THE UMC AND NATIVE AMERICAN BOARDING SCHOOLS
Remembering Native American victims of US schools
United Methodist leaders decry church sponsorship of U.S. abusive “Indian boarding schools” and call for remembrance of victims and survivors.
Statement from heads of UMC agencies
27 September 2021
Recent media reports, a public education campaign, and the announcement of an investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior have cast renewed light on one of the most shameful practices in the deplorable treatment of the Indigenous people of North America by European colonists across 500 years. This was the forcing of thousands of Native American boys and girls into “Indian boarding schools” in a deliberate attempt to separate them from their families and cultures.
We know the names and locations of a number of Methodist-related Native American boarding schools and efforts are underway to identify as many such institutions as may have existed. We need to better understand our complicity in this form of cultural genocide and to bring the boarding schools more clearly into focus in our expression of repentance for the inhumane treatment to which the church and its members subjected Indigenous people in the past. Such repentance was expressed by the 2012 United Methodist General Conference (see below).
In the face of renewed focus on the damages done by the boarding schools, we:
• Endorse and join the Day of Remembrance on September 30, 2021,
• Welcome the investigation underway by the U.S. Department of the Interior,
• Pledge to conduct our own study and investigation of Methodist-related boarding schools,
• Seek to embody in our work the spirit of our church’s 2012 “Act of Repentance Toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People,”
• Review and implement as possible recommendations for healing and reconciliation found in the resolution of 2016, including measures to increase the role and visibility of Indigenous persons and communities, and
• Promote equity and justice for Native Americans in both church and society.
See the full statement
Pastor reflects on abuses at Indian boarding schools
Jim Patterson • 18 August 2021
The boarding schools “were very strictly run, around the principles of corporal punishment,” said Tink Tinker, a member of the Osage Nation and professor emeritus at Iliff School of Theology. Tinker wrote the preface of Ward Churchill’s 2004 book “Kill the Indian, Save the Man: The Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools.”
“Pure and simple, these were not educational facilities,” he said. “They were training Indian children for manual labor, just to serve their white superiors.”
Graduates from the Carlisle school had to take an oath to profess that they were no longer Indian in order to get their diplomas, Tinker said.
Some Indian boarding schools were established by Methodists, including The Shawnee Methodist Indian Manual Labor School in Fairway, Kansas, and Asbury Manual Labor School in Fort Mitchell, Alabama.
In June, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced an investigation into Indian boarding schools, with an emphasis on cemeteries and potential burial sites. The discovery of 215 unmarked Native American graves in Canada prompted the U.S investigation, said Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary.
Letter to UMC Bishops from the Native American International Caucus (NAIC) of the United Methodist Church
11 June 2021
....Now, it is past time for the United Methodist Church to take action. Now it is time for the church to listen to the voices of American Indian and Native Alaskan children who were lost to their families and communities as they cry out for justice these many years later.
• Will the Bishops of the United Methodist Church lead the way by taking action to uncover the truth about our denomination’s role and responsibility in this reprehensible history? Will the church leadership commit to discovering the locations and records from the Methodist run boarding schools? Will the church seek out the names of the students at those schools and their tribal heritage?
• Will the denomination commit funding to search the physical properties for individual or mass graves by whatever means necessary, to comb through whatever records may be found, to make a determined effort to provide surviving family members with the information found, and to vigorously search out, listen to and collect the oral stories of those family members whose ancestors were impacted by a Methodist boarding school?
• And then, will the United Methodist Church commit time and resources and money to join with other efforts throughout North America to remedy the historical trauma they helped create? These are the concrete acts that will begin to allow families and communities to heal as the voices of the lost children are heard once again, as they are honored with the respect and love they did not receive from the Methodist Christians of the time. These are the actions that will indicate the church’s commitment to true reconciliation.
See the full letter
See the Call to Action on Legacy of Boarding Schools
from the Northeastern Jurisdiction Native American Ministries Committee (NEJNAMC)
See more statements and actions with NEJNAMC
Tell Congress to support Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy
Action alert from the General Board of Church and Society
As United Methodists, our church continues a journey of repentance and healing with Indigenous persons and communities. As part of that journey, we are called to a process of “self-examination, discovering the ongoing impact of historic traumas [and] confessing our own participation in the continuing effects of that rauma” (Book of Resolutions #3324: Trail of Repentance and Healing).
