November 11, 2020, is the 400th anniversary of the landing of The Mayflower on Wamanoag Territory. This sermon and resolution are offered as tools for building relationships built on corrected history, genuine care for one another, and the holy work of making amends.
The sermon was written and delivered on non-ceded Karkin-Ohlone Territory and this post was created on non-ceded Lisjan-Ohlone Territory. This work was done prayerfully honoring all our ancestors, owning my limitations and baises.
The First Thanksgiving
This sermon was delivered on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Sunday, November 12, 2017 at First Congregational Church of Martinez, UCC in Martinez, California by Rev. Kathryn M Schreiber. Text: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Indians and Pilgrims
Just two months ago, Indigenous People of this land – Karkin-Ohlone and Winnemem Wintu, and other native people – gathered with Christian descendants of various international settlers to share a meal in our Pilgrim Hall.
Was that the first time such a gathering of “Indians and Pilgrims” occurred here? I suspect that was the very first time that a local native leader from the Karkin-Ohlone people engaged in native protocol and gift exchange with leaders of this Congregational church. We might have wondered how our event compared to the The First Thanksgiving – so much a part of our national memory – and joyful feast in 1621 shared by Pilgrims and Indians.
But did you know, it was President Abraham Lincoln who ushered in the first national observance of Thanksgiving? On October 20th in 1864, he stated, in part: “I … do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the ‘Great Disposer of Events’ for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased [God] to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.”
President Lincoln made this proclamation as our bloody Civil War was coming to an end. He was calling for an end to civil violence, aggravated by racial and economic factors, by reframing an event which occurred 243 years before.
So, what about that First Thanksgiving? The one that so many of our ideas about our nation, and our faith as Congregationalists, is built upon? What about that original national Thanksgiving?
There are different accounts, some common details. Our perspectives and agendas shape the history we record. What follows is a possible storyline based upon events as recorded by various indigenous and settler communities. May God guide you in discerning what is true.
Our story begins on this continent and the East Coast of what we call today “New England.” 10,000 years ago the last great North American glacier carved the great bays along the ocean including a landmass shaped like a slipper with a very curly toe. Throughout that place of rich biodiversity the ancient deities placed natural resources and people – including the ancestors of Wampanoag, the indigenous people who still live there.
400 years ago on an island across the Atlantic Ocean, indigenous people who had intermarried with invaders from the north and south dwelt in a land called “England.” 87 years before, the then King of that Nation, Henry the 8th, had proclaimed himself Sole Head of a new church — The Church of England. He’d withdrawn all English Christian churches from the universal, or catholic, Church of Rome. His example would inspire other Christian separations.
By the 1660’s British Christian groups seeking a purer form of worship and practice begin meeting secretly. This is illegal and dangerous behavior. Some of these Christian “Separatists” move to Holland where they are welcomed. Some remain in England hiding their faith. None find their arrangements satisfactory. And then a new possibility arises – to move to a new place and start from scratch. But how to pay for such an expensive relocation?
Separatists from Holland and England choose to become indentured laborers contracted to the Virginia Company. In exchange for overseas passage and basic amenities, they sell their labor for the next seven years – gathering fish, fur, and lumber for the English company.
With contacts signed, two ships are hired — in Holland: The Speedwell; in London: The Mayflower. Both depart Southampton, England, though The Speedwell soon proves unfit for ocean crossing. Both ships return to England. Then, on September 6, 1620, The Mayflower, alone, sets sail across the Atlantic leaving Plymouth, England destined for the work colony of Virginia, an English enterprise charted by the Virginia Company.
Traveling on the 90-foot, three-masted Mayflower, are 125 people — 23 crew members, 44 Separatists, and 58 Strangers (non-religious emigrants). Of the 44 Separatists or religious passengers: 14 are children, 11 are women, and 19 are men. Among the Strangers is Myles Standish hired to command the Separatists’ militia. There are also hens, goats, and two dogs on board.
The crossing is rough. The ship is overcrowded. There is absolutely no silence or solitude. And there are cultural tensions. The crew dislikes the Separatists’ daily Psalm-singing and prayers, and the Separatists, well, they are equally unappreciative of the sailor’s colorful language and behavior! And, there are actual storms at sea, one which breaks the central beam, which is repaired and amazingly holds up.
And the food – limited daily rations consist of hard salted meat or fish, hard baked biscuits, dried peas, beans, and fruits, maybe a little cheese or butter. And the only beverage, beside rain water, that is safe to drink is beer – which even the children drink. And there are lice. And folks are bored, homesick, fearful, and/or ill. A newborn boy is born and dies on the high seas.
