Connecting Native Americans in Cal-Nevada

Building a bridge of understanding to better serve Native Americans is a top priority for the California-Nevada Annual Conference's Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM). The 13-member committee held a "Healing the Circle" retreat in August at the Ukiah United Methodist Church in Ukiah, Calif.

Your gifts on Native American Ministries Sunday helps support the ministries of the Committee on Native American Ministries in their annual conferences. This offering serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for Native American United Methodists from both states to meet in person; share their stories and personal histories; and, to connect nationally with the work of the Native American Comprehensive Plan.

"Part of the problem in this area among Native Americans is the mistrust of organized religion because of what religion has done in the past," said Derrick Rainbow, a member of the Fort Yuma Quechuan Indian Tribe and the California-Nevada Annual Conference CONAM chairperson. He described how Native American spirituality was taught by faith groups to be demonic or paganistic. He says that historic trauma is still impacting relationships today.

"We acknowledge that there is an important ministry to be done through the four Native American congregations in Northern California and Northern Nevada," said Jorge Domingues, executive director of Connectional Ministries in the California-Nevada Annual Conference.

The Rev. Chebon Kernell, executive director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan participated in the 3-day meeting. Courtesy photo.

"The role of the CONAM is to advocate and educate United Methodists about the Act of Repentance and the harm that has been done historically to Native Americans in this country, including harm done by the church," said Domingues.

"The first step in reconciliation or rebuilding a presence in Native communities is that you have to acknowledge what has happened," said the Rev. Chebon Kernell, a member of the Seminole Nation and executive director of the denomination's national Native American Comprehensive Plan.

He noted serious issues facing Native communities such as the loss of language and culture, and violence against Native women as opportunities for United Methodists to become allies to create positive change.

During the three-day meeting, the CONAM participants discussed everything from infrastructure, needed resources, to the potential impact of the 2020 General Conference.  The CONAM's immediate goals are to work on community building in the conference; to empower indigenous voices; and to engage in social justice and mission work.

The California-Nevada conference is part of an effort to create a jurisdictional-wide CONAM which would include: the California-Nevada annual conference; the Alaska Annual Conference; the California-Pacific Annual Conference; the Desert Southwest Annual Conference; the Mountain Sky Annual Conference; the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference; and the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.

California-Nevada website

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Native American Ministries Sunday serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society. The special offering supports Native American outreach within annual conferences and across the United States and provides seminary scholarships for Native Americans.

When you give generously on Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries. You empower congregations to find fresh, new ways to minister to their communities with Christ's love. Give now.