The Everlasting People
First Things Book of the Year award
What does the cross of Christ have to do with the thunderbird? How might the life and work of Christian writer G. K. Chesterton shed light on our understanding of North American Indigenous art and history?
This unexpected connection forms the basis of these discerning reflections by art historian Matthew Milliner. In this fifth volume in the Hansen Lectureship Series, Milliner appeals to Chesterton's life and work—including The Everlasting Man, his neglected poetry, his love for his native England, and his own visits to America—in order to understand and appreciate both Indigenous art and the complex, often tragic history of First Nations peoples, especially in the American Midwest.
The Hansen Lectureship series offers accessible and insightful reflections by Wheaton College faculty on the transformative work of the Wade Center authors.
"Matthew Milliner's careful exploration of Native American history and current circumstances draws unexpected inspiration from the works of G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton, who made only two short visits to the United States, turns out to have addressed themes that for Milliner illuminate Indigenous experience with unusual force. Art, history, contemporary reflection, and theology combine to make this a work of rare and sparkling insight."
"Taking Chesterton's baton to recognize the 'Red Indian,' Milliner continues the relay. His work of 'unexpected connections' looks at Native rock art, Christianity, and massacre sites left in the wake of westward expansion. Native rock art tells the story of a people who sought the same as the Christians—release from darkness, hunger, sickness, death, and threats from a hostile world. Milliner is a go-between between the worlds, following the greater relay, the cross of Jesus. Milliner's work recognizes the supplication, contradiction, and contagion of Native rock art. The Everlasting People is a reminder of the stain on America's history. For the Native Christian, however, behind the shroud of heavy sails was the light of Christ."
"Matthew Milliner applies inspiration from the writings and musings of G. K. Chesterton to look deeper into the cultures of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America). Milliner allows his own experiences in relationship with Native North Americans to challenge his preconceptions and his understanding of where faith in Jesus begins on this continent. With unusual transparency for a theologian, he shares much from his own relational and cultural experiences as he gives readers thoughtful ways to approach Indigenous theology. This book is filled with contemplative insights, soul-searching questions, and generous footnotes for further reading. It is my hope that books like this will create cultural bridges that will foster further conciliatory opportunities."
"I'm so grateful to read my friend Matthew's good words in this new book. They would not have come together without many long days and nights of researching and uncovering terrible truths about the atrocities of the colonization and attempted eradication of Indigenous people in North America. Those stories are not easy to tell, especially for settlers. Years ago, I remember Matthew speaking about these very atrocities and again I was grateful. He is a truth seeker and teller. His work is well researched and therefore may cause discomfort to those who are still living with a colonizer mindset. Decolonization simply means hearing a different story and changing your mind. In this book, Dr. Milliner does a beautiful job of telling that different story. Thank you, my friend."
"In one of the most unexpected and original explorations of G. K. Chesterton's rich ideas, Matthew Milliner has opened an entirely new territory of scholarship and social studies. Chesterton's endless creativity has somehow gotten even more creative!"
"Somewhere under the larches of Paradise, G. K. Chesterton and Nicholas Black Elk are sharing a pipe to celebrate the publication of The Everlasting People. Down here we can do our part by spreading the word. Buy a copy for yourself and three more to give to friends."
Foreword by Casey Church
Preface by G. Walter Hansen
Introduction: From Holy Mountain to Spirit Island
1. The Sign of Jonah
Response: Capt. David Iglesias
2. The Cost of Chicago
Response: David Hooker
3. Mother of the Midwest
Response: Amy Peeler
Conclusion: Returning a Pipe