Healing a Wound in America’s Past
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently wrapped up her “Road to Healing” tour in Bozeman, MT. It is the government’s attempt to come to terms with the role it played in 408 boarding schools that, between 1819 and the mid-1960s, sought to eradicate Native American culture, religion, and identity in tribal children. Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the U.S. enacted laws and policies to establish and support the schools. The stated goal was to “civilize” Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, but that was often carried out through abusive practices. Religious and private institutions that ran many of the schools received federal funding and were willing partners. Many of those schools were operated by (mostly) Roman Catholic institutions. In recent years, horrendous abuse has come to light, resulting in the deaths of 500 children. That number is expected to climb as more claims are being investigated.
During one of Secretary Haaland’s stops, Rosalie Whirlwind Soldier, a 78-year-old Lakota Sioux, recounted some of the abuse she suffered. After her mother died when she was just four years old, she was put into a Native American boarding school in South Dakota and told her native Lakota language was “devil’s speak.” She recalls being locked in a basement at St. Francis Indian Mission School for weeks as punishment for breaking the school’s strict rules. Her long hair was shorn in an effort to stamp out her cultural identity. And when she broke her leg in an accident, Whirlwind Soldier said she received shoddy care, leaving her with pain and a limp that still hobbles her decades later. “I thought there was no God, just torture and hatred,” she said.
To Secretary Haaland, confronting this history hits close to home. She is Native American herself – a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. Like many others, she has experienced the struggle of losing her native language and witnessed the impact of deculturalization on the broader community.
Two other Native American politicians, Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas, who is Ho-Chunk, and Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who is Chickasaw, are assisting in these recent efforts to uncover and confront the past by co-sponsoring a bill to create a truth and healing commission on boarding schools. It had its first hearing in May 2022, passed the appropriate committees, and is now awaiting action by the U.S. Congress.
It is unsure what the government could and would do to heal the wounds of the past. It is unclear where the funds would come from to foot the bill for the healing commission. In addition, their efforts are bound to meet a wall of mistrust among Native American groups. Said one Native American from Minnesota who also experienced abuse in a boarding school: “I have reservations about what’s going on right now because I don’t trust them.”
What is perhaps more disturbing is the role Christian institutions played in running these abusive schools. That is a matter of earnest prayer because it has created a significant barrier to Native Americans’ receptivity to the gospel. These religiously run schools represented Christianity to Native Americans. Unfortunately, it was being presented to them as abusive discipline and hatred, not as forgiveness, love, and a relationship with a heavenly Father.
Last year, I spoke with a youth worker who served a small outreach to the Ojibwe of Eastern Minnesota. He confirmed that their work was so difficult because of this gaping wound. “Most Native Americans hate Christianity and want nothing to do with it because of the boarding schools,” he said.
It is quite possible that the “Road to Healing” tour and the government-funded investigations into boarding school abuse will cause that resentment to deepen and jeopardize the recent openness to the gospel.
Where people see nearly insurmountable challenges, God sees opportunities. After all, He has been sending messages about revival among our country’s First Nations for a while now. The year 2025 marks 50 years after Dr. Billy Graham gave his prophetic speech at a conference on American Indian evangelism. “You are now awakening. Just around the corner, you may become a spiritual superpower in this country that could change not only America, but the world.”
According to Leviticus 25:11, every fiftieth year shall be a year of Jubilee. It is a year of returning to one’s own possession and redemption from oppression – an opportunity to restore a right relationship with each other and with God and an opportunity for healing wounds of the past.
God and His incomparable power to heal and redeem is far stronger than our government and its dollars and commissions. The resentment against the gospel from the pain of the past is no match for Him. He can break through lies and barriers and heal wounds deeply embedded in any nation’s soul.
The news reports on the “Road to Healing” tour remind us to pray specifically for healing in the hearts of Native Americans as part of the revival we are asking the Lord to pour out. We do so from a place of faith in God’s incomparable grace, mercy, and love and the knowledge that He wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (see 1 Timothy 2:4-5). For Native Americans, knowledge of the truth means the realization that religious institutions have misrepresented Christ and that He wants to be known by all as Savior and Redeemer.
For a more detailed Prayer Guide to pray for revival among the Native American nations, click here.
Father, Redeemer, thank You for knowing even the deepest wounds embedded in our souls. We pray today that You act with favor and grace toward our First Nations who were so brutally oppressed in the name of Christ. May revival come with healing in its wings in ways the government could never accomplish. May it sweep every nation, tribe, band, and clan. Open their eyes to see Jesus as savior, redeemer, and healer, Who calls them into a love relationship with the Father. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Share your prayers for the Native Americans across our nation below.
Remco Brommet is a pastor, spiritual-growth teacher, and prayer leader with over 40 years of experience in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S. He was born and raised in the Netherlands and pastored his first church in Amsterdam. He moved to the U.S. in 1986. He and his wife, Jennifer, live north of Atlanta. When not writing books, he blogs at www.deeperlifeblog.com and assists his wife as a content developer and prayer coordinator for True Identity Ministries. Jennifer and Remco are passionate about bringing people into a deeper relationship with Christ. Photo Credit: Earthly Beauties on Unsplash.
Partner with Us
Intercessors for America is the trusted resource for millions of people across the United States committed to praying for our nation. If you have benefited from IFA's resources and community, please consider joining us as a monthly support partner. As a 501(c)3 organization, it's through your support that all this possible.
Thanks for Praying!