The Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministries has called on the UMC’s Council of Bishops “to lead our people in restorative justice (through)…a forum where (Native American) boarding school survivors and their descendants can tell their stories.”
CONAM wrote the June 16 letter in support pf a June 11 letter from the denomination’s Native American International Caucus that asks the bishops to “listen to the Indian voices crying out from graves and from their communities and to take concrete action to fulfill their vows. Now.”
These statements were prompted by the discovery several weeks ago of the bodies of 215 Indian children buried at the Kamloops Indian Industrial School in British Columbia (photo below). Bishop Peggy Johnson, who serves as an episcopal representative on the NAIC board, wrote a public statement following that discovery, titled “Lessons we can learn: The painful history of Native American boarding schools.”
But on Thursday the remains of as many as 751 more people, mainly Indigenous children, were reportedly unearthed at the site of another former boarding school in the province of Saskatchewan. That new discovery is further shaking a nation as it grapples with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people. And people concerned about justice for Native Americans and the lasting impact of boarding schools in the U.S. are grieving these gruesome discoveries as well.
“The intergenerational trauma caused by the cultural genocide programs of Indian boarding schools has been reignited among all the indigenous nations in North America,” reads the CONAM letter. “This history and the pain that lives on in survivors and their descendants needs to be acknowledged and steps for healing need to be initiated.”
The committee further asserts:
The Methodist Church was complicit in the cultural genocide program of the U.S. government. It seems that historical Methodists believed that one had to adopt European culture in order to receive Christ. But even that belief does not justify the brutal treatment inflicted on children in the name of Christ.
The consequences of the boarding school experience live on in Indian communities, devastating families still today; the pain they experience is not going to just go away….
We support the statement of the Native American International Caucus asking the bishops to listen to the Indian voices crying out from graves and from their communities and to take concrete action to fulfill their vows. Now.
Read the Eastern PA Conference CONAM letter.
Read Bishop Peggy Johnson’s essay.
Visit our Native American Ministries web page.