TRR Facilitator Irvin Porter

Church of the Indian Fellowship in Tacoma WA where Irvin is pastor.
Photo from Church of the Indian Fellowship.

Irvin Porter

Pima, T’hono O’odham, and Nez Perce

Irvin is descended from three Native American tribes: Pima, T’hono O’odham, and Nez Perce. He is the seventh of eight children raised by a single father after the divorce of his parents. Irvin is descended from Twisted Hair, the Nez Perce chief who met Lewis and Clark in 1805. Twisted Hair’s son, Chief Lawyer, was the first Elder elected by the Nez Perce in 1871 when First Indian Presbyterian Church of Kamiah, Idaho was dedicated. Lawyer’s son, Archie, was the 2nd Presbyterian minister ordained among the Nez Perce people. Irvin’s ancestors among both the Nez Perce and Pima tribes were some of the first Christian converts among their people and many served the Presbyterian Church as elders or ministers including his father, Lawrence Porter, Pima and T’hono O’odham, who was also ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

Irvin was ordained by Olympia Presbytery in 2003 but began as a Commissioned Lay Leader at Church of the Indian Fellowship in Tacoma, Washington in 2001. The church was founded in 1876, and Irvin is the first Native American pastor.

He became the Associate for Native American Intercultural Congregational Support for the Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries of the Presbyterian Church, USA, in June of 2013. His responsibilities include working as liaison between the ninety-five Native American congregations within the PC(USA).

He enjoys music, playing the piano, Native American arts, crafts, books, as well as being a history and genealogy enthusiast. He and his wife Anne-Cecile live in Puyallup, Washington’s South Hill community.

Irvin writes:

My introduction to TRR workshops came when I attended a Presbyterians For Earthcare conference in Corbett, OR. I had never heard of the workshop and was very impressed with the information shared, how it worked and the response from participants.

I asked the facilitator by email about becoming a Facilitator and the rest is history.

I am starting to lose track of how many workshops I have conducted. Unfortunately, many had to be cancelled due to the pandemic this year but hopefully with this new way forward, we can reschedule those and plan even more.

The workshop gives a good albeit condensed version of this vast history that our society conveniently omits from history books, courses and presentations at the expense of not only the truth but also to the detriment of Native American people. I appreciate the on-going updated scripts and look forward to beginning anew.

Information, the history, brought out by the workshop is mostly known to me but there is much that I did not know and the contemporary contributions from various Native leaders was unknown to me prior to the workshop. What did/does this mean to me? It instills the historic information further into my memory enabling me to share it in the many communications, both live and otherwise, that I share with others. It is so true that most Americans “never heard this before!” Truly, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” John 8:32

My position with the Presbyterian Church, USA, is to liaison between Native American Presbyterians and the denomination. But in that role, I also help the denomination understand the various issues that Native Americans face on a daily basis not just what they see in headlines.

Recent General Assembly Actions have helped bring these issues to the fore and increase my opportunities to share historic and current Native issues with the Church at all levels. I have conducted the workshop three-times for the national staff in Louisville, Kentucky which was well received. The visual sight of the blankets moved many to realize the gravity of American history’s omission of Native American history from national consciousness.

I have conducted the workshop locally in the Tacoma, Washington area and in other smaller locales with similar results. In the smaller workshops, one was eighteen-people, there is more intimate discussions, revelations and thought-provoking moments.

Thanks be to God for allowing me to be invited to the Presbyterians For Earthcare conference in Oregon leading to my involvement with Toward a Right Relationship with Native Peoples. It has changed my local and national ministries.