I am aware of the deep irony of a European American welcoming indigenous people to the land that was once entirely owned and populated by Native Americans. Nevertheless, the Montana Synod in general and Our Saviour’s Rocky Boy in particular will host the Biennial Gathering of the American Indian Alaska Native Lutheran Association this week.
The group will gather from Wednesday through Saturday, and will be joined by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop Guy Erwin (of the Southern California West Synod and member of the Osage Nation), and Prairie Rose Seminole, ELCA staff person for American Indian/Alaska Native desk. Officers of the Association, including Loni Whitford of Rocky Boy, and President Joan Conroy of Minnesota will help lead the event, as will Pastor Linda Webster.
Topics of discussion will include the Doctrine of Discovery, and the ELCA’s Repudiation—what does this mean for our life as a church, and as citizens. Also part of the agenda will be discussion of Standing Rock, and the implications for a church that repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.
There will be a pow-wow one evening, and on another evening speakers from Montana tribes: Blackfeet, Crow, Fort Belknap (Assiniboine and Gros Ventre), Fort Peck (Assiniboine and Sioux), Little Shell (landless Chippewa), Northern Cheyenne, Rocky Boy’s (Chippewa Cree) and Salish-Kootenai.
In addition to the main program, there will be a youth track, including tours of the reservation, or the Buffalo Jump and a Sweat Lodge.
Our Bolivian companion synod visitors will attend the event, adding the perspective of South American indigenous people to this North American gathering.
Rarely has a national church gathering been in Montana. We welcome the Gathering of the American Indian Alaska Native Association, humbly and gratefully.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
If you would like to read the Montana Synod Apology to the Tribes, adopted in 2010, please click here.
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Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA