October 6 has been designated as a Day of Remembrance by the national Boarding School Healing Project as on that day in 1879, the first Native American Boarding school opened in Carlisle, PA. Over 350 schools in off-reservation settings far from parents and home were subsequently opened across the country with a primary objective of "civilizing" or assimilating Native American children. Read a letter from Bishop Jung about the Day of Remembrance.
The federally funded schools were often run by churches, including historical Methodism. Churches may have taken on this mission with the best of intentions, but in fact, the schools carried out practices consistent with the stated philosophy of the first school to "kill the Indian, save the man". Children were punished for speaking their native languages, banned from conducting cultural practices, shorn of traditional clothing and separated from the identity of their native culture. They often died and were buried at these schools.
In a June, 2021, letter from the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church to the Bishops, asks that the churches move from remembrance to action. In that spirit, First Church has formed a committee with the following goals:
- Educate ourselves & our congregation about the history & contributions of Native Americans.
- Acknowledge that First Church resides within Ho-Chunk homeland.
- Inform ourselves about the Native American Boarding Schools.