A service this weekend, featuring words from Congresswoman Sharice Davids, will honor Native American people who were forced to endure Indian boarding schools.
In addition to Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin), Bishop David Wilson (Choctaw and Cherokee) will speak during the service, according to a Great Plains United Methodist news release.
Wilson is the first Native American person to be elected as a bishop in the history of the United Methodist Church denomination, and he currently serves as the episcopal leader of the more than 750 United Methodist Churches across Kansas and Nebraska, according to the release.
Hosted by the Great Plains Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), the event will recognize the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools on Saturday, Sept. 30.
“I am pleased that the Great Plains Annual Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries is hosting this event,” Wilson said in the release. “I think it is important to educate as many people as possible about this dark and difficult time in the lives of thousands of Native Americans in that era. I hope that lay people and clergy will join us for this important event.”
Native American children en masse were forced into American Indian residential schools, or boarding schools, where they were forced to assimilate to white American society. They were disallowed from speaking their native languages, wearing traditional clothing and carrying out their customs. Taken from their families, they were often barred contact with their loved ones living miles away.
Many children were killed or died while at boarding schools. A 2022 federal report found that residential schools in the United States were responsible for the deaths of more than 500 students between 1869 and 1969.
Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence was once the United States Indian Industrial Training School, opened in 1884. Haskell Cemetery today remains a cemetery for 103 Native American children buried between 1885 and 1943, the report also found.
Lawrence school board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood mentioned the upcoming service during the school board meeting on Tuesday and encouraged folks to attend if they’re able.
The service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 at Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Massachusetts St. in downtown Lawrence. It’s free to attend.
Although the event won’t be livestreamed, it will be recorded and uploaded afterward to the Great Plains Conference website, according to the release.