Act of Repentance – 2015

In 2015, at Annual Conference, the New England Conference held their Act of Repentance service. Jesus taught in parables, in stories, including the parable of the sower that offers images of the kind of conditions in which things cannot grow, in which things cannot flourish and increase and yield their most. And Jesus reminds us that we must listen deeply in order to learn and to change. In our opening worship, we engage in the beginning of an Act of Repentance regarding the Church’s history of the oppression of indigenous persons.

Pat Warrior Woman Parent, chair of the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), speaks during the Act of Repentance service.

This service is not a one-time ritual that brings this tragic history to a close; rather it is part of the process of repentance that requires action beyond this day. For this worship, it is an act of listening, of acknowledging, and a commitment to continue learning, healing and “turning around” our actions and policies as a church and in our local communities.

During the Act of Repentance, the Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett recounted some of the history of Native Americans, the Trails of Tears (as he said there were more than one), the use of the Doctrine of Discovery to justify atrocities, the Indian boarding schools where mass graves of children have been found, and the fact that our founding fathers drew ideas from the democratic principles of the Haudenosaunee, the six nations of the Iroquois.

Rev Thomas White Wolf Fassett
Rev Thomas White Wolf Fassett

“If you don’t like history, you don’t have to,” he told members. “You’re not going to take a test; you don’t have to remember dates. But what we have to know is what this vast panorama looks like, what this sweep of history is. What is it to talk about history as theology? … Can we trace history and mark the places where people of faith influenced the outcome of these historic moments.”

And this history, Fassett said, is still alive today because laws that grew out of this past are still on the books and still influencing how people live – including the Doctrine of Discovery, which is still be referenced in current decisions by the Supreme Court.

The Act of Repentance, he said, is not just about the indigenous people of the Americas but those throughout the world who have faced similar challenges – including the indigenous people of Australia, who were not recognized as human beings until the 1960s.

The questions for United Methodists, he said, are “What is the circle of hope? How are we part of the circle? Where are we holding on to each other’s hands?”

“… we may be uncomfortable with that kind of proximity,” Fassett said, “It may be difficult for us to open our hearts … but How do we learn how to express “mitakuye oyesin” (pronounced matakquiase) or ‘all my relations’?”

Because “like it or not, we are all related,” he said.

There is a process developing among indigenous people – particularly in the Americas – to reclaim that sense of family and community.

The Lakota Sioux of the Dakotas are in the midst of a process for “developing community, of claiming family and understanding … how they are to be community together, and find unity (in order) to reconnect the sacred circle.” For native Hawaiians that connection is called ohana or family.

“This is happening in Native nations … around the world where we are struggling to find community,” Fassett said. “If we are thinking and Rethinking Church, why not be thinking about how to reclaim the sacred circle and claim community and claim family, emotionally, and claim unity in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

Members were invited to take rocks from the “rivers” around the Armory to bring back to their churches as “messenger and witness” to the repentance and actions promised here this day. Among those promises were the commitments made by members of the Conference Cabinet.

Pat Warrior Woman Parent, chair of the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), also spoke during the Act of Repentance.

The Cabinet spoke of their commitment to going beyond the words of the Act of Repentance to actions that the conference will take to build relationships with Native peoples.

Cabinet members committed as individuals to:

  • Learn all we can about the history of Native and indigenous peoples in our area and beyond.
  • Share what we learn with others. Spread the word, talk with family, friends and co-workers about history; help educate town leaders, civic organizations and community members; host educational awareness events.
  • Continue to explore our own privilege, prejudices and assumptions about Native peoples.
  • Look for ways to become an ally to Native and indigenous peoples.
  • Learn about who we are and from where we have come, and honor our own heritage.
  • Speak up.

And on behalf of the Conference, they agreed to:

  • Build relationships with Native peoples based on equality within the conference and beyond by listening and learning rather than teaching and leading.
  • Build trust by respecting Native expressions of Spirituality by involving Native Americans in planning and/or leading activities such as Native American Sunday for our local church worship services, Native American Camp experiences at our camp and retreat ministries, and educational opportunities.
  • Help keep Native culture alive by providing opportunities for children and youth to experience and explore the indigenous culture.

As a Conference:

  • Affirm the commitment to empowering the presence of Native and indigenous people in the life of the New England Annual Conference.
  • Strengthen awareness and support of Native American Ministries Sunday in the New England Conference.
  • Strengthen and be supportive of the New England Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM).
  • Support General Advances and churchwide funding for 22 Native ministries
  • Commit ourselves to resourcing and development of new Native and indigenous ministries
  • Commit to developing relationships of mutuality with Native peoples in local contexts.
  • Continue to provide education for non-Native people about why the Act of Repentance is important.

