Jul 21, 2021

The Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church (NAIC) has issued “A Call to Truth Telling and Repentance,” asking UM bishops and conferences to make Oct. 6 “A Day of Truth and Repentance for Our Children.” NAIC (http://www.naicumc.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/NAICUMC/) is one of the denomination’s five official racial-ethnic caucuses. 

The caucus cites in its appeal:

  • “the bones of over 1,000 children found in mass graves owned by church-run schools in North America”; 
  • the growing “tally of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, which is already 10 times the national average”; and 
  • “the echoes of historical trauma toward our children, as forced removals continue to this day (and) reverberate throughout Native American communities in North America…”

“The call to address the horror of abuse and the consequence of genocidal policies is once again brought to the forefront,” reads the statement. “How many more lost lives are needed before Native Americans are made visible and their voices are heard?”

The observance request coincides with the national Boarding School Healing Project’s designation of Oct. 6 as a Day of Remembrance. “On that day in 1879 General Richard Pratt took children from First Nations and opened the (first) boarding school in Carlisle, PA.” 

The NAIC statement charges that “unresolved historical trauma associated with the cultural genocide and years of stripping Native Americans of their culture, land and language through the church and government sanctioned boarding schools…has wreaked havoc on Native American families.” 

It cites the lasting impact of that trauma as manifested in addictions, domestic abuse, suicide and mental illness. “Insufficient acknowledgement of the harm perpetuated and the lack of reparations have damaged Native American communities for generations,” it asserts.

Beyond just a day of observance, the caucus makes another request for ongoing action:

We call on the Church to commit to discover the locations and records from the Methodist run boarding schools, to search the physical properties for individual or mass graves by whatever means necessary and to make a determined effort to provide surviving family members with the information found. We demand that the Church search out, listen to and collect the oral stories of those family members whose ancestors were impacted by a Methodist boarding schools.

NAIC says these actions can “begin a process a healing, justice and reconciliation for families and communities to heal, as the voices of the lost children are heard once again (and) as they are honored with the respect and love they did not receive from the Methodist Christians of the time.”

Bishop Peggy Johnson serves as the episcopal representative on the caucus’ board, which is chaired by Ragghi Rain of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference.

Read the full statement.