United Methodist Responses to the Sand Creek Massacre

2016 Book of Resolutions, #3328

The 2016 General Conference commits The United Methodist Church to learning and teaching its own history and entering into a journey of healing in relationship with the descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.

  1. We receive with appreciation the report, Remembering the Sand Creek Massacre: A Historical Review of Methodist Involvement, Influence, and Response, by Dr. Gary Roberts, which was authorized by the 2012 General Conference in Petition #20767, “1864 Sand Creek Massacre.” We commend this report to the Church as a resource for understanding the Sand Creek Massacre and the history of the Church’s role in colonization, displacement, and destruction of indigenous cultures in every land. And we refer the report to The United Methodist Publishing House to prepare study materials for use across the connection.

  2. We acknowledge that too often in the past and yet today, Christian individuals and the Church as an institution have been agents of death rather than protectors of life. Clergy and lay leaders who were trained, respected, and honored by the Methodist Episcopal Church used their influence through the church, the government, and the military, in ways that caused profound harm to Indian peoples at Sand Creek, including killing nearly 200 peaceful Indians camped under the protection of the US government and desecrating the bodies of the slain. We acknowledge that leading up to the massacre, during the massacre, and in the aftermath of the massacre, representatives of the Church utterly failed to uphold gospel values of respect for human life and all of creation, justice for all people, self-giving love, and hospitality to strangers.

  3. We commit The United Methodist Church to the following actions, recommended by official Sand Creek Massacre tribal descendants’ representatives:

a. Recognize the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming as the Federally recognized Tribes as stated in the 1865 Treaty of Little Arkansas with the US Government, and the official representatives concerning the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Council of Bishops will initiate formal negotiations with official tribal representatives to produce a Memorandum of Understanding establishing an ongoing healing relationship between these tribes and The United Methodist Church.

b. Through the General Board of Church and Society in cooperation with other agencies of the Church, support legal efforts for reparations approved in the Treaty of Little Arkansas with the Cheyenne and Arapaho people in 1865, but never paid in full ().

c. Through the Mountain Sky and Oklahoma Areas, where descendant tribes are located, support and encourage participation in the annual Spiritual Healing Run, commemorating the Sand Creek Massacre and promoting healing of generational trauma.

d. Through the Office on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relations of the Council of Bishops, and the General Commission on Archives and History, assist with the creation of public memorials remembering and honoring the people who were killed at Sand Creek.

e. Through the Office on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relations, in cooperation with the General Board of Church and Society, encourage the Roman Catholic Church to repeal the Doctrine of Discovery (see The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2012, Resolution 3331, “Doctrine of Discovery,” page 424). The Doctrine of Discovery was established by papal bulls in the 15th century and became “a principle of international law used to justify Western Europe’s dominion over lands occupied for thousands of years by indigenous peoples … sanctioning and promoting the conquest, colonization and exploitation of non-Christian lands and peoples” ().

f. Through the General Board of Church and Society in cooperation with the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Commission on Religion and Race and other agencies of the Church, support tribal work to strengthen the Cheyenne and Arapaho way of life by respecting traditional religious practices, protecting tribal ancestral lands and assisting with development of renewable energy projects for a healthier environment.

g. Through the Council of Bishops and the General Board of Church and Society, encourage return to the tribes Native artifacts or remains in the United States covered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) or related to the Sand Creek Massacre.

h. Through these same agencies, to support acquisition of property and increase tribal landholdings in ancestral lands.

i. Encourage United Methodist Women to develop a MissionU study on this topic.

[See ADCA Volume 2, Section 3 for full text of the report.]


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

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