Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Message from Donn Start, Principal West Valley Campus

It's an old joke, maybe you’ve head it. "What did the Indians say when Columbus landed?" Answer: "There goes the neighborhood!" Humorous to us perhaps, but from the Native American’s perspective, that's exactly what happened.

While previously employed with a northern Michigan school, that consisted of 20% Odawa Indians, I learned a great deal about the Native American culture. I quickly found out that Columbus Day is not a day of celebration within the Indian community. Odawa tribal elder, Simon Otto, often spoke about how Columbus and the European settlers brought unwanted diseases, polluted the lands, and corrupted the desired way of living for Native Americans everywhere.

While addressing his tribal members, Elder Otto used a word picture to capture the attention of his people. He talked about two canoes. He said that there were two canoes on this river that divided the world of their people from the world of the European settlers. One canoe represented the ways of the Indian people, the other canoe the ways of the white people. As Elder Otto would say, you could not have a foot in each canoe. You had to choose your canoe.

I believe that Jesus had a lot in common with the Native people of North America. He was a tribal man; His country had been taken over by others; He loved nature; He told stories; He was poor and He died a violent death. Now, while He didn't talk about those two canoes, He said something about following Him that sounded very much like it. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus stated, "No man can serve two masters." Or have his feet in two different canoes. You can't claim Jesus as your Lord, the decider of what you do, and then have someone or something else be your deciding factor. Like a man trying to straddle two canoes, you'll be pulled apart.

In spite of the impossibility of living for two masters, many of us who belong to Jesus may appear to be trying to do just that! We may say that Jesus is Lord, but when it comes to a choice between what Jesus wants and issues involving money, how often does the money win? Or when choosing between what friends may want and what Jesus wants, how often do the friends win? Although we may even say that Jesus is "number one," how often do we ignore Jesus’ teaching by ignoring those in need?

It can certainly be a struggle for many of us Christ followers to consistently serve only one master and to live without our feet in two canoes. The canoes will continue to drift in opposite directions, and so will we. God has some straight talk for us in Joshua 24:15, "Choose...this day whom you will serve." "Choose!"

I often tell my elementary students that they need to choose between how Jesus wants them to live and how Satan wants them to live. I encourage the children to choose the One who loves them the most. To choose Jesus!

Your comments are always appreciated.


  1. 2 Corinthians 3:2 talks about us being like an "epistle" known and read by all men. The choices we make (whether to be in the Lord's canoe or the devil's canoe)are seen by others and often a judgement is made. It's sad how the "white man's God" was not seen by the Native Americans for Who He was, but His image was distorted because of what they saw in the lives of those who should have been ambassadors of Christ. How do we represent the Lord? What do others "read" from our lives? Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Start, that there are only two canoes to choose from and that our choices have an effect on lives all around us.

  2. Wow Donn!
    I like the connection! I think that one of our greatest responibilitites as teachers is help students discover which of those roads they are on, and if it is leading them where they need to go!

  3. Donn,

    Well said and I say Amen to Keith's comment above. Thank you for bringing that visual and application to us.


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