Recently, our denomination has begun to examine more deeply our institutional complicity in boarding school policies designed to erase the language, culture, and spiritual practices of Native peoples.
As we examine more closely our own institutional responsibility for these historic and lasting traumas, we have an additional responsibility and opportunity to advocate alongside Native peoples in support of examining fully and truthfully U.S policies that codified and encouraged these immoral actions.
The Native American International Caucus and the General Board of Church and Society have endorsed legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress establishing a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy.
Tell Congress to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy.
See the full alert and take action here
ACT OF REPENTANCE
UMC General Conferences of 2012 and 2016
GC2012: Starting along the path of repentance
Kathy Gilbert, Linda Bloom • UMNS • 27 April 2012
The Rev. George Tinker helps lead an "Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples" at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
[UMKR note: The Rev. Dr. George E. "Tink" Tinker is a prominent American Indian theologian and the author of many articles, the books Spirit and Resistance: Political Theology and American Indian Liberation, Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Theology, and co-author of Native American Theology. Tinker is faculty at the UMC Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, where he has taught since 1985. He earned his doctorate in Biblical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in 1983. He is a member of the Osage Nation, and serves on the leadership council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado and director of the Four Winds American Survival Project.]
If United Methodists are serious about repenting for past injustices against native peoples, they must prepare for a long and painful journey, says a Native American theologian.
"There is a lot of history that has been concealed; you have to go and dig it up," said the Rev. George "Tink" Tinker.
He and indigenous representatives from the U.S. and other lands brought that message during an "Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples" April 27 at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference.
VIDEO: Dr George Tinker, Act of Repentance, GC2012
See this excerpt (4.5 mins) of the message Dr Tinker brought to GC2012
AUDIO: George Tinker urges continuing repentance
"No apologies. Just repent. Seriously." was the Rev. Dr. George E. Tinker's message during "An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples." The service took place on Friday evening, April 27, during the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Listen to his message at GC2012 (30 mins)
GC2016 recalls, laments Sand Creek Massacre
Sam Hodges • UMNS • 18 May 2016
Concerns about legislation and the future of The United Methodist Church got set aside for a half-hour at General Conference 2016 on Thursday, May 18, as delegates focused instead on a historical tragedy with deep Methodist involvement.
The 1864 Sand Creek Massacre was the subject, and speakers included a historian and descendants of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian survivors of the attack.
Mountain Sky Area Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky had joined the descendants in planning the event, the latest effort yet by The United Methodist Church to atone for the Sand Creek Massacre.
“We’re here to listen and to tell the truth,” Stanovsky told delegates.
The visiting Native Americans — some of them dressed in traditional clothing — voiced appreciation.
“We now extend our hand in friendship to the Methodist Church,” said William Walks Along, a Northern Cheyenne descendent of massacre survivors. “We have developed a measure of trust, respect and honor for each other.”
The Sand Creek Massacre occurred along the Big Sandy River of the Colorado Territory, beginning early on the morning of Nov. 29, 1864.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UMC
ACT OF REPENTANCE
with the Native American International Caucus
of the United Methodist Church
United Methodists stand with Standing Rock
Doreen Gosmire • Dakotas Conference, UMC
General Secretary Susan Henry-Crowe and Assistant General Secretary John Hill arrived Thursday, September 8, at Standing Rock. ￼The two participated in the protest in Bismarck, ND on the grounds of the North Dakota state capitol on Friday,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, traveled to the site of the large camp to make connections and gain understanding. Fr. John Floberg, rector of Episcopal churches St. James, St. Luke’s and Church of the Cross, on the Standing Rock nation, served as the guide for Ough.
Ough spent time visiting with various people in the encampment on the day after a federal judge’s decision and the Corp’s announcement.
Bishop Ough delivered a message of hope to those present at the camp.
