INDIANAPOLIS – More than 350 Hoosier United Methodists, national American Indian leaders and friends celebrated American Indian Heritage during four events across Indianapolis Nov. 2-4. November is national Native American Heritage Month.

The Rev. Fred Shaw, a retired ordained Elder of the West Ohio Conference who lives in Oxford, Ohio, spoke Nov. 4 to more than 100 people during a special worship service at St. Andrew United Methodist Church on the eastside of Indianapolis.

Shaw, a Shawnee, said that when he was a young adult, he had strong negative feelings against the church and to what Christians did to his people during United States history the past couple hundred years. He said his feelings changed when he heard a sermon about the death of Jesus and heard the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Shaw said that was a life changing experience. He reasoned, “If I held on to my anger, I would never be free.” He said he realized that Jesus absorbed anger by His love for people.

He also reasoned, “We (as American Indians) who had been so wronged, we need to forgive to change the past.”

Ironically, Shaw served Caucasian churches 31 years. He said the greatest error in ministering to American Indians is “the church has not listened to us.” He said the churches he served even asked him to wear native clothes in church, but only once a year. He said, “Even among people who love you, you can become a token. We are (all) called to be God’s own children.”

In retirement, Shaw focuses his attention on a national level teaching local pastors course of study for American Indian seeking ordination. He also chairs the North Central Jurisdiction Committee on Native American Ministries and serves on the churches Native American Comprehensive Plan.

That national plan is directed by the Rev. Anita Phillips, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and clergy member of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. She also was present and explained how many American Indians were forced to leave their native lands in eastern United States in the 1830s and forced to walk to Oklahoma to live – a walk known as the Trail of Tears.

During the service composed of Native American prayers and flute music, Linda Madagame, an American Indian originally from northern Michigan, chair of the Indiana Conference Native American Ministries Team and member of St. Luke’s UMC in Indianapolis, outlined a ten-year vision for Indiana to lead to the establishment of an active Native American United Methodist ministry that will include worship, cultural activities, urban ministry, rural ministry, health clinics and education. She said that there are more than 5,000 American Indians who live in the greater Indianapolis area.

Preface to Sunday

The weekend celebration began the evening of Nov. 2 at Luke’s Lodge behind St. Luke’s UMC with a showing of the 90-minute film “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School” about Indiana board schools many of which were run by Protestant and Roman Catholic churches across the country beginning in the mid-1800s. These institutions did provide training in the English language and a variety of manual skills, however these schools also were known for the mistreatment of native children with strong punishable prohibitions against native culture and language. Dr. Larry Zimmerman, professor of anthropology at IUPUI led discussion following the film.

The afternoon of Nov. 3, the Rev. Ron and Marilyn Haun, conducted tours of the Circles of Life Ministries, which they lead, within five wooded acres on the eastside of Indianapolis. This land is the home of the Hauns and also contains a sweat lodge used by American Indian groups.

Sunday evening

The weekend celebration culminated the evening of Nov. 4 during Later@St. Luke’s contemporary worship service, which featured state, regional and national United Methodist pastors sharing in a service featuring music and prayers in native languages by Chief Brain Buchanan, leader of the Miami Nation, and Aaron Stevens, a Black Cherokee Indian. A meal with cultural foods was served following this worship service in the church’s Fellowship Hall.

“If I held on to my anger, I would never be free.”

– Fred Shaw

Linda Madagame

Candle lighting
Marilyn Haun assists children in lighting candles during a Native American Heritage Celebration worship service at St. Andrew UMC in Indianapolis.

Rev. Fred Shaw

Indian flute and drum players
Music was provided by Indian flute and drum players (from left) Jeffrey Gegner, Richard Brooner and Adam Rivierre.

Rev. Anita Phillips