In Pennsylvania, apology for sins of three centuriesBy Sheldon C. Good Mennonite Weekly Review
LANCASTER, Pa. — With a toss and a prayer, Mennonites, Amish, Quakers and Presbyterians cast their 300-year-old transgressions against American Indians into the Conestoga River.
Religious leaders and American Indians threw stones into the river Oct. 9 after a public ceremony with more than 250 people at First Presbyterian Church to honor Lancaster County natives.
Religious leaders and government officials apologized for historic wrongs or indifference committed against natives of Lancaster County and asked for forgiveness from local and regional American Indians.
“Mennonites imposed their view of the land unhesitatingly on a native population that held a very different view,” said Brinton Rutherford, resource staff person for Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
Rutherford read from The Earth Is the Lord’s, a history of Lancaster Mennonite Conference by John Ruth: “If [Mennonites] had a sense of the Earth being the Lord’s, they left little more than token evidence of a response to the hungry, disinherited, indigenous people at the edges of their prospering farms.”
Richard Thomas, moderator-elect of Mennonite Church USA, said Mennonites — the first recorded European settlers of Lancaster County — haven’t fully honored and respected American Indians.
“We recognize that we have failed in living out our convictions,” Thomas said.
American Indians from Lancaster County and across the country shared personal testimonies.
“Our hearts, just as your hearts, are desiring to hear truth, so our nation can be totally healed,” said J.R. Boyd of the Dakota-Lakota Indians. “Every one of the 791 treaties were broken or violated in some form. When I go home, I still deal with 100-year-old grudges that you may never see.”
Uhma Ruth Py, a Lenape elder with ancestors in nearby Bucks County, said now is the time for forgiveness and healing.
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