November 18, 2014



A common question from students while on a hike for “Flora of North America”—“Is that native or is it a weed?”

While seemingly straightforward, I am never quite sure what they mean by native. Or perhaps better stated, I am never quite sure that they know what they mean by native. They might simply mean the species has been present in the area since before European settlement. But if you accept the dichotomy they created, they might really be more interested in whether it is invasive, generally undesirable, and/or out of place. The question implies that “native” is in some measure desirable. It further implies that if it is not native, the only alternative is that it is undesirable. Is there then no other category?

Many plants have been planted in an area for a specific purpose. We do not generally consider garden plants or row crops to be weeds. Others, though clearly growing where they were not purposefully planted, have become naturalized and are good neighbors within the plant communities they are now a part of. Hopefully we do not see that plants existing in an area through human intervention are inherently undesirable.

A better question might be, “Does it belong here?”



A visiting parent of a friend recently asked me if I am Sioux Center native. It prompted me to realize that I have now lived in Sioux Center longer than I have lived anywhere else in my life. My mother and her father were also born here. I certainly have some connections to this community.

Something however makes me hesitant to claim native status. I have formed strong friendships, begun raising children, invested in my workplace, served as a deacon in my church, learned much about the plants, animals, and insects that call this place home, endured and celebrated the seasons of this place; I have nurtured and been nurtured by this place. I am unsure if this is sufficient to be native.

There is much history here that I don’t know. There are a variety of practices that I haven’t adopted. There are many ways in which I have not earned the right to speak into the life of this community, this home, this oikos1 -system.

I am not sure how I stop being an immigrant. I am not sure that, even had I lived in a place for my whole life, I would be a native.

Who are the natives of Sioux Center?



Christ was born to this place. He took on flesh. He became as we. He accommodated himself; he was shaped by the womb of his mother and the work of his father. At the same time, he changed everything—he embodied the perfect tension between becoming native and bringing transformation. How did he so perfectly navigate this space between being shaped and shaping?

Maybe it isn’t in how long one has lived in a place, or whether one just naturally fits in, or whether one is born in a particular location. Maybe it is really about love. Love, so profound that you would give everything—that you would live and die for it all.

I am not sure I am all-in… but I want to be. I want to be at home. I want to be a part of an oikos-system. I want to love not just some people who happen to be in a particular place, I want to love the whole system—the plants, the animals, the birds, the people, the landscape, the relationships—to see it as more than the sum of its parts. I want to love all that God has made and called “very good”- to *shamar2 and abad… here in this place.

Here I am. I want to belong.

About the Author

  1. Oikos-the root of ecology, economy, ecosystem–The greek equivalent of household or home. Also the name of Danon’s greek yogurt line… 

  2. In Genesis 2:15 the Hebrew verbs – ‘abad’ and ‘shamar’ – are used to describe the role of mankind with respect to the rest of the creation. ‘Abad’ can be roughly translated as “serve”. As in, “… as for me and my household, we will serve (abad) the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15) Shamar, means ‘to protect’ or ‘to keep’. As in, “The Lord bless you and keep (shamar) you (Numbers 6:26). 

What are your thoughts about this topic?
We welcome your ideas and questions about the topics considered here. If you would like to receive others' comments and respond by email, please check the box below the comment form when you submit your own comments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?