Honor & Healing

On October 9, 2010, Presbyterian, Mennonite and Quaker leaders and local and state officials gathered at First Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, to recognize three hundred years of misunderstanding, neglect and abuse of Native Americans in Lancaster County.

“As Mennonites and the first European settlers of the land known as Lancaster County, … we have failed in living out our convictions to live peacefully and express love for all people,” Lancaster Mennonite Conference bishop Lloyd Hoover confessed to representatives of more than a dozen Native American groups.

Leaders recounted the infamous massacres of Conestoga Indians in Lancaster in 1763 and the establishment of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School nearby in 1879, as well as a series of more insidious offenses: Europeans encroaching on Native land, poaching game, failing to aid Indians in need and imposing their cultural standards on Native groups.

“We mourn for the acts done by our sisters and brothers in faith,” Presbytery moderator Rev. Jane DeFord said. “We ask that our Native brothers and sisters forgive the wrongs done to them.”

“The stories that we’ve heard this morning are very disturbing,” said Mitchell Bush of the Onondaga/Iroquois Confederacy, “but let me tell you something about the Onondagas—we’re not raised to hate.”

“The fact that all of you would come here, assemble here, to say these things is what I would consider a legitimate act of contrition,” said Curtis Zunigha of the Delaware Nation. “I will take your words back to my people. … I look forward to returning with the response of my people and joining you all in an effort to make great change so that we may never feel like this again.”

The Lancaster Longhouse is part of this community’s “effort to make great change.”

Lancaster’s Circle Legacy Center (www.circlelegacycenter.org) and members of the local Native American community are working in collaboration with the 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum to honor Pennsylvania’s Native People and teach children and adults about a side of Pennsylvania history that is often overlooked.

“This longhouse at the 1719 Herr House & Museum—the site of three Herr family homes—enables our organizations to tell the Lancaster County story from the 16th century up to the turn of the 20th century.”