In partnership with Native ministry leaders and resource people throughout the Connection, the New England Conference will support:

  • Developing new Native and indigenous leaders across the Connection including an increased number of people nurtured for service in congregational, annual conference, jurisdictional and central conference, and general church ministries, including the episcopacy.
  • Support General Church initiatives related to land and treaty rights, support for tribal sovereignty and cultural preservation; better health care and education for Native people and the safety of Native and indigenous women.

The offering was received for the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM).


Reflections on Carlisle

by Todd Warfield

I am a member of the New England Conference Committee on Native American Ministries and as such I get to attend regional meetings. This year, our yearly meeting was held in Carlisle, PA. I knew we were going to tour the Carlisle Barracks, which is where the Carlisle Indian School was in the late 1800’s through early 1900’s. For those who don’t know, Indian boarding schools became a way to deal with the Indian “problem”. In the beginning, Army Lt. Richard Henry Pratt was in charge of 72 Indian prisoners who had been fighting the Army in the southern plains. Pratt transported these Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo prisoners halfway across the continent to St. Augustine, Florida. (Ironically, St. Augustine had been the first Spanish settlement in North America.) It was a terrifying experience for the transplanted Indians. The experiment seemed to work. By April 1878, 62 of the younger, more easily educated Indians joined the Hampton Institute in Virginia – a “normal school” or teacher training institute founded by abolitionists for blacks. Pratt’s savage warriors were on their way to becoming teachers. Pratt publicized the success of the experiment through a series of “then-and-now” photos showing the “savage” versus the “civilized” Indians. Pratt coined the phrase “Kill the Indian, save the man”.

A before and after photo from Carlisle Indian School
A before and after photo from Carlisle Indian School

   Most notable was the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Lt. Pratt convinced parents and tribal elders to send their children by train to a far-off place. Pratt believed this would break the students quicker of their ties to their traditions. Students were prohibited from speaking their native languages. Instead, they were supposed to converse and even think in English. If they were caught “speaking Indian”, they would be severely beaten with a leather belt. Between 1880 and 1902, 25 off-reservation boarding schools were built and 20,000 – 30,000 Native American children went through the system. That was roughly 10 percent of the total Indian population in 1900.

   Visiting the grounds at Carlisle was an emotional experience for me. I could feel the presence of those who went here. We toured the Hessian Powder Magazine, a small brick structure, which some Indians were held in solitary confinement. We toured the parade grounds and saw photos of different trade classes from that era. At the end of our tour, we visited the graveyard where some of the Indian children were re-buried from elsewhere on the base. Words cannot properly describe the emotions that washed over me when we were in that graveyard. We had some tobacco to spread and I prayed over several stones.

Praying over the graves at Carlisle
Praying over the graves at Carlisle

Andrew Windyboy (Cree) was interviewed back in 2008 and his interview is available on YouTube ( I would recommend watching it to hear the story from someone who went through the school.

Unknown graves in Carlisle Indian cemetery
Unknown graves in Carlisle Indian cemetery

Finding ways to fulfill our vow to stand with Native Nations

Patricia Warrior Woman Parent, chair New England Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), shares this piece on how United Methodists in New England can fulfill our vow at the 2015 Annual Conference to stand with and support our Native American brothers and sisters.

“And so this is Christmas – and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun.”

So wrote the late John Lennon many years ago, a question of challenge to the complacent who have, about those who have not. I was thinking of this song as I put together my thoughts for this piece.

At our 2015 Annual Conference, we repented and made a vow. As a church we asked forgiveness of the Native American community for our collective part in marginalizing them, robbing them of their land, their dignity, their culture and their children. We made a vow to stand with First Nations on issues that concern them, and to stand against the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, a law of our land since John Marshall was Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the problems for us as European descendants is that we are so steeped in our heritage of privilege and “knowing what is best” that we don’t know just how to go about standing with Native people in a way that will build trust instead of adding to the suspicion with which those who came before us are viewed.

How, how, how do we go about this? It takes a lot of time, yes, but it takes something else as well: It takes quietly acting, just doing it, and letting those with whom we stand see us there, asking nothing, and offering ourselves.

We have found some incredible examples in North Dakota recently. If you don’t know about Standing Rock and the Water Protectors, I strongly urge you to check it out and learn all you can.