After 66 days onboard ship the Mayflower makes landfall on Nov 11, 1620. But they do not arrive at the established settlement in Virginia. Rather, they’ve landed in a place unknown to them, the home of the Wampanoag people. This is not the first time people in boats from other lands have come to their shoreline. The native people keep watch over these new arrivals.
The English sailors are recorded as saying the place was full of wild beasts and wild people. They call the indigenous people “Indians” thinking them of the same ethnic group as people from India. Many wish to return to England because they have not been delivered to the Virginia Company’s work colony. However, some of the Separatists believe this mistake might be God’s Providence.
Soon after landing Englishmen leave the ship to replenish dwindling supplies of wood and water. Noticing how rich the area is in natural resources, more become convinced this might be a good place to settle. The community remains on the ship in the harbor.
They are English citizens without a government. They draft The Mayflower Compact for civil rule. John Carver is established as Governor of this brand new colony. The Separatists and Strangers, together, pledge common cause. These are the people we call “The Pilgrims” – a term they never used about themselves.
Soon after they commence work. Women wash clothes (worn for months). The colorful laundry is laid out to dry in the cool fall air; it wasn’t all black and white as we’re often led to believe. Men make repairs and build a landing for the ship’s small boat.
A second exploration team is sent to scout the land. The English discover a Wampanoag storage hut with large baskets of dried corn covered with mounds of earth. The English steal forty bushels of this corn which they plan to eat and use as seed in the Spring. They promise each other they will repay what they are taking from the harvest of their first crop.
That first winter is harsh. Mostly, the English remain on board ship though search for the right settlement location continues. During one of the exploration excursions a scouting party hears a strange cry at night. The English believe the noise to be made by wolves. Hearing it again the next morning they overreact and begin firing their guns. The Wampanoag reply with arrows and then leave. No one is wounded. This was probably the first physical contact between the peoples.
On Friday, December 9th, nearly a month after landing, a safe harbor is selected for their settlement. The settlers name this place: “Plymouth” after the town in England from which they set sail.
With winter full on, construction goes slowly. Fire destroys the roof of the common house they built. The settlers are forced to stay on the Mayflower, on the cold sea. Supplies dwindle, illness is widespread. The main cause of death is pneumonia caused by poor shelter and wading in the cold bay, the only way to cross from ship to shore.
By April, half of the original passengers are dead. Fifty settlers remain. The survivors are very anxious, as you can well imagine. And they know the Indigenous People are nearby. The settlers have seen the residents walking through the settlement. One time some tools are taken. Usually, the native people retreat, whenever the settlers approach.
The first official meeting may have been when Samoset, a Sagamore (Chief) of the Abenaki people, just to the north of the Wampanoag, visited the settlers in the middle of March 1621. Samoset probably spoke a European language, as his people traded with the French. It is said by some that gifts were exchanged and the taken tools were returned.
Samoset, an ambassador, announces that the Wampanoag’s national leader —Yellow Feather Oasmeequin (Chief Massasoit) — will be coming to make a treaty with them. Several days later, Oasmeequin arrives with a translator. Known to us as “Squanto” – this native man learned English after being kidnapped by a European captain who planned to sell him into slavery. The translator escaped, returned to his Pawtuxet people, only to find all of them dead from European diseases. He is the sole survivor. He’s also bilingual, a great asset to native leaders.
Oasmeequin, through this translator, crafts a treaty with the English band of settlers. Since they are British citizens under the jurisdiction of the King of England Governor Carver suggests an agreement between nations. The 1621 Treaty between the Wampanoag tribe and the nation of England pledges a covenant of mutual protection.
Some say that Squanto remained at Plymouth Colony teaching the English how to survive until he died two years after first contact, probably from illness brought by the English.
Local tribes tell of the on-going help of their ancestors provided the European newcomers. A few years ago Ramona Peters, the Mashpee Wampanoag’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, gave this account:
“[The colonists] were always vulnerable to the new land, new creatures, even the trees— there were no such trees in England at that time. People forget they had just landed here and this coastline looked very different from what it looks like now. And their culture—new foods, they were afraid to eat a lot of things. So they were very vulnerable and we did protect them, not just support them, we protected them. You can see throughout their journals that they were always nervous and, unfortunately, when they were nervous they were very aggressive.”
