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Forgiveness: A Lesson From the Nez Perce

1 min read

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On April 2nd, 2022, I went to the Nez Perce Reservation with a small group of Timberline High School students to forge a connection. When I came back, I brought new wisdom that James Holt, one of the Nez Perce that we talked to, shared. I want to reflect on one of them: forgiveness.

Nez Perce tales talk about a rope that the Creator sent to Earth. The rope split into strands, each representing one of Earth’s religions. The Nez Perce’s beliefs, James said, is only one of those strands. But, they all come together to form the same rope.

There’s a certain sense of solidarity in this story. Regardless of our beliefs and values, we come together to form the truth. If one of the strands are gone, the rope isn’t as strong—our epistemic understanding of our world weakens. I think this hermeneutic brings happiness and productivity, irrespective of its validity.

James’ willingness to share shocked me. The United States’ history has always been marred by its treatment (or rather punishment) of the Indians. We’ve signed treaties and immediately revoked them at the whims of westward expansion or corporations. We’ve slaughtered countless Indians because they refused to let us break our promises once again.

Yet generations later, when we, descendants of those barbaric perpetrators, come to ask for help because we’re destroying our planet, James smiles with enthusiasm and thanks us for coming.


How can he forgive so easily? I assume he’d say that we have to work together to face our problems—that neither of us can charge head-in alone. But still, I couldn’t imagine bringing myself to stand there with a welcoming smile, thanking us for coming.

Michel Liao

Michel Liao

Boise, Idaho, United States
Hello! I'm a sophomore studying computer science at Princeton. I like reading, rock climbing, and running.