Dear First United family,
I write following the observance of our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday. While I find it meaningful to stop to acknowledge and give thanks for the tremendous blessings I experience in this life, I cannot ignore the deeply problematic and hurtful history associated with this set-aside day. Native nations and the United States have a complex and ever-evolving relationship; indigenous and native peoples in the US live out that complex relationship in their everyday lives.
Land acknowledgments are one way to recognize the indigenous peoples of this land and grow our consciousness of our shared history here. Here’s the one we’ve adopted as a congregation:
The Congregation of First United Church acknowledges and honors the Indigenous communities native to this region. We recognize that our church is built on Indigenous homelands and resources. We recognize the myaamiaki (Miami), Lënape (Delaware), Bodwéwadmik (Potawatomi), and saawanwa (Shawnee) people as past, present, and future caretakers of this land.
We are dedicated to including Indigenous voices and perspectives in our services and activities, and making our congregation a more supportive and inclusive place for Native and Indigenous individuals. We encourage members of our congregation to engage with contemporary communities, to learn the histories of this land, to look at who has and does not have access to its resources, and to examine each of our roles within a process of reparative work necessary to promote a more equitable and socially just community.
As is evidenced in the second paragraph, we understand that acknowledgments should lead to more learning about Native peoples and to engagement with the issues they are working on today. As we are just a few days past Thanksgiving, there is an obvious opportunity to learn more of the histories of this land. In the aftermath of this year’s holiday, I invite you to read this Wampanoag account of that first Thanksgiving or listen to Steven Peters talk about how the Wampanoag commemorate this history still today (the interview begins at 7:35, the portion pertaining specifically to Thanksgiving starts at 15:18).
I am thankful for each of you and this faith community and for your willingness to listen to and open yourselves to being impacted by the experiences of Native people even when it is difficult given that there is so much pain and injustice in this history.
Rev. Jessica Petersen-Mutai, Senior Minister