House of Deputies

of The Episcopal Church

Statement on Indigenous boarding schools by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings

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.

photo: Girls at St. Mary’s Episcopal Mission School, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, MRL 10: G.E.E. Lindquist Papers, 60, 1483, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Can be viewed at http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu:443/catalog/burke_lindq_060_1483. Web accessed 12 Jul 2021.