The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) showed support for the Land Back movement at its triennial Churchwide Assembly in Columbus, Ohio.
ELCA Hosts its Churchwide Assembly to Promote Change
On August 12, 2022, the ELCA hosted its triennial Churchwide Assembly, bringing together church leaders and members from all regions in the country. The ELCA holds this event to discuss the church’s future, make changes to church policies, and hold elections.
In addition, members of the ELCA discussed how the church could evolve as the world changes, incorporating new practices to recognize the Native American community.
ELCA Promotes More Native American Inclusion and Recognition
One revolutionary action that took place during the ELCA event was public support for the Land Back movement.
With that, members of the voting council pushed for a memorial that showed support for the Land Back movement. In the end, the board approved that memorial, encouraging ELCA members and entities to support “creative programs of restorative justice in partnership with Indigenous peoples.”
Further, this support can include actions like returning land or parts of land to the correct Native American tribe when selling or transferring church-owned property.
Also, the new memorial heavily encourages those tied to the ELCA to conduct land acknowledgments whenever they gather. Overall, the new movement intends for ELCA leaders and members to deepen their understanding and appreciation of Native American history and culture.
That said, part of the memorial asks church members to educate themselves about the tribes which used to live on the land they currently occupy. By doing this, the ELCA aims to deepen a genuine relationship with Indigenous people and Tribal nations.
To further show support for Native American communities, the Churchwide Assembly held a worship service led by Indigenous Lutherans. The service included an address by the National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp, who expressed gratitude to the ELCA for promoting Indigenous recognition.
By holding this Indigenous-led worship service, ELCA leaders were exposed to Native American rituals, providing a better understanding of their culture.
What is the Land Back Movement?
The Land Back movement pushes for a transfer of decision-making power to Indigenous communities over land and territories previously owned by a specific tribe.
The campaign doesn’t ask that people leave their current homes if they reside on Native American land. Instead, Land Back advocates ask that individuals recognize that the land they’re living on is Indigenous land that was stolen.
Additionally, this movement pushes the idea that Indigenous governance over public lands is possible, sustainable, and preferred for a healthier planet.
Currently, the primary concern of the Land Back movement is closing Mount Rushmore and returning all the lands connected to the well-known National Park. According to Land Back advocates, Mount Rushmore is an international symbol of white supremacy and colonization.
Further, the National Park is located in the heart of the sacred Black Hills. This land was previously occupied by numerous Native American tribes, including the Western Sioux Indians, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Crow, and Arapaho.
Overall, the Land Back movement aims to spread more empathy and understanding for Native American culture and history while giving power back to those who had it stripped away many years ago.