Rev. David Wilson, Conference Superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of The United Methodist Church has been on the ground at Standing Rock twice in the last month.
“When I first heard about the issues that the Standing Rock nation was facing, I immediately felt called to learn what was going on and how we could help. We are a conference made up of entirely Indian United Methodist churches, the only one like it in this nation. The people at home began asking what is happening and what can we do? I felt like I had to come and find out,” said Wilson.
See the full report
Why United Methodist Women Stands with Standing Rock https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/standingrock
UMC RESOLUTIONS REGARDING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
#3321 Native People and The United Methodist Church
An extensive document with beliefs, aspirations, and intentions of the church regarding native peoples in North America
See the resolution
#3324 Trail of Repentance and Healing
....Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church begin a process of healing relationships with indigenous persons to continue throughout the quadrennium and beyond that necessarily includes such activities as using study guides and resources; self-examination, discovering the ongoing impact of historic traumas; confessing our own participation in the continuing effects of that trauma; building relationships with indigenous persons wherever we, the church, are; building those relationships through listening and being present with indigenous persons; working beside indigenous persons to seek solutions to current problems; advocating and resourcing programs that are self-determined by native and indigenous persons to be part of the healing process; and holding an Act of Repentance Service for the Healing of Relationships with Indigenous Persons in each conference; and....
See the full resolution
#3327 Oppose Names Demeaning to Native Americans
....Therefore, be it resolved through this action of the General Conference, The United Methodist Church calls upon all general agencies and related organizations to be intentional about raising awareness of the harm caused by some sports teams through the use of mascots and/or symbols promoting expressions of racism and disrespect of Native American people.
See the full resolution
#3331 Doctrine of Discovery
Therefore be it resolved, all levels of The United Methodist Church are called to condemn the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal document and basis for the seizing of native lands and abuses of human rights of indigenous peoples; and
Be it further resolved, that The United Methodist Church will work toward eliminating the Doctrine of Discovery as a means to subjugate indigenous peoples of property and land.
See the full resolution
#3333 Native American Religious Freedom Act
To support the Act of 1978, disseminate information on it, protect sacred sites. encourage government consulation with Native American leaders, and advocate with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to strengthen the 1978 legislation.
See the resolution
#3346 Support for the Indian Child Welfare Act: Education, Health Care, and Welfare
See the resolution
#6025 Globalization and Its Impact on Human Dignity and Human Rights
C. Indigenous Peoples: Toward Self-Determination
“All will sit underneath their own grapevines, / under their own fig trees. / There will be no one to terrify them; / for the mouth of the Lord of heavenly forces has spoken” (Micah 4:4).
Globalization threatens the human rights of indigenous peoples, including their aspirations for self-determination. Exploration and colonization have led to rapid appropriation of indigenous peoples’ lands and natural resources, and the destruction of their sciences, ideas, arts, and cultures.
Indigenous peoples struggle against the industries encroaching on their sacred lands. They are fighting for sovereignty over their ancestral lands in the face of systematic campaigns of extermination. They face population transfers, forced relocation, and assimilation, often because of the aggressive development interests of big business.
Indigenous peoples demand respect of their right to their culture, spirituality, language, tradition, forms of organization, ways of knowing and doing, and their intellectual properties. Indeed, it will be hard for indigenous peoples all over the world to exercise their fundamental human rights as distinct nations, societies, and peoples without the ability to control the knowledge and resources they have inherited from their ancestors and reside in their ancestral domains.
United Methodists are urged to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. UNDRIP, as it is commonly called, was adopted on September 7, 2007, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, with the overwhelming sup- port of 143 countries. Troubling, however, were the abstentions by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, homes of many indigenous peoples.
We must call as a worldwide church for the universal adoption of this important instrument that the United Nations Human Rights Council hails as “a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.” .....
See the full resolution
Doctrine of Discovery: Dismantling Racism Panel Discussion
18 November 2020
The Doctrine of Discovery undergirds many of the racist structures throughout the United States, the Global South, as well as across the globe. We will discuss the implications of how evangelism, colonialism and racism are intertwined, name some of the historical movements that helped shape our world today, and discuss where we see the challenges and the hope in dismantling colonialism in our own contexts. Learn more at http://umc.org/endracism
“We can’t have a conversation around unpacking racism, the history of racism, unless we are willing to go back to the origin story of settler colonialism and the ways in which people are taken from their land, exploited, harmed, so that new empires can be built. This is part of what we must contend with.”
