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Native American Apology Resolution
Mennonite Church USA San Jose 2007 Delegate statement
At the request of our Native sisters and brothers, delegates at the July 2007 San Jose convention supported the joint U.S. Senate and House bills commonly called the Native American "apology bill." Following are resources to help you and your congregation take follow-up actions.
April 2008 update
Dear Representative (Name):
The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) provides the authority for the federal programs that deliver health services to Indian people. IHCIA was last reauthorized in 1992. Since then, the American health care system has evolved with an increased emphasis on wellness and prevention. Many services are now provided outside of hospitals. Programs such as clinics, in-home health care for the elderly, long-term-care, and hospice are available in most communities. Yet services for Native Americans have not been expanded. American Indians and Native Alaskans-who often reside in the most isolated and poorest areas of the country-will benefit if they can receive health care on the same basis as the U.S. general population. It is imperative that the House allow the critical task of modernizing medical services and systems for Native communities to begin.
Better medical care for Indian families is a matter of public interest and moral concern. The United States signed treaties promising health care in perpetuity in exchange for land or the laying down of arms. Our country must honor those promises. But historic obligations are not the only concern. Congress has committed to a goal of reducing health disparities that are so common between people of color and others in the larger society. The disparity in health conditions and health care between Native Americans and others is perhaps the most striking contrast in that whole picture.
In February, the Senate passed S. 1200, a bill to revise and extend IHCIA. The companion bill H.R. 1328 was introduced in March 2007 by sponsor Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. It has 58 sponsors.
But now, the urgently needed Indian health legislation is being put on hold due to a behind-the-scenes debate over a potential abortion amendment. The Indian Health Service is already prohibited from performing abortions with the stipulations outlined in the Health and Human Services appropriations act (the Hyde amendment). Native American organizations are imploring House members to "separate the IHCIA bill from the volatile and divisive abortion debate" and keep their focus on the shared values of addressing all health care needs, poverty, and access to services.
Please take initiative to ensure that this reauthorization, so long delayed, is passed, and voice your support for moving H.R. 1328 through the House on a bi-partisan basis.
(your name and address)
(Be certain to include your mailing address so your representative knows you are a constituent.)
San Jose 2007 Delegate action:
We, the delegates of Mennonite Church USA, gathered in San Jose, California in July, 2007, support the joint U.S. Senate and House bills that "acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States."
Senate Joint Resolution 4
House Joint Resolution 3
Friends Committee on National Legislation analysis
Introduction of Resolution at San Jose 2007
During the Tuesday morning adult worship session, the congregation saw a video about the U.S. government's forced relocation of Native peoples and the stealing of their land.
Delegate Statement and resources (702k PDF)
Litany for congregations (97k PDF)
Resolution on the 500th Anniversary of Columbus, 1989 Mennonite Church USA
On Observing 1992 Mennonite Church USA, 1991
What you can do:
Be willing to take time to listen to the stories of First Nation peoples and, if you are white, to acknowledge the benefits you have received by centuries of their mistreatment.
Whose land do you worship on? Research which Native Americans originally lived in your community, how they were dispossessed of their land and their current living conditions.
These websites might be helpful:
Return to the Earth is a restorative act that goes beyond confession. Initiated by Lawrence Hart, a Cheyenne peace chief and Mennonite pastor in Oklahoma, this project is endorsed by MCC and supported by an ecumenical effort of more than 80 faith-based groups. The project "supports Native Americans in burying unidentifiable ancestral remains now scattered across the United States and enables a process of education and reconciliation between Native and Non-Native peoples." You can help by using the congregational study guide and helping construct burial boxes, sewing burial cloths and making monetary contributions. Restorative justice recognizes "the interconnectedness among people," and invites the church to "support the return of Native American remains so that they can be buried with dignity on their land."
See the Return to the Earth website for congregational study materials.
The introduction to the Litany for congregations (97k PDF) includes these references:
- Tisquantum (also known as Squanto), a member of the Patuxet Tribe within the Wampanoag Confederacy who aided the Pilgrims through the winter of 1620, was enslaved and sent to Europe by the English in 1614. His ability to speak English was likely a result of this captivity. (Humins, pp. 58-59) Humins, John H. Squanto and Massasoit: A Struggle for Power. The New England Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 1. (Mar. 1987), pp. 54-70.
- During the five years it took Tisquantum to return to his homeland, approximately 90 percent of Wampanoag Confederacy citizens living on the New England coast died from diseases introduced by European colonists and merchants. (Salisbury, p. 501) Salisbury, Neal: Religious Encounters in a Colonial Context: New England and New France in the Seventeenth Century. American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 4, Special Issue: Shamans and Preachers, Color Symbolism and Commercial Evangelism: Reflections on Early Mid-Atlantic Religious Encounter in Light of the Columbian Quincentennial. (Autumn 1992), pp. 501-509.
- Early Thanksgiving ceremonies were conducted for a variety of reasons, and the "First Thanksgiving" story involving the Pilgrims was only one of a number of early Thanksgiving celebrations. The 1637 Thanksgiving feast at the Massachusetts Bay Colony was conducted to celebrate the near annihilation of the Pequots during the Pequot War. (Shurtleff, p. 204) Shurtleff, Nathaniel, ed. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, Vol I. Boston, 1853.
References for Delegate Statement and resources (702k PDF)
i Juhnke, James C. and Hunter, Carol M. "The Original Peacemakers",
The Missing Peace: The Search for Nonviolent Alternatives in United States History. Kitchener: Pandora Press, 2001.
iii "Indian Trust: Cobell vs. Kempthorne".
iv Erb, Paul. South Central Frontiers. Scottdale: Herald Press, 1974.
v Sharp, John E. "Mennonites and Native Americans: Reconciliation?" Mennonite Life, June 2006.
The MCC U.S. Washington Office Guide to Native American Issues.
For free copies, email Gabe Schlabach (
Acknowledging the Past, Transforming the Future 1/24/2008
Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office
First Nations People: Compensation and Apology Gene Stoltzfus, October 17, 2007.