The First Harvest
With the assistance of the native peoples the settlers successfully plant and harvest food crops. They survive because of indigenous help and protection. Come fall, a First Harvest celebration is planned. Mindful of the liberated Hebrew slaves of the Old Testament who thanked God with a First Fruits ritual after arriving in the land God promised them, the settlers decide to hold a Harvest Festival.
The new Governor, William Bradford (Governor Carver had died), records that they held a three-day festival attended by natives and settlers to thank the native people for their help, to return the seed corn they had stolen the year before, and to thank God for the harvest – and for their survival. Bradford, himself, records that the feast actually began a day or so before their native “guests” arrived.
The settlers feasted on barley and peas grown from English seed, abundant amounts of indigenous beans, corn, and squash, pumpkin pudding, skillet cornbread, and various berries. They also enjoyed seafood and local fowl. (Though no turkeys were eaten.) They played competitive games, drank beer, and got a little rowdy, according to the neighbors.
Wampanoag people say there was no invitation to attend a Thanksgiving Festival. Instead, they went to the settlers when they began “shooting guns and canons as a celebration, which alerted us because we didn’t know who they were shooting at.” About 90 Wampanog people were camped nearby. They were in the area to hunt and gather food – including deer, ducks, geese, and fish. When the English weapons were going off Oasmeequin and his translator went to see what was going on.
While they did not sit down together at one great Thanksgiving Feast, they did exchange food. And the Separatists did thank God. It should be noted, that throughout the year, the Wampanoag have Thanksgiving rituals and prayers to honor the different gifts of the Creator, including in the fall when the hunting is plentiful.
These early histories recounted by indigenous people and those who settled on their lands do not always line up. Our Christian foremothers and fathers, as we do, too, often formed memories shaped by their beliefs, or possibly, to recreate a more elegant legacy.
The English settlers at Plymouth Colony truly had taken on a bold experiment trusting in God to provide. I cannot imagine the courage and faith it would have taken to make such a journey. But, there would have been no English celebration that first fall after arrival without the goodwill of the native peoples.
We who are inheritors of the pilgrim settlers’ courage have been blessed by the stories we’ve been told. Unfortunately, they whitewash parts of the past, covering up our ancestors’ mistakes and a real legacy of fear, misunderstanding, and violence. I believe greater blessings will come from telling a truer story of the First Thanksgiving.
Back in early September, after most of the Run4Salmon spiritual walkers had left to continue their sacred journey with the Salmon, I was walking through the property with one of the young Ohlone leaders. I expressed our gratitude for how they had managed the event and carefully cleaned up. She, like others guests I’d talked with, expressed their gratitude to the church, too, for hosting and sharing meal and ritual. It was a tender moment.
And then she touched my arm and pointed to the sign over the door as we were exiting the large dining hall downstairs. The sign reads: Pilgrim Hall. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “But, you’ve got to do something about that.”
We adore being The Pilgrim People – it’s part of our Congregational DNA to celebrate our spiritual heritage, adventurous people of faith who have done bold new things with God. We are proud of our Mayflower Room where we will gather after the service for fellowship and refreshment. But to native peoples whose lives and fortunes were forever changed when Europeans arrived on their lands our spiritual ancestors are not their heroes. They are a reminder of the beginning of a long era of broken promises, stolen land, and geneocide.
Rev John Robinson, a Separatist pastor, spoke encouraging words before the English sailed off on the Mayflower. The people thought they were headed to an English work colony. To send them off with hope on their new endeavor, Robinson said: “I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word”
If Rev John Robinson were here today, if he could look back these nearly 400 years, I think he’d say something more like this: “God has more truth to break forth, not only from sacred scripture, but from the stories we tell about each other and ourselves, and about the new ways we can learn to live with and for each other.”
May a bright and glorious light shine down upon all us, guiding us, the descendants of the indigenous peoples and the descendants of the settler peoples, for the wellbeing of all, with great Thanksgiving to the Creator. AMEN.
RESOURCES: Thanksgiving Indigenous and Justice Reflections & Historic Sources curated info compiled by Rev. Kathryn Schreiber (as of Sept 2019)
Wampanoag Version of “First Thanksgiving”:
California Indigenous reflections on settlement:
Native Americans on “Thanksgiving” video
A Lincoln, Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving
Contemporary Essays about the first Thanksgiving (and our myths about it)
John Robinson and Pilgrims
English version mostly from Robert San Souci’s historically researched version in N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims ©1991.