Erin Hawkins, GCORR
Dr. Lisa Dellinger (Chickasaw and Mexican American) has served as a pastor with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church from 2015-2017.
She contributed chapters to the books, Coming Full Circle: Constructing Native Christian Theology and Feminist Praxis Against U.S. Militarism. She participates in panel discussions on racism, the Doctrine of Discovery, and Native American Peoples, feminism and Christianity. Dr. Dellinger is also a United Methodist Woman of Color Fellowship Scholar.
Ms. Erin M. Hawkins serves as Executive Director of Connectional Ministries for the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. She is also the former General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race, the denominational agency that cultivates racial inclusion and the full participation of all people into the work, witness, and life of The UMC. Ms. Hawkins works to share lessons in creating holy relationship with God by, “holding in tension our capacity for greatness that calls us, as Christians, to persevere in the struggle towards becoming our better selves, and to combat our worst tendencies of racism, sexism, and classism.”
Stealing the Earth: The conquering of Indigenous Peoples, the role of Christianity, and what can bring about justice.
From Popes to Presidents, the “Doctrine of Discovery” has empowered global leaders to change the lives of indigenous people throughout history. An upcoming five-part webinar series will explore the history and impact of the doctrine and the legacy of conquest that Christians have inherited to this day.
Sponsored by Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR), and the Native American International Caucus (NAIC).
Learn more and see the webinars
The UMC General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) on Indigenous Peoples
....There are more than 350 million indigenous peoples in at least 70 countries around the world. There are 565 federally-recognized tribes in the U.S. and dozens seeking recognition.
Indigenous people bear the image of God, like all human beings. They possess inherent human dignity as all other people do. But a history of colonialism and oppression has denied this reality.
What the Bible and The United Methodist Church Say:....
11 Facts about Native People in Society and The Church
UMC General Commission on Religion & Race (GCORR)
- Our regalia and dances have sacred and spiritual meaning.
- Native Americans as United Methodist leaders date back to the early 19th century.
On This Spirit Walk: The Voices of Native American and Indigenous Peoples
by Henrietta Mann and Anita Phillips
A resource for small group study within the local church. Setting this resource apart is the list of Native American United Methodist writers who contributed to this work. This diverse group includes a cross-section of tribes and nations, ages and life experiences. The inclusion of indigenous activist and human rights advocate Rev. Liberato Bautista provides a powerful depth of vision to these voices.
Opening Sermon for the California-Pacific Conference by Rev. Dr. George Tinker
Giving Substance to Words Card: for the Act of Repentance
The Native American International Caucus
The Native American International Caucus (the Caucus) is an advocate for Native peoples, ministries, communities within, as well as outside of the United Methodist Church. "International" in the context of this name means collaboration that occurs between indigenous nations of North America. The Caucus Board is comprised of native people who come from the various parts of Indian Country.
There are many needs in Native communities and the Caucus will continue to stand with and advocate for them. We do this because of our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for our Native American brothers and sisters.
Learn more: http://www.naicumc.com
Massacre at Sand Creek:
How Methodists Were Involved in a American Tragedy
By Gary Roberts
At dawn on the morning of November 29, 1864, Colonel John Milton Chivington gave the command that led to slaughter of 230 peaceful Cheyennes and Arapahos—primarily women, children, and elderly—camped under the protection of the U. S. government along Sand Creek in Colorado Territory and flying both an
American flag and a white flag.
The Sand Creek massacre seized national attention in the winter of 1864-1865 and generated a controversy that still excites heated debate more than 150 years later. At Sand Creek demoniac forces seemed unloosed
so completely that humanity itself was the casualty.
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• The UMC and Native American Boarding Schools
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• UMC Act of Repentance
• Standing Rock
• UMC Resolutions regarding Indigenous Peoples
• On the right side of the page: Resources
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