November is National American Indian Heritage Month


A greeting in Chinuk Wawa, the Native trade language of western Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

Click above to hear the humble greeting in Chinuk Wawa, the Native trade language of western Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. 


Did You Know?

9.7 Million people who identified as American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination population in the 2020 Census. The 9.7 million is 2.9 percent of the total population of all people living in the United States. 

324 is the number of distinct, federally recognized American Indian reservations in 2020, including federal reservations and off-reservation trust land. 

574 is the number of federally recognized Indian tribes in 2020. These tribes are spread across the United States from Florida to Alaska. 


Today, there are nine federally recognized tribes of Oregon:


Oregon Tribes (ca 1840)



Federally recognized tribes today





The Lutheran witness of the gospel with American Indian and Alaska Native people has a history of more than 350 years. The Lutheran witness was seen among the Cherokee as they walked the infamous trail of tears and continues all the way to the Northern shores of Alaska’s Inupiat Eskimo people. The ELCA’s American Indian and Alaska Native membership is around 4,850. The American Indian and Alaska Native Ministries works closely with 30 native congregations around the country and is working to open new faith communities as well.



On Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year, the ELCA published “A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to American Indian and Alaska Native People,” in which the church confesses its sins toward Indigenous peoples and lists the commitments it will begin working toward as it responds to its original “Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery” from 2016.

One commitment found in each document is to formally acknowledge the original inhabitants of North America. The declaration states:

“We commit to begin the practice of land acknowledgments at all expressions of the church.”

Vance Blackfox, Desk Director for American Indian Alaska Native Tribal Nations with the ELCA, has prepared a guide for those who wish to begin a journey toward truth and healing by practicing land acknowledgements. It includes examples of statements that you can speak at the beginning of every worship service, print at the top of worship bulletins, use to create outdoor signage and more.

ELCA Land Acknowledgment guide




Exploring the Columbia River Treaty. This year’s annual One River, Ethics Matter conference will focus on the history of the Columbia River Treaty and the treaty review process now underway. The conference framework will emphasize social and environmental justice, collaboration towards the common good, and the need for truth and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and healing the river. All conference sessions will be presented virtually (via Zoom). Register here.


On Our Way to Truth and Healing. During the all-virtual 2021 Vine Deloria Jr Theological Symposium at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), presenters will talk about the intersection of Indian boarding schools and theological/Christian education as well as the work being done across the United States to bring truth and healing.

Register here for the online symposium on Nov. 16 and 17. Events will also be livestreamed on LSTC’s Facebook page. 




The dark history of Indian boarding schools



In the late 1800s, what are known as Indian boarding schools could be found across the country and in the Pacific Northwest. Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the nation. The purpose of Indian boarding schools was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities where their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian identities, languages, and beliefs were to be forcibly suppressed. For over 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities.

On June 22, 2021, Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a cabinet position as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, announced a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies.

“The Interior Department will address the inter-generational impact of Indian boarding schools to shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how hard it will be,” said Secretary Haaland. “I know that this process will be long and difficult. I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace.”

You can read Secretary Haaland’s Washington Post op-ed on the historic trauma of Indian boarding schools here.

History of Indian boarding schools in Oregon.


Click above to watch the Oregon Experience documentary, Broken Treaties.

For thousands of years, more than 60 Native American tribes lived in Oregon’s diverse environmental regions. At least 18 languages were spoken across hundreds of villages. This civilizational fabric became unraveled in just a few short decades upon contact with white settlers in the 19th century. In this “”Oregon Experience”” documentary, Native Oregonians reflect on what has been lost since and what’s next for their tribes.

You can also read a related OPB article here.


The U.S. has ratified more than 370 treaties with American Indian nations. Yet many Americans know little about the these legally binding treaties, that shaped, and continue to impact, the country today.


Oregon History Project: Native Cultures and the Coming of Other People

Historic Photos




The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. This year’s showcase focuses on Native people boldly asserting themselves through language, healing, building community, and a continued relationship with the land. Activism lies at the heart of all these stories. The showcase provides a unique forum for engagement with Native filmmakers from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and Arctic. November 12–18, 2021.



Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate, joins Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary, in a conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.





The Oregon Synod staff are committed to practicing physical distancing protocols per CDC and Governor Brown’s guidelines. Although we do not currently have in-person office hours, we are here to support you and can be reached at the contacts below. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate through this together.


Oregon Synod
2800 N. Vancouver Ave., Suite #101
Portland, OR 97227

(503) 413-4191

Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar-
Bishop’s Associate Juan Carlos La Puente-
Bishop’s Associate Pr. Melissa Reed-
Synod Office (Jemae McCanna)- 
Disaster Preparedness Team (Jan Wierima)-