C072 Land Acknowledgment
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring,
That the 80th General Convention direct each Diocese of the Episcopal Church, begin an audit of all Indigenous peoples whose ancestral and territorial homelands its churches and buildings now occupy before the 81st General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, that each Diocese of the Episcopal Church will, before the 81st General Convention, begin dialogue with representatives from those Indigenous peoples whose ancestral and territorial homelands its churches and buildings now occupy to collaborate in the development of appropriate land acknowledgement liturgies and prayers; and be it further
Resolved, that each Diocese of the Episcopal Church in North America will, before the 81st General Convention, begin a process of implementing land acknowledgement liturgies and prayers to begin any public meetings or worship and to provide resources to their churches to do the same; and be it further
Resolved, that The Episcopal Church commits to ensuring that all public gatherings and worship of The Episcopal Church, its seminaries, boards, commissions, committees of the same, will, before the 81st General Convention, implement land acknowledgement liturgies and prayers to begin any public meetings or worship held in North America; and be it further
Resolved, that the 80th General Convention appropriate at least $100,000 to support these efforts.
In North America every Episcopal church in every diocese of The Episcopal Church occupies the ancestral and territorial homelands of Indigenous peoples. From its very beginnings the Episcopal Church has partnered with the United States government in its colonizing project. In the words of Dr. Owanah Anderson, a former head of the Episcopal Church’s Indigenous Ministries and a member of the Choctaw Nation, the Episcopal Church’s task with respect to Indigenous peoples was “to ‘civilize’ as well as to ‘evangelize the Indians.”* The Episcopal Church was a partner in the American colonial project, often serving as the purveyor and guarantor of one-sided treaties that divested Indigenous peoples of their homelands and facilitated their removal from ancestral and territorial lands to reservations.
The privilege, power, and prestige of the Episcopal Church has been established and preserved with generational wealth built on the backs of stolen bodies working stolen land, the reconciliation of the Episcopal Church to the ancestors of those In digenous peoples from whom the land was stolen begins with the land, specifically restoring the ruptured relationships between the church, the land, and its original caretakers.
The Episcopal Church’s role in Indigenous residential boarding schools is predicated on its role in removing Indigenous peoples from their ancestral and territorial homelands. The Episcopal Church, according to multiple reports report, ran “at least 18 Native American boarding schools.”** The Episcopal Church and/or its dioceses accepted monetary funding as well as tribal lands in exchange for helping the federal government “assimilate [Indigenous peoples] into the white settlers’ culture,” according to Bishop Creighton Robertson – an enrolled member of the Sisseton tribe in South Dakota – which he describes as “the church’s sin,” and unequivocally declares, “We have to confess that.”***
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Jennings have committed to “the work of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities in our church … pledg[ing] to spend time with our Indigenous siblings, listening to their stories and history, and seeking their wisdom about how we can together come to terms with this part of our history.” This important work of truth-telling and reconciliation around the Episcopal Church’s role in residential boarding schools cannot be fully engaged without accounting for the Episcopal Church’s role in removing Indigenous peoples from their ancestral and territorial lands.The goals for these land acknowledgement initiatives are to begin a process of healing for Indigenous communities from the generational trauma caused by their removal from ancestral and territorial homelands and to begin a dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities within the Episcopal Church to build trust, build relationship, and journey together. Reconciliation between the Episcopal Church, the land it now occupies, and the original caretakers of the land is a process of turning back to relationship – with the land and with its original caretakers.
*Anderson, Owanah. 400 Years, Anglican/Episcopal Mission Among American Indians (Cincinnati, OH: Forward Movement Publications, 1997), 12.
**McDonald, G. Jefferey. “A Shocking History,” The Living Church, February 28, 2018. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://livingchurch.org/2018/02/28/a-shocking-history/ (emphasis added); Chilton, John. “TEC ran 18 Nativepersons boarding schools – where is the apology, the examination?,” Episcopal Cafe, June 27, 2021. Accessed January 24, 2022, at https://www.episcopalcafe.com/tec-ran-18-native-persons-boarding-schools-where-is-theapology-the-examination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tec-ran-18-native-persons-boardingschools-where-is-the-apology-the-examination; Ferguson, Tom. “We Are Pontius Pilate: The Episcopal Church and Indian Boarding Schools,” CrustyOldDean.Blogspot.com, June 25, 2021. Accessed January 25, 2022, at https://www.blogger.com/blogin.g?blogspotURL=https://crustyoldean.blogspot.com/2021/06/we-are-pontius-pilateepiscopal-church.html.
***Schjonberg, Mary Frances. “General Convention renounces Doctrine of Discovery: Repudiation of centuries-old theory has modern implications, advocates say,” The Episcopal Church, August 26, 2009. Accessed November 25, 2021. https://episcopalchurch.org/library/article/general-convention-renounces-doctrine-discovery