When the Church came to our reservation back in 1884, it has been said by one spiritual elder in our community, "It was really easy for Indians to be Catholic. There was so much that came natural to us. Like a priest praying to the East, we've been praying to east long before the Black Robes came to us." He also went on to say, "Then in the 60's the Church changed, and a lot of people left the church because they felt that the Church had lied to them. They said this was important and a part of God, then all of sudden it didn't matter anymore. Our people felt lied to, like the the white man has done so many times before."
From that point on, church attendance and participation started to decline. What the priests of the last 40 years didn't understand was that the ritual, wonder, mystery and awe that the TLM conveyed was important to the Native Americans, it was a sign that God was with them. When all that symbolism was taken away, the interest in the Catholic Church waned.
In 2015 my wife and I came to the reservation as Parish Life Coordinators because neither the diocese or former religious orders had enough priests to have a full time pastor on the reservation. The Sacramental Minister who we work with, Fr. Garrett Nelson, is a recently ordained priest (1 1/2 years). He and the four other young priests in our diocese have a great love for the TLM.
They started an informal priestly fraternity in which they get together once a month (no easy feat in the second largest diocese, land wise, in the United States) and pray the TLM. Fr. Nelson has asked me if one month they could celebrate the TLM at St. Paul Mission. I said of course. After that single Latin Mass, people in the community came up to me and Fr. Nelson and said how wonderful it was to have the "old way" on the reservation again. One man, after watching Father and I celebrating a funeral Mass, said "We've noticed that you and Father are so prayerful and intentional during Mass, this is something we haven't seen in a long time, thank you."
We are now in the transition of slowly making the TLM a more common reality on the reservation, with the hopes of having the TLM offered every Sunday. Because of the neglect the last couple of decades to the visual beauty of the church, we need money in order to help bring back that sense of mystery wonder and awe and that church should have.
We believe that all of this will naturally lead to a deeper understanding of the Faith and devotion for this community. Being able to offer the TLM is a part of that vision.