Sisters, we need to have a hard conversation about the harm we (the church) has done to the indigenous people who lived here for centuries before our ancestors came to the US.
Isn’t this just a really sad part of our history? Why do we keep talking about this?
In short, no, it’s not just a sad part of history. We need to talk about it because most of us have no idea the church spearheaded the relocation, decimation of native culture, and genocide of entire communities.
Each time I mention that we should be actively pursuing reconciliation AND reparations on my Facebook page, people are absolutely dumbfounded by the suggestion. If we have any hope of healing the generational trauma carried by America’s indigenous people, we have to start by owning what we did.
The truth is that Christians murdered, abused, and tried to erase native people and then told them it was all God’s will.
There’s a list of resources at the end of this post to help you learn more, but here are a few key crimes that we need to make amends for:
1. Churches built ‘Indian schools’ where indigenous children lived after “missionaries” took them away from their homes. The Christian leaders beat and starved hundreds of thousands of children if they tried to speak their own language or wear their own clothes. Especially those who tried to hold onto their culture as the church intentionally and systemically tried to wipe them out. Many children never returned home and the government has no records of their whereabouts (Sound familiar? The same thing has been happening on our southern border for years.) Countless people in dozens of organizations used money given by parishioners (and the US government) to oppress indigenous people. Some schools were still operating in the 1970s.
2. Pastors preached that indigenous people were ‘ignorant savages’ that couldn’t think for themselves and needed to have their ‘savageness’ purged out of them for their own benefit. Non-Christian faith was illegal on reservations until the early 1970s, essentially stripping away the spiritual practices of entire communities. source
3. The church regularly preached that God mandated westward expansion to settle the land and spread Christianity. Basically the lie was that we were disobeying God if we did not ‘tame’ the land and people. This conquering of the west (including Alaska and Hawaii) was championed as God’s work. source
The church was a key player in these atrocities and we should be a key player in making it right.
Reconciliation will not happen if we continue to deny and/or ignore that we openly preached that black and brown people were more animal than human. The church separated children from their parents and we were perfectly fine with violent abuse, murder, and forced relocation of indigenous people.
It would irresponsible of me to try to tell you what it is (or has been) like to be indigenous and be the target of such hate. It’s also not my place, as a white women, to tell you how to make this right.
What I can tell you, is that there are hundreds of people out there telling this story, their story, and every single Christian needs to listen. Because their oppression is our story.
Resources to learn more:
Native American Advocacy Organizations:
Native news sources:
The Effects of Removal on American Indian Tribes:
Angela is a Faith Deconstruction Coach and host of The Deconstructing Faith Summit who helps people break free from toxic religious culture & empowers them to recover from #churchhurt. She has led online ministries for a decade, enjoys working with clients 1:1, in groups, and is a dynamic conference speaker. She’s a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches thousands of people in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog.
She’s a firstborn, Enneagram 8, Gen Xer who loves to question everything. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church.
Angela and her unique online ministry are featured in Lyz Lenz’s 2019 book God Land: Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America. She has published articles in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines. She has been featured in The New Republic, Publisher’s Today, and Religion News Service.
Her first book, Deconstructing Your Faith Without Losing Yourself, Will be published by Eerdmans in February 2023.
Angela is also a wife, mom to 5, and a proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.