Presbyterian Church apologizes for role in forced assimilation of America’s indigenous population

The Presbyterian Church's Curt Karns read an apology before hundreds gathered for the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo by Emily Schwing/Northwest News Network)
The Presbyterian Church’s Curt Karns read an apology before hundreds gathered for the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo by Emily Schwing/Northwest News Network)

The Presbyterian Church officially apologized to indigenous people across the country during a gathering of Alaska Native people this weekend at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Fairbanks.

For decades the church took part in the forced removal of children from their homes and families.

Some of those children came from the Nez Perce tribe.

From 1879 to 1940, they were sent by train to a government boarding school in Oregon, where their braids were cut off and they were forced to wear military uniforms.

Presbyterians missionaries taught at that school and ran others in Idaho as well.

Curt Karns, an executive priest in the church’s Yukon region, read the apology before hundreds of attendees at the 50th annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

“You did nothing wrong,” Karns said. “You were and are the victims of evil acts that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused.”

Jerry Isaac, a well-known Alaska Native leader, thanked the Presbyterian church, but also asked for more.

“I sure wish that other entities that were so guilty, come forward and do the same, including the U.S. government,” Isaac said.

The church’s apology is similar to one made last spring for what it called “racist actions” during the civil rights era in the 1960s.

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