Before Craig Loya became Bishop of Minnesota, back at the beginning of his ordained ministry, he served as curate at the Rosebud Mission, home of the Sicangu Lakota in South Dakota. On July 27 he shared on Facebook how memories of that time came flooding back after nine Lakota children were repatriated to the Rosebud Indian Reservation recently, more than a century after they were kidnapped by the American government and whisked away to a residential boarding school in Pennsylvania.

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Native American children were taken from their homes and sentenced to forced assimilation in boarding schools that operated under the principle, “Kill the Indian, save the man.” Many died at the schools and never saw their families again. The nine children who recently returned home had been buried at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the south-central Pennsylvania town of Carlisle.

Loya wrote on Facebook that “our nation, even as it was being founded on the principles of equality and justice, carried out a program of cultural genocide against the Indigenous peoples of this land, and Christian churches, including our own Episcopal Church, often helped the government carry out that program.”

“As a bishop of a church that inherits such a dark legacy, it is my duty to continually apologize and repent of the horrific sins carried out by people like me, in the name of the God I love and the church I have given my life to,” he wrote.

Racial justice has been a key theme in Loya’s young episcopacy. He was consecrated June 6, 2020, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, three miles from where George Floyd had been murdered 12 days earlier. He shared his thoughts on the transition in an extended interview with TLC.

The diocese “has made a priority of racial justice and healing, and the ongoing work of healing from this legacy will need to be a central part of the unique way we carry out this work in Minnesota,” he wrote on Facebook.

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— Kirk Petersen