Regarding Native American Culture and Traditions as Sacred

2016 Book of Resolutions, #3334

For hundreds of years Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians, compelled by the gospel have chosen to become disciples of Jesus Christ. In doing so, we have affirmed with the voices of the saints that all that is necessary for salvation, relationship with God and our brothers and sisters, is contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We bear witness to the mercy of God through our faith, continuing in discipleship and ministry.

Government and religious institutions intentionally destroyed many of our traditional cultures and belief systems. To assimilate our peoples into mainstream cultures, as children many of our ancestors were forcibly removed to boarding schools, often operated by religious institutions, including historical Methodism. Historically, Native peoples have been targets by those seeking land and other natural resources. Genocide became a tool of greed and a response to fear. While attempting to erase Native people from existence, traditional cultures also fell victim to acts of genocide.

As Native Christians, we affirm for the church and ourselves that many elements of our traditions and cultures are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the teachings of the church. We affirm that the Holy Spirit is faithful in guiding us in holy living within our cultures and the broader culture. We recognize that just as in the broader culture, not all expressions of traditional cultures are appropriate for all believers; God is faithful in leading us to acceptable worship and continued growth in grace, as tribal people. We further affirm that our identity as Native, or tribal persons is pleasing to our Creator and vital to the body of Christ.

We affirm for each other that our languages, cultures, identities, and many traditions are pleasing to God and have the potential to refresh the church and offer hope to the world. To be less is to be other than what God is asking us to be in our time.

We further believe that many of our Native traditions affirm the presence of God, our need for right relationship with our Creator and the world around us, and a call for holy living. Both through corporate and personal conviction our people individually and tribally are led by the Spirit of God to a greater awareness of God. Traditional beliefs, consistent with the gospel and the historic witness of the church should not be understood as contrary to our beliefs as Native Christians. Furthermore, the testimony of historic and contemporary Native Christians should be counted in the historic witness of the church.

Whereas, we believe that God’s creating presence speaks to us through our languages and cultures and that such testimony is vital to the ongoing work of the church among our people; and

Whereas, many Native traditions were erroneously feared, rather than understood as vehicles for the grace of God, and;

Whereas, such fears have resulted in persecution of traditional Native peoples and Native Christians; and

Whereas, many traditions have been misinterpreted as sin, rather than varying cultural expressions leading to a deeper understanding of our creator;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church affirms the sacredness of Native people, their languages, their cultures, and their gifts to the church and the world.

Be it further resolved, that we believe in the faithful leadership of the Holy Spirit in assisting us as individuals and communities in the preservation of those cultures and the continuation of their faith; that just as there are many parts of the body of Christ, there are many Native traditions, languages, customs, and expressions of faith; that in the best of Native traditions, the church, and the spirit of ecumenism, we allow for the work of the Spirit of God among our communities and tribes without prejudice.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that being justified by faith, we will honor as sacred those practices that: call us back to the sacredness of Native people; affirm as beautiful their identity among the world’s peoples; lead us into right relationship with our Creator, creation, and those around us; and call us into holy living. We call upon the world, the church, The United Methodist Church, and the people of The United Methodist Church to receive the gifts of Native people as people of God.


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

To purchase the Book of Resolutions, click here.

Copyright © 2016, The United Methodist Publishing House, used by permission