In a surprising move of government endorsement of religion, the government of the Crow Nation Native American reservation in Montana has paid for a public billboard which states “Jesus Christ Is Lord on the Crow Nation.” The Christian sign was sponsored by the government and erected sometime in December.
According to Indian Country, the government of the reservation is permitted to do this due to a “Jesus is Lord” resolution passed by Senator C.J. Stewart in 2013. The bill’s full title is, “The Crow Tribal Legislature to honor God for his great blessings upon the Crow Tribe and to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of the Crow Indian Reservation.”
Stewart drafted the “Jesus is Lord” resolution in the language of the Crow tribe, referring to Jesus as Ischawuuannaukaasua, meaning ‘The One with Pierced Hands.’
While the Crow Nation constitution does protect the freedom of its people to practice any religion they please, the resolution essentially affirms the fact that the Crow Tribe has widely embraced the teachings of Jesus, specifically Pentecostalism. These followers of Christ in particular were similar to Crow Tribe practices like faith, prayer, prayer healing, and fasting.
“One of the main draws of Pentecostalism for Natives is that it’s so informal and embraced individual spiritualism,” said Tim McCleary, the Crow Tribal Historian.
Much of the Crow Tribe was converted to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ by Pentecostal missionaries John and Georgia Forbes in 1920.
Though the “Jesus is Lord” billboard might seem controversial and even downright offensive, Senator Stewart claims the message wasn’t meant to cause any disturbance. In fact, Stewart was very careful when drafting the resolution to keep everyone in the tribe happy, saying, “By all means, we didn’t want it to disturb or offend anybody.” And so far, nobody has objected to the “Jesus is Lord” sign. Stewart even claims that message about Jesus “needed to be done” on account of rising death rates within the tribe.
While no one in the Crow Nation seems upset about the Jesus billboard, some in surrounding areas and from other tribes have criticized the resolution.
“They’re saying we’re giving up our culture and things of that nature, but you know what? We still speak our language, we still practice traditional beliefs, and we have the largest tribal buffalo herd and hunt them. We’re not trying to assimilate anybody, we’re just referencing our Lord.”
According to Patheos, the Crow people are taught to “respect all religions,” which is why it might be strange to some outsiders that Crow Nation have chosen to identify Jesus as the sole messiah.
“Some people may not believe in the name of Jesus,” said Stewart. “That’s fine, we don’t put that down.”
What do you think about a public message supporting Jesus Christ? Should the reservation be allowed to post a billboard that says “Jesus is Lord”?