Photo by Andreas Wagner on Unsplash

Yesterday, while many of us were celebrating a day of Thanksgiving, some of our Native neighbors marked the occasion as a “Day of Mourning.” This practice and the accompanying solemn commemorations serve as a way to to honor Native ancestors and their stories, while fostering greater awareness and understanding among the public about the destructive history of the white Europeans that colonized the lands which were their homes. With increasing insistence, our denomination’s leaders and in consultation with Native leaders, communities of faith like Prince of Peace have been encouraged to regularly recognize the true ancestry of the land upon which we gather for worship.

“Every community owes its existence and vitality to generations from around the world who contributed their hopes, dreams, and energy to making the history that led to this moment. Some were brought here against their will, some were drawn to leave their distant homes in hope of a better life, and some have lived on this land for more generations than can be counted. Truth and acknowledgment are critical to building mutual respect and connection across all barriers of heritage and difference. We begin this effort to acknowledge what has been buried by honoring the truth.

We are gathering on the ancestral lands of the Anishinabewaki, Wahpekute, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. We pay respects to their elders, past and present. Please take a moment to consider the many legacies of violence, displacement, migration, and settlement that bring us together here today.”

Prince of Peace Acknowledgement of Native Lands

In the spirit of Lutheran theology, which places a strong emphasis on reconciliation and justice, it becomes paramount for our congregations to engage in the practice of Native Land Acknowledgment. This act is not merely a formality; rather, it is a profound expression of our commitment to justice, humility, and reconciliation, rooted in the core principles of our faith.

As Lutherans, we are called to live out the Gospel in our daily lives, and this includes acknowledging the historical injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples on the very lands we gather to worship. The call for Native Land Acknowledgment is not an act of guilt but rather an acknowledgment of the truth. Recognizing the original stewards of the land is an act of solidarity with our Indigenous sisters and brothers, embodying God’s vision of neighborly love and justice.

Lutherans hold dear the concept of “vocation,” the idea that our faith is lived out in our various callings. In the context of worship, our vocation includes recognizing the complex history of the land on which we stand. By acknowledging the Indigenous peoples who have inhabited and cared for this land for generations, we demonstrate a commitment to truth-telling and a willingness to engage in the process of healing.

Moreover, Native Land Acknowledgment aligns with Lutheranism’s emphasis on community. In recognizing the contributions and resilience of Indigenous communities, we enrich our understanding of the diverse tapestry of God’s creation. This acknowledgment fosters a spirit of inclusivity, inviting all to participate in the worship experience with a heightened awareness of our shared history.

To learn more and to think together on this, we have invited Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy to preach and lead the Sunday Forum for us this Sunday, Nov. 26. Dr. Sherman-Conroy “is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. She has a passion for social justice, racial reparations, healing, and storytelling that has been felt across the globe. As the very first Native Woman Theologian with a P.hD. in the ELCA, She passionately pursues her calling to challenge the traditional conventions of theology. Her work primarily focuses on systemic theology, with a unique approach to Lakota Spirituality and how it can inform Christianity and instill healing.” I hope you will join us, listen deeply to this important voice, and wonder how the Spirit might be calling you to respond.

May God’s peace find you today. -Pastor Peter

Let us pray… God of truth, open our hearts and minds to the ways of reconciliation with those who have been harmed by the injustices of past practices. By your witness, help us to build mutual respect for and connection with our Native neighbors. Amen.