Delegates vote to pursue reparative acts for Native Boarding Schools
On Monday, General Synod passed a resolution calling for the United Church of Christ to investigate and make amends for its historical complicity in boarding schools for Native Hawaiians and Native American nations.
Delegates surpassed the two-thirds of votes needed with 650 yes votes and 12 no votes. There were two abstentions.
Several delegates spoke on the Synod floor in support of the resolution.
The Rev. Wendell Davis, Association Minister for the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches of Hawai’i Conference, said he supports the resolution “in hopes that this body of Christ will acknowledge the willful practices of cultural reorientation, restructuring and adoption of radically different beliefs through systematic enforceable means impressed on our Hawaiian children and families for nearly 100 years.”
AHEC, the association that submitted the resolution, is made up of 29 historically Native Hawaiian churches that were founded by the missionaries in 1800, he said.
Marc Julian Vasquez, member of First Filipino American UCC in the Northern California Nevada Conference, said that most Americans — about 90% — are unaware of the history of boarding schools in the country, according to Indigenous theologian Vance Blackfox who led a Synod educational intensive on the topic.
“This resolution calls on our denomination to commit to the neglected, overdue work of fully and transparently uncovering the history of the UCC’s role in the administration of the boarding schools. More importantly, it urges us to actively repudiate our failure to work toward our native Hawaiian kins’ healing from the generational trauma that was born at these schools,” he said.
Other delegates mentioned the importance of passing this resolution as a means of truth-telling and as an impetus for people to do the work to educate themselves around the topic.
The resolution calls for the UCC to investigate and act in response to “any moral and legal violations” that have occurred related to boarding schools. This specifically involves investigating if funds were received by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions through the Indian Civilization Fund Act of 1819 and, following the investigation, initiating a reparation process to begin with a formal apology and further steps proposed by the UCC Board.
The ABCFM is a historical predecessor to Wider Church Ministries.
‘Effort to heal’
Prior to Synod, on Monday, June 26, Davis and AHEC member Ron Fujiyoshi were visited in Hawaii by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.
Haaland created an initiative to draw attention to the haunting history of Indian boarding schools with a process for healing and repair. She met with them to “gather information and hear the voices of our people regarding the boarding school initiatives and impact upon our Hawaiian children throughout history,” Davis said. “It was a blessed day to finally come together in our joint effort to heal.”
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