USA (MNN) — If you’re reading this in the U.S., you probably have big plans tonight for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday in the United States, one “particularly rich in legend and symbolism.”
Thanksgiving Day commemorates a 1621 feast shared by early colonists and the Native Americans who helped them survive. Today, however, most people focus on family and fellowship instead of the holiday’s origin.
“This country’s original people are, as Billy Graham said in 1975, its ‘forgotten people’,” Brad Hutchcraft says. Hutchcraft serves with On Eagles Wings, a division of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries.
“Now’s a great time, even as you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table diving into the turkey, to remember that Native American brothers and sisters brought hope to us in the first place, and we can help them bring hope to their people.”
The past may be painful…
Even though it’s largely commercialized, a holiday like Thanksgiving can stir painful reminders for the Native community. “We have been able to sit down to a great Thanksgiving feast with some of our Native brothers and sisters and have a great time. They celebrate the day, but there is a lot around it that still can bring hurt,” Hutchcraft says.
“People like to think it was a long time ago, but some of this is very recent. Native children were shipped across the country to boarding schools to essentially make them white, and a lot of bad things happened in those boarding schools.”
According to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, over 350 government-funded, and often church-run, Indian Boarding schools operated across the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries:
Between 1869 and the 1960s, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of Native American children were removed from their homes and families and placed in boarding schools operated by the federal government and the churches. Though we don’t know how many children were taken in total, by 1900 there were 20,000 children in Indian boarding schools, and by 1925 that number had more than tripled.
At the boarding schools, Native children “lost their land, language, [and] culture,” Hutchcraft says. Essentially, “they lost their lives.”
For Christians, social activism is not the primary purpose of learning about and acknowledging historic injustice. The main point is Jesus and the Gospel. Native history is full of pain that Christ offers to heal.
“Native Americans don’t need an army of white folks sweeping in to save them. They brought hope to us at the first Thanksgiving, and now they need us to partner with them in bringing hope to their people,” Hutchcraft says.
…but the future is full of hope
On Eagles Wings supports Native believers who bring the Gospel to their people. Details here. “On Eagles Wings is about trying to come alongside Native young people to help bring hope where it’s really needed. You have (Native) people that have lost hope in a lot of ways,” Hutchcraft says.
Through OEW, he continues, Native youth gain the training and tools they need to reach their communities for Christ.
“These Native brothers and sisters in Christ are saying, ‘I have been through the hurt; I’ve been through the heartache. I have family history in boarding schools. But I have found hope and His name is Jesus.’”
By giving online, you can help cover the costs associated with training and resource development. Your support enables Native believers to share their hope stories on reservations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Header image is a representative stock photo. (Photo courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash)