+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
I invite you to make time to remember Indigenous Peoples’ Day in your congregation and/or in your personal devotions this weekend and on Monday. This holiday invites us to focus on the people who were here before our European ancestors came in the late 1850s. When I go to see the Jeffers Petroglyphs I remember that we live on land that has been occupied for thousands of years by people before us.
Most of our synod territory’s footprint overlaps the historic homelands of Dakota communities and people. I keep thinking and praying about the slow and sudden violence that is part of our area’s history. I cannot change what has happened in the past. I/We can make a difference by how we choose to relate to our Native neighbors and act today.
We are called to remember our history, deepen relationships in the present, and build a better future for all people and especially our indigenous neighbors. Some of my ancestors lived through what we now call the US/Dakota War in 1862. The more I study the history that led up to those days, and then the history that followed, the more troubled I am. I lament all the people who were wounded or killed, and lives changed forever by those events and those which followed. In my hometowns of recent years, both New Ulm and Redwood Falls, I am surrounded by this history.
As a resident of Redwood County, twenty percent of my neighbors are Dakota people. I have been exploring their cultures (for example, attending the Wacipi – Pow Wow). You can learn in a variety of ways like reading, talking to people you meet, and going on field trips. We are called to make a better future for all our neighbors (“all our relatives” the Dakota might say).
You may not know our church body renounced what is called the “Doctrine of Discovery” in 2016. The resolution is related to the issues of indigenous people in our country and around the world. Here is part of that resolution. “To repudiate explicitly and clearly the European-derived doctrine of discovery as an example of the “improper mixing of the power of the church and the power of the sword” (Augsburg Confession Article XXVIII, Latin text), and to acknowledge and repent from this church’s complicity in the evils of colonialism in the Americas, which continue to harm tribal governments and individual tribal members; Here is the whole resolution. – Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery (ELCA social policy resolution as adopted by Churchwide Assembly 2016, accurate but unformatted text)
Over a decade ago I was a representative for our church body at a gathering in Quebec for international religious leaders from many traditions. At that gathering, I became aware of Canada’s work on truth-telling and reconciliation with their Indigenous, Métis and Inuit people. One of the greatest pains that was named were things that happened in the mostly church-run boarding school system for First Nation children. The Canadians prefer to call the Indigenous people, “First Nations Peoples”. If you are curious, here is an hour-long video that takes you into the history and work of the Anglican Church in Canada. Our sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is doing similar work to bring healing.
We also had a boarding school system here in the United States that is painful to learn about. Here is a web site where you can learn more.
I have been asked to serve on a task force about our church body’s work around how we might live deeper into the commitments we made in our church body’s resolution. We seek to find ways to listen deeply, engage in truth-telling, do justice, invite healing and find ways to build bridges to the best possible future for our neighbors whom God calls us to love and respect.
Dear God, we remember the helpful, beautiful, and hospitable actions of indigenous/ Native people toward European ancestors who arrived in this area back in our history and towards people in our time. We pray for our neighbors in their many cultures and ask for your ongoing healing work. We give thanks for the relationships that you long to grow deeper.
As Christians and people living in this area, we lament so many things, including our personal failures and mistakes in our relationship to Indigenous people. We lament the sad and violent history between Native people and the people, mostly European, who came to settle in this place back in time. We lament the ways that our differences and lack of understanding have led to harm.
Dear God, we do not know how to untwist all the knots of history – the failures, damage, resentment, violence, racism, and white supremacy that have marked this relationship. We humbly ask you to bring healing to our Native neighbors….and to all of us.
Dear God send your Spirit to build bridges, inspire us to patiently listen to truth-telling, guide our practicing forgiveness and inspire us to repair our relationships and experience healing. Amen.
The South Dakota Synod has found this text helpful to their work with Native people. Isaiah 58 – “…you shall be called repairer of the breach.” May God guide us all.
The Northeastern Minnesota Synod has created resources for this Sunday, October 11th.
Here is the Pray of the Day.
Creator, to you we give thanks in all you bring and ask for your guidance as we prepare to open our hearts and minds. Within this sacred circle, Jesus Christ is our center in all that we do. Help us to speak with honor and respect to all of creation and be open to the teachings we are given. As we walk this sacred journey together with our relations, open our eyes to understanding, and the strength to truly see the way to live with compassion, love and grace. For with your Spirit, we can face the winds together. AMEN