Online Publishing Date: November 11, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting funds established by indigenous communities in your locality. (in NCNC, UCC see below)
Living Liturgies: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”
Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ “Making Amends” Resolution 2020
On October 24, 2020 the Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ, at our Annual Gathering (virtually), passed a resolution: Making Amends for A Colonizing Past. It is filled with resources and calls to actions and appears below in its entirety:
Making Amends for A Colonizing Past: Learning and acknowledging our inherited history, praying for repair and right relationship, and taking courageous and humble action for land protection and justice
Submitted on August 13, 2020, by the Justice and Witness Team, Northern California Nevada Conference, United Church of Christ. Amended and resubmitted October 9, 2020.
We acknowledge that the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ (NCNCUCC) and member associations have significant landholdings on the unceded traditional territories of the Indigenous People of this region, including the Amah Mutson, Me–Wuk, Miwok, Ohlone, Pomo, Washoe, Wintun, Yokuts, and many others who have belonged to and stewarded this land for time immemorial.
We acknowledge that the very lives and faith of Indigenous People rely on relationship with land, and that our recent history is of violent and genocidal displacement of Indigenous People through devastating enslavement and treatment in the mission system, and as authorized by federal and state law. We acknowledge that despite these brutal missionary and state practices and the privatization of the land, Indigenous People live still in their traditional, unceded territories where the NCNCUCC has inherited and holds land, churches, camps, offices, and schools.
As inheritors of this history, as settlers and new immigrants, as those who have escaped violence and persecution elsewhere and found home here, and as Indigenous People to this place, we are alive in a moment of reckoning. In 2019, the state of California issued an apology to California’s Native Americans and established a Truth and Healing Council. In September 2020, the Governor released a Statement of Administration Policy on Native American Ancestral Lands “…to support California tribes’ co-management of and access to natural lands, and to work cooperatively with California tribes that are interested in acquiring natural lands in excess of State needs.” Late September 2020, the “California Natural Resources Secretary, State Parks Director, and Department of Transportation Director announced a series of actions to identify and redress discriminatory names of features attached to the State Parks and transportation systems. The moves come in the wake of a national conversation about the names of geographic features, markers and statues affiliated with the Civil War, genocide of Native Americans and other remnants of institutionalized discrimination.”
Among the Indigenous People of this region, current day efforts are strong and relentless to protect sacred sites; to mend Native food systems; to support Native-led efforts to protect land and traditional language and ways; to restore ecological knowledge, to insist on reparations. And in 2020, the Landback Movement, an effort to restore stolen territory to Indigenos nations, grows strong with participation of people from all walks of life. “On July 9, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that 3 million acres of land, nearly half of Oklahoma, is Native American land. Later in July, the Esselen tribe was able to reclaim a 1,200-acre ranch near Big Sur on California’s north central coast. The land has old-growth redwoods and wildlife that is at risk, like the California condor and red-legged frog. A year before this return of land, the northern Californian city of Eureka returned stewardship of the 280-acre Duluwat Island to the Wiyot tribe. In the same year, the United Methodist Church in Upper Sandusky, Ohio returned a mission church and parts of the Old Mission cemetery to the Wyandotte Nation.” And the struggles continue. “The Indigenous story, the story of displacement and reclamation, genocide and revival, sadness, and strength is the beginning. From the first beings to our present society, Indigenous people have held the best and worst of our lands, the story of their creation, their trade, extraction, potential, and hopefully, their eventual return to purpose.”
We, as members of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ, have a role to play in this moment of reckoning. This resolution supports us to take proactive steps toward healing from the legacies of colonialism and genocide of Indigenous peoples by: (1) encouraging and supporting our members to learn and share the history of violence and genocide toward the Indigenous People of this region, too often untold, alongside the current day realities, ways of life, traditional knowledge protection, and struggles of this region’s Indigenous Peoples; (2) to create prayerful, informed relationships characterized by healing, trust and restorative justice with Indigenous people of this region; and (3) to take meaningful actions, guided by Indigenous-led organizations of the NCNCUCC region, toward repair of relationship and land justice. This is a resolution of humility, of kindness, of justice, of reconciliation. As Corrina Gould, longtime Lisjan Ohlone protector of sacred sites, shares about the West Berkeley Shellmound, “People of all walks of life come there and pray together there now, in ceremony and song, and bring their own ceremonies there. It’s become a place where people understand their relationship with this land, and what their relationship should be with the First Peoples of this land. And we are giving people the opportunity not to push people outside, but to bring people inside, and to figure this out together. To find a place to re–inter our ancestors, to give dignity back to those ancestors, but also to the people living today. And not just to the Ohlone people. It gives dignity back to everybody who lives in our territory now. That is the importance of doing this work.”
BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL, HISTORICAL and ETHICAL GROUNDING
Whereas the year 2020 has particular historical significance for the churches of the United Church of Christ whose ranks include the first churches of the Pilgrims and Puritans, as the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims on traditional territories of the Wampanoag Nation and their subsequent settling in Plymouth – one of the beginnings of the colonial genocide of Indigenous peoples in the Americas – and this anniversary demands our deeper exploration of the impacts of the Pilgrims’ vital and important search for freedom (in religious practices and ways of living) on the First Peoples of this land, alongside our learning and lament, confession and collaboration, making relationships and making amends;
Whereas when European spiritual ancestors of the United Church of Christ bravely left conditions of injustice and suffering empowered by a Christian theological perspective of being God’s designated inheritors of the natural world and territories belonging to established human communities, they unintentionally initiated, perpetuated, and expanded the very legacies of abuse they sought to escape;
Whereas we recognize the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on native communities in the United States for whom the virus is both more prevalent and more deadly even as it contributes to re-traumatizing populations who experienced the deadliness of previous pandemics due to settler-born illnesses; and we acknowledge the inequitable economic strain among First Peoples on revenues and incomes that can be used to address this health crisis because of long-term economic disparities and limited access to land, resources, and income opportunities, as well as current–day racism in distribution of COVID relief funds;
Whereas the political, economic, cultural and social context of 2020 for Indigenous People in the United States continues to be characterized by systemic racism, violations of treaties, land, water, mineral, and air theft, erasure, state violence, and significant disregard, including 2020 formal attempts by the federal administration and President to revoke the lands guaranteed by the Department of the Interior in 2015 to the Mashpee Wampanoag;
Whereas the 29th General Synod of the United Church of Christ (2013) adopted the resolution Calling for the United Church of Christ to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery which Authorized the Genocide of Native Peoples and the Theft of Native Lands, which includes the commitment to “explore ways to compensate American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians for lands and resources that were stolen and are still being stolen and which are now the United States of America;”
Whereas we acknowledge that our communities are profoundly shaped by the history and current structures/cultures/realities of white supremacy, Christian hegemony, and colonial mindsets and practices, and that while these systems have harmed all of our souls and cultures, the impacts have been experienced differently, resulting in enormous privileges and access to wealth accumulation for people who are white and in tremendous violence against, wealth disparities for, and resilience required by Black communities, Indigenous communities and nations, and all People of Color;
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Godself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Godself…and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NRSV, adpt.
Whereas, we acknowledge that the Northern California Nevada Conference and member associations have significant landholdings on the unceded traditional territories of the Indigenous People of this region, including the Amah Mutson, Me–Wuk, Miwok, Ohlone, Pomo, Washoe, Wintun, Yokuts, and many others who have belonged to and stewarded this land for time immemorial.
Whereas, we acknowledge that the very lives and faith of Indigenous People rely on relationship with the land, and that our regional history includes violent and genocidal displacement of Indigenous People and takeover of land through devastating enslavement and treatment in the mission system, and as authorized and encouraged by federal and state law.
Whereas, despite these brutal missionary and state practices, Indigenous People live still in their traditional territories where the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ has inherited and holds land, churches, camps, offices, and schools.
Whereas we understand one of the primary vocations of those who seek to be Jesus-followers to be the ministry of reconciliation which requires accountability and making amends to those who have been wounded by our actions and the actions of our ancestors;
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but give yourself to humble tasks; do not claim to be wiser than you are…If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:15-18 NRSV
Whereas as Christians we are called to practice humility in the redress of wrongs in order to create greater harmony and live fully as co-creators of the kin-dom of God made manifest in our midst;
Therefore we the delegates of the 2020 Annual Gathering of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ call upon the Conference to begin an intentional process of learning and prayer, relationship–building, and solidarity action toward truth, healing, and reconciliation. We acknowledge that land is at the heart of this reconciliation work, given its central importance to the survival, flourishing, faith, and traditions of Indigenous People.
Learning and Prayerful Intention
Be it further resolved that Conference members participate in 40 days of prayer, listening, (un)learning, and action during 2020–2021 to acknowledge November 2020 as the 400th anniversary of the day of first encounter between European colonizers (laterknown as Pilgrims) and the First Peoples of this land. In a spirit of collective truth and healing, we call for 2021 to be a year of prayer, listening, and learning about the Indigenous histories of the places where we worship and our members call home.
