A Public Declaration: To the Tribal Councils and Traditional Spiritual Leaders of the Indian and Eskimo Peoples of the Pacific Northwest

Among the many forms and voices of the encounter of Christians and native peoples is the voice of apology. This public declaration was made by ten Christian religious leaders of the Pacific Northwest to the Indian and Eskimo Peoples of the region during the 200th anniversary of the Constitution in 1987. Their commitment was reaffirmed in 1997. 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is a formal apology on behalf of our churches for their longstanding participation in the destruction of traditional Native American spiritual practices. We call upon our people for recognition of and respect for your traditional ways of life and for protection of your sacred places and ceremonial objects. We have frequently been unconscious and insensitive and have not come to your aid when you have been victimized by unjust Federal policies and practices. In many other circumstances we reflected the rampant racism and prejudice of the dominant culture with which we too willingly identified. During the 200th Anniversary year of the United States Constitution we, as leaders of our churches in the Pacific Northwest, extend our apology. We ask for your forgiveness and blessing.

As the Creator continues to renew the earth, the plants, the animals and all living things, we call upon the people of our denominations and fellowship to a commitment of mutual support in your efforts to reclaim and protect the legacy of your own traditional spiritual teachings. To that end we pledge our support and assistance in upholding the American Religious Freedom Act (P.L. 95134, 1978) and within that legal precedent affirm the following:

1) The rights of the Native Peoples to practice and participate in traditional ceremonies and rituals with the same protection offered all religions under the Constitution.

2) Access to and protection of sacred sites and public lands for ceremonial purposes.

3) The use of religious symbols (feathers, tobacco, sweet grass, bones, etc.) for use in traditional ceremonies and rituals.

The spiritual power of the land and the ancient wisdom of your indigenous religions can be, we believe, great gifts to the Christian churches. We offer our commitment to support you in the righting of previous wrongs: To protect your peoples’ efforts to enhance Native spiritual teachings; to encourage the members of our churches to stand in solidarity with you on these important religious issues; to provide advocacy and mediation, when appropriate, for ongoing negotiations with State agencies and Federal officials regarding these matters.

May the promises of this day go on public record with all the congregations of our communions and be communicated to the Native American Peoples of the Pacific Northwest. May the God of Abraham and Sarah, and the Spirit who lives in both the cedar and Salmon People be honored and celebrated.


The Rev. Thomas L. Blevins, Bishop
Pacific Northwest Synod–Lutheran Church of America

The Rev. Dr. Robert Bradford, Executive Minister
American Baptist Churches of the Northwest

The Rev. Robert Brock
North West Regional Christian Church

The Right Rev. Robert H. Cochrane, Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Olympia

The Rev. W. James Halfaker, Conference Minister
Washington North Idaho Conference
United Church of Christ

The Most Rev. Raymond G. Hunthausen, Archbishop of Seattle
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle

The Rev. Elizabeth Knott, Synod Executive
Presbyterian Church
Synod Alaska–Northwest

The Rev. Lowell Knutson, Bishop
North Pacific District
American Lutheran Church

The Most Rev. Thomas Murphy
Coadjutor Archbishop
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle

The Rev. Melvin G. Talbert, Bishop
United Methodist Church
Pacific Northwest Conference

[Text of the original 1987 declaration. “A Public Declaration: To the Tribal Councils and Traditional Spiritual Leaders of the Indian and Eskimo Peoples of the Pacific Northwest.” Evergreen Association of Baptist Churches. www.evergreen-abc.org. 1997. http://www.evergreen-abc.org/Apology_to_the_tribes_of_the_NorthWest.pdf]