Never Before Shared Testimony
Recently I was asked to contribute a testimony to a publication that was going to be placed into the hands of Native Americans. Being part Native American myself, I wanted to write something that connected with this unique audience. As I prayed and meditated, I ended up penning a unique aspect of my testimony that I have never shared.
Vern Charette Jr. (Chippewa)
My dad, born into the Leach Lake band of the Ojibwe in Minnesota, was the oldest of several brothers and sisters. There has always been a mystery surrounding the true identity of his dad, my grandfather. The story I was told was that my grandfather was probably a Sioux and in those days it was frowned upon for a Chippewa to have relations with a Sioux. So, my grandmother never talked about who my dad’s true father was, nor was my true grandfather’s name put on my dad’s birth certificate. At some point in my dad’s childhood, he was actually sent to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and spent some years there, picking up much of the Sioux language and culture. Not only is the true amount of Chippewa that I have registered with the tribe inaccurately less than I possess, now you might understand why I was a little confused growing up when I was told, “You are Sioux.” Am I?
The reason I struggled so much with my identity growing up was not just because of the story you just read, but also because I do not recall my dad ever sitting down with me and telling me our family history and where I came from. My dad was an alcoholic before I was born. Not only did he never talk to me about his family and childhood, he was absent much of my childhood, going on long “binges.” It was not uncommon for him to run off to Minnesota for several months at a time. It is no surprise that, while growing up on the rough side of the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I would search for identity in the urban culture of drugs and alcohol that surrounded me. Even though I told my mom as a child, “I’ll never drink, because I don’t want to be like dad,” I started down the same path as a teenager.
At the age of 18, I was a high school dropout, in trouble with the authorities and living an immoral life. An African-American preacher witnessed to me and invited me to church. In a little store front church, broken by the power of the gospel, I gave my life to Jesus. Jesus did more than just come into my life and forgive me, He gave me a brand new identity. He transformed me. God called me to preach at the age of 19, after a trip to an Indian Christian camp. The same trip, in which, I also met my Cherokee wife, Jennifer. Later, God would give me the opportunity to gain a formal education and become the kind of godly father to my son that I never had. Jesus is the reason for it all.