The world is now meeting there. They have been since summer 2016. The Lakota people stood up and said, “NO!” to big oil when their water supply was threatened by a pipeline that would only supply more oil for sale overseas. They were alone. Yet they stood. And then other Native Nations started arriving. Then other countries around the world. The Conference of the Dakotas decided to honor their vow as well. The world is still at Standing Rock.

On the day that money for Penobscot people from Maine arrived from your New England Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) (yes, they are there as well), two cord of wood and 20 yurts from Mongolia arrived as well.

However, the example I want to give to all of us is that of 4,000 veterans; 4,000 veterans who rode buses, drove, and, yes, walked 200 miles to meet at Standing Rock to stand between the people and law enforcement who let loose attack dogs on children and fire hoses on people in freezing weather. They also retrieved stolen canoes and tore down razor wire.

Some of these were veterans of Vietnam, and one of them told the Lakota that he came home from Vietnam knowing shame because of how he was treated. He thanked the Native people for giving him honor.

And one day, the veterans met with the Lakota and took a knee before them. Their spokesman, John Clarke, veteran and son of a veteran, told of how we have taken land, participated in genocide, and still continue to do so, and then he asked for forgiveness and offered them all to be servants of the Native people.

I watched this ceremony, and I wept. THIS is what we all need to do. These veterans, although they have returned to their homes, are ready to go back whenever needed. They didn’t talk about it, they didn’t ask what the Lakota needed – they came. This is our example.

Your CONAM can only give funds to Native Nations in New England, but individuals can find out what is needed at Standing Rock – warm clothes, wood, generators. They are using barbecues – maybe they need briquettes.

And we can find out about issues closer to us by checking out newspaper articles, websites for the local nations, and by asking your CONAM for assistance in getting out and doing. Be there first – and let your actions speak for you – for us.

The old saying goes, “Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

Let’s all get walking.

Aquiene (peace),
Patricia Warrior Woman Parent


What’s Your Response To ​Dr. Richard Twiss’ Questions?

By Kenny Jahng

regalia bustle

History can be a tricky thing. By studying it, though, we can learn much about humanity and about ourselves. In the Bible, we can encounter many different cultures and lifestyles to which the word of God was carried. Even in the book of Acts, the word of God spread throughout the New England region across cultures, ethnicities, and languages. Many of us might not know very much when it comes to discussing Native American Ministries Sunday, a Special Sunday in May. But, the important thing to understand is that we can choose a different path than that which our history depicts with the Native American People. The United Methodist Church, Native and non-Native, are working together to create a new history. One that respects the culture, and loves God.

The New History

Dr. Richard Twiss, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, asked: “Will we be allowed to develop new ways of doing church that honor God’s purposes for the creative expression of our cultures? Will new ministry partnerships and coalitions form? Will you help be apart of this wonderful process of reconciliation, restoration and release?” On Native American Ministries Sunday, we have the opportunity to respond to Dr. Twiss’ questions with a resounding YES! This is a Special Sunday where our generosity as a church equips and empowers Native American pastors, congregations and seminary students to do what only they can do: authentically worship and serve Jesus.

Informed by History, and Choosing to Give

It’s true. We do have a complicated history with the Native American people. And today it is still painful for many. In all honesty, many Native American communities have been marginalized, live in extreme poverty and have lost the land they were forced to live on. High school graduation rates and quality of housing falls much lower than the national average in Native American communities. How do we, informed by history and called by Christ, offer them living hope? We do it by pouring into the Native American pastors, congregations, and seminary students who need resources to strengthen their skills to equip their congregations to be agents of transformation in their local communities. And that is what we do, together, on Native American Ministries Sunday. Join us by giving generously on ​Native American Ministries Sunday​. Join us as we say yes.

conam indigenous

Boston Indigenous Peoples’ Day Protest

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Park Street station on Boston Common October 11th, 2020 in the afternoon and marched to the downtown waterfront to denounce Christopher Columbus and show their support for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

One of our committee members was there showing their support and shared these photos from the protest.


Maine replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

On April 26, 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed into law a bill to enact Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Maine joins a handful of states that have now changed the holiday. The bill was sponsored by Representative Benjamin Collings of Portland. It passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature. Representatives from the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseets were present at the signing of the bill.

Abolish Columbus Day!
Let’s work to abolish Columbus Day and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

CONAM Table at the 2019 New England Conference

NECONAM had a table at the 2019 New England Conference Annual Session. These are photos of our display.


