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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

N.Y. Protestant churches apologize to Native Americans

N.Y. Protestant churches apologize to Native AmericansBy Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Four hundred years after their spiritual ancestors took part in the decimation and dislocation of Native Americans in New York, one of the nation's first Protestant churches held a "healing ceremony" to apologize.

"We consumed your resources, dehumanized your people, and disregarded your culture, along with your dreams, hopes and great love of this land," representatives from Collegiate Church said in a statement. "With pain, we the Collegiate Church, remember our part in these events."

The Friday ceremony took place on Native American Heritage Day in lower Manhattan, where in 1628 Dutch colonizers built the first Collegiate Church, then known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, at Fort Amsterdam. The Dutch West Indies Company treated Native Americans "as a resource," Collegiate said in a statement, and "we were the conscience of this company."

Collegiate now includes four churches in New York, including Marble Collegiate Church, where the late Rev. Norman Vincent Peale preached from 1932 to 1984.

Ron Holloway, who attended the ceremony as a representative of the Lenape people, said "the native populations were suppressed by a political and religious will of which they could never begin to conceive." But, he said, he and other Lenape people "whole-heartedly accept this apology."

At Friday's ceremony, Holloway embraced leaders from Collegiate, according to the Associated Press, and exchanged wampum, strings of beads symbolizing money or ornaments.

"After 400 years, when someone says 'I'm sorry,' you say, 'Really?'" Holloway told the AP before the ritual. "There was some kind of uneasiness. But then you've got to accept someone's sincere apology; they said, 'We did it.' We ran you off, we killed you.'"

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