Friday, November 27, 2009

Protestants Apologize to American Indians

"We consumed your resources, dehumanized your people and disregarded your culture, along with your dreams, hopes and great love for this land," Rev. Robert Chase of the Collegiate Church in Manhattan told representatives of the Lenape tribe at a reconciliation event in front of the Museum of the American Indian earlier today. American Indians traveled from as far away as Oklahoma to be part of what was called "The Healing of Turtle Island." Turtle Island is what the Lenape named Manhattan and what it was called when the Reformed Dutch Church was founded and built in 1628.

The Reformed Dutch Church, now the Collegiate Church (which is actually composed of four area congregations, including the Fifth Avenue Marble Collegiate Church, whose former minister was the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale), was the "conscience" of the Dutch colony in what was then called New Amsterdam. As such, Rev. Chase accepted responsibility, "with pain," for the atrocities visited its native peoples by the settlers of the land.

A drum circle and wooden flute scored the ceremony, during which a young boy - representative of the Lenape tribe - and young girl - symbolic of the Dutch settlers - adorned one another with necklaces. The Reverend and Ronald Holloway, chairman of the Sand Hill band of Lenapes, attending as representative for the tribe, embraced and symbolically exchanged wampum.

You can download the Reverend's entire statement in PDF from the site above, as well as Holloway's response.

This was the first such apology from the Church in 400 years. Though a "Native American Heritage Day" was established in 1916, it was not officially recognized until 1990, and while some see today as the "official," second annual Native American Heritage Day, it has yet to be "officially" recognized as such, though the Obama administration has said it is full-committed to such.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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