Meet TRR Faciliator
Suanne Ware-Diaz

I am a proud Kiowa woman passionate in addressing the rights and issues of Native Americans and indigenous peoples of the world.  I am committed to building and strengthening community by deepening understanding of self, practicing profound hospitality and creating safe, sacred space where people from diverse backgrounds can gather to share in respectful exchange and dialogue.

My professional background is broad and varied.  My last two positions were serving the church and Native American communities as Executive Director of Cook Native American Ministries in Tempe Arizona and before that as Associate General Secretary of The United Methodist Church General Commission on Religion and Race in Washington D.C.  I retired several years ago to care for my mother and was able to occasionally freelance as consultant and adjunct instructor for Drew Theological School’s cross-cultural immersion course, “Native American People and Places”. 

My other passions are dance, art, music and stinky cheese with crusty French bread.  

After many years of holding positions requiring much travel and hours “above and beyond”, time spent with family and friends is cherished.  In retirement I continue to heed the call to step out and speak up on matters of social justice, especially, anti-racism.  The California-Pacific Conference Methodist Federation for Social Action recently presented me with their Mildred Hutchinson Award for Social Justice Work.  

It is an honor and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve as facilitator for the “Toward Right Relationship with Native People”.  I serve on the following organizations’ boards of directors and committees:

  • 580 Café/Wesley Foundation Serving UCLA, an ecumenical campus outreach ministry offering a place where both body and spirit are nourished
  • Oyate Wookiye – For the People, offering positive alternatives through skateboarding, expanding cultural appreciation and leadership development for youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota – Advisor and Board Member
  • Gabrieleno/Tongva Cultural Center at Kuruvungna Springs Foundation located on the grounds of University High School in West Los Angeles – Secretary
  • California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church Commission on Religion & Race
  • The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Community Stakeholders Roundtable, a group of professionals and community leaders working together to support and improve care for Native American children, youth and families in the LA County Foster system
  • Bead Society of Los Angeles

Thoughts about the Indian boarding schools, added on July 17, 2021:

Yesterday, PBS Newshour interviewed Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, about the government’s efforts to (finally) look into the history of its Indian Boarding Schools.

Frankly I was floored that the interviewer, Judy Woodruff, seasoned Newshour anchor who has interviewed folks like Suzan Shown Harjo and moderated panel presentations at the Smithsonian NMAI, has only recently learned of this country’s atrocious abuse of Native children.  
 
How brilliantly our educational systems have upheld and continue propagating the myth and half truths of US colonial roots and practices while blissfully, irresponsibly excluding the truth of its broader history.  
 
History matters because it informs and impacts the present.  
 
As the daughter of a boarding school survivor…I do not speak what should have been my native tongue. And that is true for most in my generation and beyond. 
 
Language loss includes loss of oral history, cultural practices and perspectives and so much more.  If you’re separated from family, from your elders, at 5 years old, stripped of your given name and slapped (and worse) for even saying just one word in your language…Then how likely will it be that you’ll be speaking your native tongue to your children and grandchildren?
 
The effects of boarding schools, genocide, forced removals, relocation continue to impact native people and communities.  The cover-up and omission doesn’t pardon; it gives blind permission to continue down a sinful path.  California, in particular, prides itself on diversity and progressive politics; yet it is blindest of all when it comes to knowing its racist history.  Society’s obeisance swallowing a white-washed (color reference intended), “this is a country of immigrants”, history is harmful and keeps us from learning to be better – as community, as country, as human beings.
 
I’m with Deb Haaland; I love my country, too.  Loving country – like loving one another – means we are brave enough to accept we are not perfect; so we can seize opportunity to expand our knowledge and improve. My prayer is that we will pause, really look in the mirror and deep dive into what is revealed.  But … Are we ready?  
 
Thanks for listening, – Suanne