Apr 11, 2023 | Verna Colliver

In 2012 the United Methodist Church’s General Conference held an Act of Repentance with Native Peoples, challenging the church to implement actions that demonstrate a genuine attitude of repentance and healing.

A key element of this repentance is learning and fostering awareness of the history of colonization and the role of the church in the loss of land, language and culture. Repentance is a first step on a journey that leads to healing and wholeness with our Native American brothers and sisters today.

The UMC’s 2016 Book of Resolutions points to the “Government and religious institutions [which] intentionally destroyed many of [the]traditional cultures and belief systems.” For the purposes of assimilation Native children were “forcibly removed to boarding schools, often operated by religious institutions, including historical Methodism.” 2016 BOR, #3321.

Home from School:  The Children of Carlisle is the story of Native children who were taken from their homes to a faraway boarding school in Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. The location is less than one hundred miles from where many of us live. What do you know about the Carlisle Indian School, other than Jim Thorpe, the celebrated athlete?

“Pennsylvania basically hosted the Carlisle Indian School and has never taken any sort of responsibility to represent that story from a Native perspective, maybe not even their own side of the story,” said Sandi Cianciulli, who co-chairs the Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CoNAM). “We have met entirely too many people who claim to be born and raised there and never heard there was an Indian boarding school there, let alone the first off-reservation, military model, U.S. government-run boarding school.”

The documentary tells the story of trauma and loss for the children who left their families and all that was familiar to them to board trains and enter a regimented world of forced assimilation. While many students thrived and learned skills to help them succeed, some did not survive. The cemetery at the school still bears witness to their lost lives.

Come to our free screening of the film at Camp Innabah on Sunday, April 30, at 4:00 p.m., to learn and engage in conversation about this tragic chapter in the story of colonialism and its impact on the lives of survivors and their descendants today. A light supper will follow the screening and a blanket offering will be received. Please register in advance. Download the flyer to share with your congregation or group. REGISTER for the free program. Learn more about the documentary at https://itvs.org/films/home-from-school-the-children-of-carlisle

Verna Colliver is secretary of the Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CoNAM).