The Episcopal Church and Indigenous Residential Schools
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Indigenous children across North America were stolen from their families and forced into institutions whose explicit goal was the complete eradication of Native culture, language, and identity—that is, cultural genocide. The Episcopal Church has been complicit in the creation and operation of some of these institutions. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings have released this statement on this shameful history, calling for the creation of "a comprehensive proposal for addressing the legacy of Indigenous schools" within the Episcopal Church, and supporting a process of truth-telling and healing on the national level.
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings issued the following statement regarding Indigenous boarding schools on July 12, 2021.
(Coverage of Executive Council’s June 25–27 meeting where council discussed Indigenous boarding schools is here.)
In Genesis, God conferred dignity on all people by creating them in God’s own image—a belief that is shared by all Abrahamic faiths. We are grieved by recent discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children on the grounds of former boarding schools, where Indigenous children experienced forced removal from their homes, assimilation and abuse. These acts of cultural genocide sought to erase these children’s identities as God’s beloved children.
We condemn these practices and we mourn the intergenerational trauma that cascades from them. We have heard with sorrow stories of how this history has harmed the families of many Indigenous Episcopalians.
While complete records are unavailable, we know that The Episcopal Church was associated with Indigenous schools during the 19th and 20th centuries. We must come to a full understanding of the legacies of these schools.
As chair and vice-chair of Executive Council, and in consultation with our church’s Indigenous leaders, we pledge to make right relationships with our Indigenous siblings an important focus of the work of Executive Council and the 80th General Convention.
To that end, we commit to the work of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities in our church. We pledge 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. We call upon Executive Council to deliver a comprehensive proposal for addressing the legacy of Indigenous schools at the 80th General Convention, 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.
We also commend Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on her establishment of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative and the effort to “shed light on the traumas of the past.” The Episcopal Church is also working to support legislation that will establish a truth and healing commission on Indian boarding school policy, which would complement the Department of the Interior’s new initiative.
As followers of Jesus, we must pursue truth and reconciliation in every corner of our lives, embracing God’s call to recognition of wrongdoing, genuine lamentation, authentic apology, true repentance, amendment of life and the nurture of right relationships. This is the Gospel path to becoming beloved community.
—Office of Public Affairs of the Episcopal Church, July 12, 2021