In Returning the Sacred Red Rock to the Dakota, Methodists Want to Build Relationships, Lead State Towards Healing Path

The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) is in the early stages of returning In-Yan Sa (the sacred Red Rock) to the Dakota people, according to an article the UMC published online. The UMC says this is part of a larger effort of healing, building relationships with indigenous peoples, and leading the rest of Minnesota along this important journey.

(The Dakota word for the Red Rock also is spelled Eyah-Shaw.)

The article continued:

“We live in Dakota and Ojibwa lands—land systematically taken from the Dakota and Ojibwa through treaties violated or broken by the U.S. government, land long sacred to its native inhabitants,” said Bishop Ough. “Since the 2012 General Conference, our Minnesota Conference Commission on Native American Ministry has been preparing us to walk the path of peace and reconciliation with the Dakota people and to heal the lingering wounds form the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. This is the moment for the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church to lead the entire state down this path of healing and reconciliation. This is the moment to return Eyah-Shaw. This would be a powerful and just step toward peace and harmony.”

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Methodist Church Takes Another Step Towards Returning the Dakota People’s Sacred Red Rock

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is moving forward with efforts to return the Dakota peoples’ sacred Red Rock, (in Dakota, In-Ya Sha or also spelled Eyah Shaw). It is one small step towards acknowledging the historical trauma and genocide inflicted on Native peoples by the U.S colonial enterprise, one in which the UMC participated.

Early Methodist ministers settled in the area along the Mississippi River near In-Ya Sha. When the Dakota people were exiled after the War of 1862, the Methodists continued preaching there. The rock evolved into a symbol for Methodist church camp. The Red Rock camp name persists today, but the rock itself sits in front of the Newport UMC.

Conversations have percolated for several years about returning In-Ya Sha. This March, Dakota elders made a formal request, asking the UMC to return it. In response, UMC Bishop Bruce Ough promised the church would do so.

Sign next to Eyah Shaw in front of Newport United Methodist Church.

But details needed to be worked out.

In the latest update,  Newport UMC congregational leaders voted in July to honor the Dakota elders’ request, according to a Star Tribune story.  The Dakota people “can and will determine the future location and care of the Red Rock,” the resolution said.

That was a big step, but not the last one. Continue reading

Methodist Bishop Commits to Returning Sacred Red Rock to the Dakota People

Sign next to Eyah Shaw in front of Newport United Methodist Church. (Photo from the Church’s website.)

The Bishop of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Minnesota, Bruce R. Ough, has committed to restoring Eyah Shaw — the sacred red rock — to the Dakota people. (In Dakota, Eyah means “rock” and Shaw means “red.”)

Before settlers arrived, Eyah Shaw was on the east bank of the Mississippi River several miles south of what is now St. Paul. Filmmaker and researcher Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota) says Eyah Shaw is a sacred relative to Dakota people and deeply connected to their creation story. Dakota people traditionally would paint the boulder-sized rock with red stripes.

Early settlers saw the boulder as a significant landmark and began referring to the area simply as Red Rock. Red Rock’s early missionaries were Methodists. In the 1860s they purchased several acres of land to create a camp meeting; the religious gathering became synonymous with the Red Rock. While the camp — and the rock — have moved since that time, the name stuck. Red Rock Camp still exists today near Paynesville.

The rock itself now resides outside the Newport UMC, with local historic designation.

Wolfchild said the Dakota people had other sacred rocks in the area, but settlers destroyed them. He has thanked the UMC for protecting Eyah Shaw, but says it is now time for the rock to come home to its people. Continue reading

Local Methodists to Address Doctrine of Discovery; Mde Maka Ska Community Conversation; Renaming the Jeffers Petroglyphs; Creation Stories Film Screening

Upcoming Events

  • Screening of the documentary: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. Come see the film and join the post-film discussion. The film is being hosted by the United Methodist Church, and Bruce Ough, the UMC Bishop for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota will attend. (March 16)
  • Mde Maka Ska Community Conversation: Following the Sacred Current of Water (March 22)
  • Minnesota Historical Society to hold public meeting on renaming and reinterpreting the Jeffers Petroglyphs. (March 25)
  • Walker Film Series INDIgenesis: Indigenous Filmmakers, Past and Present. (Runs through March 25.)
  • Screening of Dakota Creation Stories film. (March 26)

Details follow.

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Lenten Services that Lament the Native American Genocide, Slavery, and Acts of Racial Injustice

For Christian churches wrestling with racial justice issues, including the churches leading role in the assimilation and genocide of Native Americans, check out the website Lenten Lamentations: Preparing to Participate in God’s Mosaic Kingdom.

The first two lenten services lament America’s twin original sins: Native American genocide and slavery. Hopefully these prayers, scripture readings, and historic reflections give leaders in Christian communities ideas for future services.

The service for the first day of Lent (March 1 this year) focused on lamenting the Doctrine of Discovery, the legal and religious justification used by European explorers to take indigenous lands and enslave indigenous peoples. (It is based on a series of Papal edicts, and continues today in U.S. law.) In fact, March 1 this year coincided with the day after the anniversary of landmark U.S. Supreme Court case McIntosh v. Johnson (1823), which made the Doctrine of Discovery a part of U.S. law.

Here is the opening prayer. (Click on the link above for the full service.)

Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.

The Day 2 of Lent service laments the slave trade.

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Reflections and Photo Essay on DAPL Day of Action in St. Paul at the Army Corps of Engineers

 

The rally started in Mears Park in Downtown St. Paul.
The rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline started in Mears Park in Downtown St. Paul.

Hundreds of people opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline gathered today in downtown St. Paul to ask President Obama to stop the project altogether. They carried colorful homemade signs and chanted in a call-and-response,”Mni Wiconi … Water is Life!” The rally started in Mears Park and participants then marched to the nearby local headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — an agency that holds a key to the pipeline.

This was part of a National Day of Action against the pipeline, sponsored by indigenous and environmental groups. Locally, the sponsors ranged from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and Honor the Earth to the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth. According to an MPR story, this was one of 300 rallies held across the country, including 10 others in Minnesota.

The rallies focused on the Corps of Engineers offices. The pipeline company needs an easement from the Corps to bore under the Missouri River. Yesterday, less than 24 hours before the rallies, the Corps announced that the project needed more study. (More here.)

Some continued to Wells Fargo to protest the banks financial involvement in the project.
Some rally-goers continued to Wells Fargo.

Following the rally, approximately 50 people splintered off and marched to Wells Fargo Place. It was an effort to draw attention to the fact that Wells Fargo is one of the 38 financial institutions providing credit to the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners. This is part of an effort to embarrass these banks into pulling their funding. This tactic has had some recent success. (We recently wrote that DNB, the largest bank in Norway and a pipeline financer, is now doing its own investigation into the project. More here.)

Here are four takeaways from the rally, and more photos. Continue reading

ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Church is Called to Support Standing Rock

ELCARev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), today issued a statement urging the denomination’s 9,000+ member congregations to offer prayers and monetary support for the Standing Rock Nation in North Dakota, which is leading efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her statement read in part:

Acknowledging the complexity of this issue and the limitations sin places on human decisions, I believe that we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: to stand with the Tribe as they seek justice, to encourage our congregations to pray for them and to offer material support, and to examine the racism inherent in our system that contributes to the current crisis. …

We will lend our presence when invited, our advocacy when requested, the resources of our people when asked, and our prayers, friendship and repentance at all times.

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