Be it further resolved that in order to deepen our understanding of the long history of the places in which we worship and call home, and to help us understand our place within that history, we call on NCNCUCC member congregations to learn whose unceded territory your community occupies and include land acknowledgements (a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories) in worship, annual meetings, and other church gatherings.
Be it resolved that to acknowledge and address harm, with humility and in pursuit of truth and justice, we call on the churches, organizations, and outdoor ministries of the Conference to engage in prayerful discernment and to take action toward changing the names of buildings, groups, and churches that celebrate our colonizing past (e.g. Pilgrim, Plymouth, Pioneer, Mayflower, etc.), recognizing that, while these names seek to honor important parts of our proud history, they significantly impact our ability to be in right-relationship with our Indigenous neighbors for whom these names represent mass genocide.
Building Authentic Relationships of Repair and Solidarity
Be it further resolved that to answer our faith’s call to live peaceably, we call on NCNCUCC member congregations to build sincere and vulnerable relationships of repair and solidarity with their local Indigenous communities and to take concrete actions toward making amends for our colonizing past in mutually-determined ways, reporting these actions and other decolonial trainings, educational events and actions to the Conference as part of the Antiracism Accountability Tracking Database. We call on the conference and members to support one another to learn, meet, build relationships well, and carry out this motion.
Supporting One Another to Take Meaningful Action
Be it further resolved that in a spirit of immediate acknowledgement of a genocidal and violent history and intention of reconciliation, all Conference members who hold lands, churches, schools, or offices on Ohlone territory will pay the Institutional Shuumi Land Tax, a voluntary annual offering that non-Indigenous people living on traditional Ohlone territory make to support the critical work of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust to acquire and preserve land, establish a cemetery to re-inter stolen Ohlone ancestral remains, and build urban gardens, community centers, and sacred arbors so current and future generations of Indigenous people can thrive in their ancestral lands.
Be it further resolved that, because we continue to benefit from historic efforts to separate Indigenous peoples from their native lands conducted by Christians manifesting their belief that such actions represented God’s will, in God’s mercy, we are now being invited to address native land loss and to make amends by making a commitment to right relationship with our Indigeous neighbors and our faith in a God of justice. We call upon all members, congregations, associations, organizations, and outdoor ministries throughout the Conference to work together with local Indigenous communities to develop redemptive land tithing projects with the goal of returning or sharing 10% of all UCC land ownership within the Conference by the year 2030. We will help each other do this work by sharing resources, relationships, and stories and using the Antiracism Accountability Tracking Database. We choose to learn how to make these novel amends by being open to each other, open to our neighbors, and open to the Holy Spirit, eager for healing solutions we cannot now imagine, for all that is right and true emerges out of relationships of respect, reconciliation, and accountability with the Indigenous People of this place and healing relations among peoples and between our ancestors and our God.
Be it further resolved that in a spirit of stewardship and support for one another as Christians in our endeavors of reconciliation, we call on the Conference to initiate a special “Making Amends” offering to be taken by NCNCUCC churches on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, which will be submitted to and distributed by the Conference staff in a manner similar to UCC Special Offerings and used to support initiatives that make amends with Indigenous People, as determined by the Making Amends Toward Right Relationship Indigenous Concerns Task Force (see below).
Be it further resolved that as land privatized and held by members of the Conference is sold or changes hands, that the Conference first seriously consider and work toward rematriation (return of the land to the care of Indigenous People) of the land and away from Christian imperium. See the concise explanation of this difference in Healing, Restoration, and Rematriation.
Be it further resolved that we call on Justice and Witness Ministries of the NCNC-UCC to create and oversee a Making Amends Toward Right Relationship Indigenous Concerns Task Force that is tasked with facilitating conference-wide decolonizing trainings, educational events, and calls to action, hosting annual story-sharing events about conference members’ experiences living into this resolution, discerning next steps beyond this resolution and toward future resolutions, and maintaining a Making Amends Toward Right Relationship resource page on NCNC website and Facebook group.
Dr. Sharon Fennema, Pacific School of Religion
Kathryn Gilje, First Congregational Church of Oakland
Judy Hawkins, Community Church of Sebastopol
Rev. K. Lacey Hunter, Justice and Witness Team Lead
Rev. Kathryn Schreiber, Berkeley Chinese Community Church