Indigenous Peoples’ Day

On October 14 2019, Maine and Vermont will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. This is a great step forward for indigenous people in New England and beyond. New England CONAM is recommending local churches in the entire conference and the New England Conference to stand together with this movement. As part of our Acts of Repentance, we can provide an example to those in our communities that we stand with those indigenous communities around our conference.

What we learned in school history books is only part of the story. Columbus initiated his transatlantic slave trade in 1494 when he send dozens of Taínos to Spain. Then in 1495, Columbus ordered some 1600 Taínos rounded up and 550 of them sent to Spain as slaves. From the beginning, Columbus was not on a mission to discover, but a mission to exploit and conquest. Taínos were forced into a tribute system and forced to find gold. If they failed, the Taínos were punished. This punishment took some ugly forms, from cutting off hands to being chased down by attack dogs. The wood cut below depicts a brutal scene of what the Taínos endured.

A woodcut by Theodor De Bry, in the 16th century, based on the writings of Bartolome de las Casas.

In the book The Conquest of Paradise, Kirkpatrick Sale depicts the scene where Columbus’s men encountered a group of Taínos in March 1495 in Hispaniola.

The soldiers mowed down dozens with point-blank volleys, loosed the dogs to rip open limbs and bellies, chased fleeing Indians into the bush to skewer them on sword and pike, and [according to Columbus’s biographer, his son Fernando] “with God’s aid soon gained a complete victory, killing many Indians and capturing others who were also killed.”


Too often, the Columbus story only depicts Columbus planting a flag on “San Salvador”, children learn the three ships names, but that is about it. The Taínos don’t have a voice in most history books that are in schools today.

How do we change the narrative? We start by educating those around us with the other side of the story. We have provided some resources below for those who would like to educate themselves or provide another voice at the table.


Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years edited by Bill Bigelow
All the Real Indians Died Off And 20 Other Myths by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Columbus: His Enterprise by Hans Koning
Christopher Columbus and the Conquest of Paradise by Kirkpatrick Sale
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Abolish Columbus Day!
Let’s work to abolish Columbus Day and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

MMIWG Awareness

Four out of five Native women are affected by violence today. #MMIWG is to shine a light on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. The infographic below gives some high level statistics regarding this issue.

MMIWG Infographic

Urban Indian Health Institute published a report in 2018 regarding the U.S. related data.

In Indian country, families sometimes wait days for the authorities to respond, and frequently lead the only search parties. What’s worse, sometimes the record of that missing indigenous person isn’t documented, leaving questions unanswered for decades, leading to gaps in information, missing person cases unsolved and perpetrators roaming the streets.

Debra Haaland

Not Invisible

Native American women and girls face an epidemic of violence and indifference in the US. Over recent decades, thousands are believed to have disappeared, but the exact number and their fates are unknown because there is no single federal database tracking the missing.

Red Dress Project

The REDress Project, focuses around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. It is an installation art project based on an aesthetic response to this critical national issue. The project seeks to collect 600 red dresses by community donation that will later be installed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada as a visual reminder of the staggering number of women who are no longer with us. Through the installation the artist hopes to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence. The image below is a portion of an installation at the National Museum of American Indian in Washington, DC.

Red Dress Project at NMAI

Wabenaki Food Security

Recently, New England CONAM donated funds to help indigenous tribes within Maine to improve food security. During this COVID-19 crisis, many people are not able to work, without a safety net to catch them. The pandemic has hit BIPoC individuals harder than other populations.

You can be part of this call to action by:

1. Making a donation to the REACH Community Response Fund at Call to Action: Wabanaki Food Security

2. Sending a check directly to one of the Wabanaki communities’ food pantries:

  • Penobscot Nation Food Pantry, 12 Wabanaki Way, Indian Island, ME 04468
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point Food Pantry, PO Box 343, Perry, ME 04667
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township Food Pantry, PO Box 301, Princeton, ME 04668
  • Aroostook Band of Micmacs Food Bank, 7 Northern Rd., Presque Isle, ME 04736
  • Houlton Band of Maliseets Food Pantry, 88 Bell Road, Littleton, ME 04730

3. Making a donation to Eastern Woodlands Rematriation in support of Wabanaki food sovereignty making an payment:

  • Online at
  • By sending a check to Why Hunger, 505 Eighth Ave, Suite 2100, NY, NY 10018
    Put Eastern Woodlands Rematriation in the subject line.
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