They also reflect the current reckoning in the Roman Catholic Church and a number of Protestant denominations with boarding schools — some established in the 19th century but active into the 20th — where Indigenous children were taken and separated from their families and cultures.
“It was really important to do this with Indigenous voices being lifted up, and not somehow as an accessory to the ELCA, but this is who we are. These people are in our church, and our church is also complicit,” ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton told Religion News Service.
The declaration presented by the task force contains not only confessions, but also pledges to eliminate racism and white supremacy in the denomination, to develop Native leaders and encourage the return of land. It closes with an acknowledgment that its words must be accompanied by action.
“We understand that no document, no matter how carefully crafted, will accomplish the actions of truth and the work of justice as it relates to our American Indian and Alaska Native siblings,” it reads.
Members of the Doctrine of Discovery task force shared examples of actions already being taken across the ELCA, including a Montana church that is hosting Cree language immersion programs on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation; a group of writers developing an Indigenous response to Martin Luther’s Small Catechism; and the denomination’s advocacy for a federal truth commission focused on the U.S. government’s Indian boarding school program.
The ELCA is one of several Protestant denominations and Catholic groups supporting such a commission as the U.S. Department of the Interior continues work on its Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.
The ELCA has launched its own initiative, Blackfox said, and is looking for researchers to help the denomination — which marks its 35th anniversary this year — learn more about the role earlier Lutheran churches and institutions played in boarding schools.
Along with his newly created position, he said, it’s a sign the denomination is moving in the right direction.
“My work in tribal relations is not only to build relationships with sovereign nations across this land, across Turtle Island, but it’s also to help this church understand how to be in better relationship, right relationship, with those sovereign nations.”
“This is a new way of doing work with Indigenous people, with Native nations,” he said.
This article originally appeared here.