success. God got what He wanted out of it – “no excuse” no more from all of humanity – starting with His very own people, the Hebrews, the Jews. Every single person past, present and future has seen God in all His glory – but for what? To turn against Him, like the Jews did. So both Jews and Gentiles stand condemned by nature, or “creation”, or “prevenient grace”, or “common grace”!

    Point is, apostle Paul goes on to say, God is giving all of humanity a 2nd chance. Forget nature, or “creation”, or “prevenient grace”, or “common grace”, He declares. Now listen to the gospel preached face to face of the ransoming Fatherly love of God through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of His own beloved Son, Israel’s Messiah Jesus. That’s it! Take it or leave it – this 2nd chance!

  • I was removed from catholic services some years ago by city police. It seems some of the parishoners were VERY uncomfortable having me – part Native – in their church. The police were unable to cite me for any chargeable offense so after i sat in the booking area of the jail for an hour or so one of the officers gave me a ride home. After they discovered i had a lifelong church background and that i understood what being a Christian entailed the officer invited me to his church. I did not go to his church but read my Bible much more enthusiastically. I am no longer Bible illiterate. I caught another pastors wrath afterward in a similar situation. His gripe about me being in his church was a law passed in 1978 titled as the Native American Religious Freedom Act. This pastor was saying, “you Indians fought us in court to be able to practice your religion…”. I felt his relying the law was misplaced in that freedom is just that. I thought i would be free to attend the church of my choice but im not one to argue with small minded small town maverick church pastors. I read my bible and live according to those standards. I would like to be accepted in a congregation some day and hopefully others can understand that there are most all races identifying as christians.

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