The Great Plains Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) invites you to join in honoring Native Americans who endured the trauma and indignity caused by parochial boarding schools as children, including the hundreds who died in institutions that were supposed to nurture and care for them.
The service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 — the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools — at Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Massachusetts St., in Lawrence, Kansas. Featured speakers include U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin), Democrat from the Kansas 3rd District, and Bishop David Wilson (Choctaw and Cherokee), episcopal leader of the more than 750 United Methodist Churches across Kansas and Nebraska and the first Native American elected as bishop in the history of the denomination.
The service will include Native American music, a short video and brief remarks from tribal leaders to honor the children who endured efforts to strip them of their heritage and culture, a practice that continues to harm indigenous people into the 21st century.
Boarding schools were part of a strategy enacted by the federal government to assimilate Native Americans into the predominantly white society. From about 1820 until as late as 1983, more than 500 boarding schools operated across the United States, including some in Kansas and Nebraska. In many cases, children were taken hundreds of miles away from their families. Children rarely were allowed to spend time with family, even if parents, siblings and others traveled great distances to see them. In other cases, restrictive laws and dishonest treaties forced Native families desperate to feed their children to turn minors over to boarding schools as a means of survival.
In nearly all cases, the schools prevented Native children from speaking their tribal language, wearing traditional clothing and following their customs. Their hair often was cut short, and discipline often was harsh and violent. This effort to strip Native children of their culture still greatly impacts tribal communities today, with many tribes being forced to take great efforts to preserve their languages and traditions.
“I am pleased that the Great Plains Annual Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries is hosting this event,” Bishop Wilson said. “I think it is important to educate as many people as possible about this dark and difficult time in the lives of thousands of Native Americans in that era.
“I hope that lay people and clergy will join us for this important event.”
The event will be recorded and uploaded to the Great Plains Conference website so those who cannot attend may hear these stories from our nation’s history.
CONAM is providing free orange ribbons to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools. Ribbons can be worn on Saturday, Sept. 30, or Sunday, Oct. 1, in your church services. Wear the ribbons to honor the Indigenous children who were sent to boarding schools and suffered the loss of their families, community and their traditions.
The ribbons will come with a QR code linked to The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.
The deadline to order Sept. 20. Please fill out the short form at https://gp-reg.brtapp.com/CONAMRibbons to place your order, free of charge to local churches.