The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies has called for the church to investigate the history of church-run Indian boarding schools with the goal of forming a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

On the first legislative day of the 80th General Convention meeting in Baltimore, the HoD took up resolution A127 entitled “Resolution for Telling the Truth about The Episcopal Church’s History with Indigenous Boarding Schools”. 

The resolution as amended calls for the national church to “create a fact-finding commission to conduct research in the Archives of The Episcopal Church and its dioceses, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress, as well as any other repository of historical documents relevant to the role of the Episcopal Church in the Indigenous residential boarding schools of North America.”

The Episcopal Church is further asked “to gather information from boarding school survivors and their descendants about the experiences of Indigenous children and families in Episcopal run and/or supported residential boarding schools …”

The results of the research are to be publicized through an educational video as well as shared with indigenous ministry and activist groups and support federal legislation to create a “truth and healing commission on Indian boarding school policy” akin to that undertaken in Canada.  

Resolution A127 also asks for the church to acknowledge its guilt, specifically the “intergenerational trauma caused by the Doctrine of Discovery, colonialism, genocide, ethnocide through the operation of Indigenous boarding schools, and other systems of white supremacy that have oppressed Indigenous peoples …”

It asked that “$2,500,000 over the next biennium, or some other degree of funding commensurate with The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the work of truth-telling and reconciliation around its role in Indigenous residential boarding schools, to adequately fund the provisions of this resolution, specifically 1) to fund the creation and support of a fact-finding commission; 2) to fund the work of the Office of Indigenous Ministries to create an education resource regarding the church’s role in Indigenous residential boarding schools; 3) to fund a grant program to support the work of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church in both conducting their own research into the diocesan role in Indigenous residential boarding schools and preserving the stories of boarding school survivors and their families; and 4) to support the establishment of community-based spiritual healing centers in Indigenous communities across The Episcopal Church to address the intergenerational trauma rooted in the church’s role in Indigenous residential boarding schools.”

The current draft budget allocates only $125,000 for this purposes over the next two years however.

Several deputies rose in support of the Resolution. Minnie Steele of Minnesota said it was of historical and moral importance to examine the church’s involvement in residential schools. Deputies from Navajoland also spoke in support. Ruth Johnson told the convention that her “hell began at a boarding school in New Mexico where I was beaten,” while the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton urged adoption of the resolution as a form of healing. “Justice work is healing,” she said.  The Rev. Leon Sampson concurred noting much was “riding on these resolutions so that we can start to have a healing process.”

The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton of the diocese of Olympia urged adoption also stating the Episcopal Church was in a “position to say to indigenous people of all our provinces” that there was “healing work to do.”

The resolution passed on a voice vote.