To that end, the Presbyterian Historical Society, the national archives for the church, announced the creation of a list of schools in December. The list is not comprehensive; several entries in the guide link to Pearl Digital Collections where scans of archival materials, including institutional records and photographs, are available.
The church also issued an apology in 2016 to U.S. citizens of Native ancestry, to “those who were and are part of stolen generations during the Indian assimilation movement.”
It reads in part, “Our burdens include dishonoring the depths of the struggles of Native American people and the richness of your gifts. Therefore, we confess to you that when our Presbyterian ancestors journeyed to this land, we did not respect your own Indigenous knowledges and epistemologies as valid.”
In 1877, a Presbyterian missionary opened Wrangell mission school among the Tlingits in Sitka, Alaska. The church no longer operates schools focused on educating Native students.
In 2016, the church repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.
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Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, operated more than 30 Indian boarding schools in the U.S.
Paula Palmer, founder of the Quaker ministry, Towards Right Relationship with Native People, wrote that Quakers were some of the staunchest proponents of cultural genocide. They advocated removing children from their families believing, “the whole character of the Indian must be changed.”
Thomas Lorraine McKenney, a Quaker, was the first superintendent of Indian Trade in 1816 and a key figure in developing U.S. Indian policy. He advocated for a federal policy of education and civilization through a network of schools run by missionary societies.
Some Quaker groups have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, and in 2015, the New York Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends called on all Quaker groups to repudiate the doctrine.
Quaker leadership did not respond to Indian Country Today’s email asking if they plan to open their boarding school archives or create any physical response to their boarding school history.
The Quaker church does not appear to currently operate any schools focused on educating Native students.
United Methodist Church
The Methodist church is just beginning to scratch the surface of its history with Indian boarding schools, according to the Rev. Charles Brower, Inupiaq, pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Nome, Alaska.
The church operated about 20 schools that included boarding and day schools beginning in 1840, and those early Christian Indian schools served as models for federal schools like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, considered the model for boarding schools that followed, according to Rev. Ashley Dreff of the church’s general commission on archives and history.
Dreff and associates are currently looking through the church’s archive repository in order to reconstruct Methodist’s involvement with Indian education.
Rev. Chebon Kernell, Seminole and Muscogee (Creek) and an ordained elder in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, expressed concern that church leadership is reluctant to face its history with Native peoples.
“Unfortunately, this reluctance is an indictment on the complacent nature of many denominations in giving full transparency to the church’s involvement with boarding schools,” Kernell said.
In 2016, the United Methodist Church resolved to condemn the Doctrine of Discovery. The church also enacted a confession to Native people in which it apologized for its sins, intended and unintended, against American Indians. The apology, however, does not include Methodist’s work with boarding schools.
The United Methodist Church does not appear to currently operate any schools focusing on Native students.
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The Episcopal Church operated at least eight Indian boarding and day schools.
“While records are unavailable, we know that the Episcopal Church was associated with Indigenous schools during the 19th and 20th centuries,” according to a joint statement issued in July by Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies.
“We must come to a full understanding of the legacies of these schools,” according to the statement. “We call the executive council to deliver a comprehensive proposal for addressing the legacy of Indigenous schools at the 80th General Convention in July 2022, including earmarking resources for independent research in the archives of The Episcopal Church, options for developing culturally appropriate liturgical materials and plans for educating Episcopalians across the church about this history, among other initiatives.”
The Episcopal Church repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery in 2009 but has not issued an apology.
To date, most of the work by Christian denominations in facing their histories of operating Indian boarding schools is being done by individual congregations or religious orders.
Momentum toward facing this bitter legacy may be growing, however, as the public grows more aware of the roles played by Christians in forwarding assimilationist education policies towards Native peoples. The efforts may get a boost from the Department of the Interior, which is expected to publish its findings from the Boarding School Initiative in April.
“We all need to work together on this,” said the Rev. Bradley Hauff, a Minnesota-based Episcopal priest and missioner for Indigenous Ministries.
This story was originally published in ICT. It is republished here with permission.