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Land Acknowledgment Activities 2023

Eighth Street is a member of the Repair Network of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. The Land Acknowledgment Team represents the congregation in advocacy initiatives organized by the Coalition including support for Apache Stronghold’s court case challenging the transfer of their sacred land in Oak Flat, Arizona to a multi-national mining company. Eighth Street signed an amicus brief supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act which was upheld by the Supreme Court without modifications on June 15.

In August, the Land Acknowledgment Team sponsored and coordinated an Indigenous Peoples Local History Tour for Eighth Street Mennonite Women. Over thirty men and women gathered in the Fellowship Hall for an introduction by Luke Gascho. Rich Meyer directed the church bus tour to sites south and east of Goshen including the Elkhart River crossing in Benton, the expansive Elkhart Prairie where Potawatomi villages were located before European settlement and the monument to Chief Wanyanoshonya (Five Medals) at River Preserve Park.

The 2023 Land Acknowledgment series began with a bus trip to the Pokagon Band Pow Wow in Dowagiac, Michigan on Sunday afternoon, September 3. About thirty Eighth Streeters experienced the culture of the Pokagon Band and observed the traditional dance competitions.

Land Acknowledgment Team members led sessions in the Connections Class on Sunday mornings in September. Brian Miller described his work with the Indian Health Service in hospitals on Arizona reservations. Don Paetkau shared personal reflections on environmental restoration and showed a video of the Pokagon Band project to remeander the Dowagiac River, enhancing large sections of the river’s ecosystem. Jenna Leichty Martin described land restoration initiatives at Camp Friedenswald including planting nine thousand trees on former farmland.

On September 29, the first markers of the Bodéwadmi-Myaamia (Potawatomi Miami Trail) were installed on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart. An Eighth Street Shalom Gift in 2022 has supported the planning process for these markers and the expansion of the trail website.

The Land Acknowledgment Team is working on a revision of the 2021 statement to include reference to the Myaamia People and new understandings of Indigenous realities. It is also considering ways to mark the Bodéwadmi-Myaamia Trail which crossed what is now church property near Ninth Street.

*Images with permission of Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Camp Friedenswald, and Mennonite Mission Network (Photographer, David Fast).