Pennsylvania government officials and representatives from Lancaster County’s Amish, Mennonite and Presbyterian Church and Quaker Meeting will honor Native American cultures and recognize the historic wrongs committed against local Native people at a “Public Acknowledgment & Commemoration of the Native American Legacy” at First Presbyterian Church here Oct. 9.
Their statements will be formally received by a wide cross-section of local and regional Native Americans and Native groups representing the Haudenosaunee, Lenape, Shawnee, Susquehannock and other tribes who once lived in the area, as well as the Native people from other regions who now call Lancaster County home.
“This is a Lancaster County event on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the first European settlers arriving here,” said Bob Doe, chair of the planning committee that includes Native American and church groups. “It’s a first step toward understanding our shared history and beginning to set things right between Native people and European immigrants.”
According to a committee statement, First Nations people resonated with William Penn’s vision of Pennsylvania as a place of peace and sanctuary. But settlers broke treaties Penn made with local Native tribes and ignored Pennsylvania law when it applied to Native grievances.
In two separate incidents in 1763, an immigrant militia from Paxton Township destroyed the
last village of the Conestoga tribe and massacred its inhabitants. Over a century later, Native children were systematically removed from their families and sent to government boarding schools designed to erase Native American culture.
Christians, government and the military were complicit in these offenses, the statement continues
“This acknowledgment is a chance for religious groups to say, ‘We should have done a better job,’” said Mary Ann Robins, a Native American committee member representing Circle Legacy Center, a Lancaster non-profit organization that supports and empowers indigenous people.
“We had the same problems — religious persecution and being denied the freedom to live in peace. These religious groups had no sympathy or regard for us; they ignored what was happening to our people,” Robins said.
Lloyd Hoover, representing the Mennonite Church on the committee, said, “We, as Europeans, basically annihilated the Susquehannocks who were here, and to the rest of the tribes we committed acts that scattered them across the nation. Any way that I connect to that past as a European and a Mennonite and a Christian, I ask for forgiveness.”
“If our forefathers heard what we were talking about here, they’d be dancing with joy,” said Gray Wolf, an Apache man.