Dear South Dakota Synod,
Our hearts break once again at the news of 751 unmarked graves found at Marieval Indian Residential Boarding School in Saskatchewan, Canada. Having just earlier this week joined our voices with our indigenous relatives at Woyatan to grieve the remains found at Kamloops, this fresh news stings even worse.
The boarding school era, where Native American children were forcibly taken from their families and put in schools to erase their culture, is an ugly stain on our history. 751 children never made it home to their families. 751 families were never able to fully grieve their deaths. 751 children of God who died in the care of the church.
We want to say “it wasn’t me, it wasn’t my denomination, it wasn’t my country.” Although we had no direct action, we are convicted to acknowledge the history of our Christian tradition in general. To seek healing, we must start with honest truth-telling.
Stories like these have been covered up or brushed over for far too long. In John 8, Jesus tells us that we “will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We need to tell the stories so that there can be healing and reconciliation. We are asked by indigenous partners to hang an orange banner in a public space to remember these stories.
Please join your prayers to those of our indigenous relatives. Cry out to God, and lament the pain of the past. Call for the healing of the nations that is promised through Christ. Trust that the Holy Spirit will empower us for the work ahead. Thanks be to God for the promise of new life.
Bishop Constanze Hagmaier
Pastor Jonathan Steiner