Georgia-based church group returns land to Native Americans
ATLANTA (AP) – A Georgia-based church group has returned sacred land in Ohio to the Wyandotte Nation.
The United Methodist Church Global Ministries transferred the deed during a Sept. 21 ceremony and procession, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“This is monumental,” said Billy Friend, chief of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma.
“I think when our ancestors left, they always thought that someday they would be back and, of course, that never happened,” he added.
The land had been held in trust for 176 years by the ministries group, based in Atlanta.
The land is about 3 acres (1.2 hectares). It includes a stone church that dates to 1824 and a cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
Native American lands across the country were often taken by the government or settlers. The Wyandotte Indians were forced from their land by the federal government under the Indian Removal Act and relocated to Kansas and, later, Oklahoma. Friend called this forced removal “our Trail of Tears.”
At the Ohio site, students, tribal members and elders have visited to gain a connection to their ancestral land and history, Friend said. The Wyandotte Nation includes more than 6,600 tribal citizens. Most live in Oklahoma.
The link between the Methodist ministry and Native Americans has gained significance over the years, said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries.
It’s a history that contains both admirable and regrettable chapters “that give context to the expanding opportunities we have today to be in ministry with Native American communities,” Kemper said.