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Reflections with Camp & Retreat Ministries 

Dismantling Racism

Monday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, previously known as Columbus Day. While I have been supportive of the change in nomenclature for many years, this particular year marked a shift for me in my experience of the holiday. It was more personal in ways that it had never been before.

This is in large part due to the work that I participated in to prepare for and accomplish the return of a parcel of land near our Wallowa Lake site to the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce). That was an amazing experience for many reasons, not the least of which were the people involved: the team that worked to put together the materials for annual conference and for the ceremony at Wallowa Lake, and the members of the Nimiipuu nation who were gracious in their work with us. 

My own journey to understand my country’s relationship with Native peoples continues this year as I’ve been reading more about the Dakota War of 1862 in the state of Minnesota, where I grew up. The book that shed some light on this for me is 38 Nooses, written about the largest mass execution in US history. President Lincoln whittled it down to 38 from 300 and yet, justice was run over in the rush to carry out these executions.

Also on my reading list are two books that I highly recommend: Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing De-humanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Both of these provide a greater context for the early part of this nation’s history and how that shaped where we are now. 

In her Episcopal address, Bishop Stanovsky highlighted three missional strategies: fighting COVID-19, Dismantling Racism, and Weaving a Future for the UMC. I believe the Bishop’s call to dismantle racism includes an examination of our history related to Native American tribes. 

One of the ways that we in Camp and Retreat Ministries will be exploring how we address the Bishop’s concern about racism is in the development of a Land Acknowledgment statement for each of our sites, along with documentation to support the statement. Each site has a little bit different story about the acquisition of property prior to CRM becoming the stewards of these lands. 

Many of you know that two of our sites (Latgawa and Suttle Lake) are on US Forest Service land, ceded by separate treaties. Wallowa Lake is on land that was part of the Reservation outlined in the original Treaty of 1855 with the Nimiipuu. Eight years later, a second treaty was “negotiated” with only some of the tribal leaders present. This new treaty reduced the original reservation treaty lands by about 75%! Sawtooth is on unceded land. The Collins Retreat Center is on land ceded by treaty in 1855, and Camp Magruder is on land ceded by treaty but never ratified by the US Senate. 

This is part of our story and will be told in some way at all of our sites as we work through the process to provide relevant information. I am also hopeful that this work will lead us to meaningful conversations as we seek to break down walls and build strong relationships with our Native siblings.

See you on the adventure ahead,

Rev. Todd Bartlett 
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries

*PHOTO: Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and Arthur Broncheau exchange the stone that was to be returned to the Wallowa River during the Land Return Ceremony at Wallowa Lake in 2018 (Greg Nelson). 

This Was Designed For You

“All are welcome here vs. This was designed for you” is often used to describe universal design concepts for physical differences and needs. It is the idea that a building should be designed to be accessible to as many needs as possible from the beginning. 

It applies to racial and cultural inclusion as well. It's too late to design the traditional overnight summer camp but there is plenty of room to make the adjustments that are needed so that all can thrive. 

This blog from looks at dismantling racism at summer camps. Read entire blog here.

Blessings Report

  • Restored electricity at Camp Magruder after the power outage this week
  • The gift of rain that resuscitates dormant plants after the dry summer at Collins
  • Generous donors responding to the financial needs of our sites

Please send your blessings to share in future issues of the e-news. 

Join us in this work!

This photo is from the National Park Service and shows the approximate Nimiipuu homeland, the 1855 boundary and then the 1863 boundary.  Today’s reservation is a patchwork of tribal and non-tribal lands due to the Dawes Act of 1887 (also referred to as the Allotment Act of 1887).

We are doing work at Wallowa Lake to build relationships with indigenous peoples and to both acknowledge and address the racism inherent in the camp's history. And this is only one piece of the systemic racism built into our system. If you would like to support this work, please pray, talk with Todd, and give a financial gift to sustain our efforts.

Please donate today! →

Go Camping E-News is a publication of Camp and Retreat Ministries, a collaboration of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.

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