Native student leaders from Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon, wanted to help raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. On some reservations, indigenous women are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average. The students reached out to the administrative board of Open Door Churches, which consists of 5 United Methodist churches.
“I have hoped for some time that The United Methodist Church would connect with students at Chemawa Indain School,” said Eva Johnson, co-chair of the conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM). She remembers attending church with her grandmother on the former Klamath Indian reservation near Salem. “The students asked for support to create 50 red shawls to use during the school’s birthday pow-wow.”
With the board’s support, students also presented their project to Morningside United Methodist Church. Soon after, women from the congregation took their sewing machines and skills to the school for a series of sewing days. The students demonstrated what a shawl should look like and the women worked with them to fulfill their vision.
“The sewing days were an example of intergenerational and culture exchange,” said Johnson.
The finished shawls were presented at church and blessed with sweet grass by a Native spiritual leader and a prayer was given by the Rev. Wendy Woodworth. On Feb. 23, 2019, the students wore the shawls as they offered prayers and a dance in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women.
In addition to the shawls, the CONAM also contributed $1,500 to the project. The students plan to hold a workshop focused on healthy relationships and self-defense training on campus.
The Oregon-Idaho Conference has one Native church, Great Spirit United Methodist Church, located in Portland. The conference also has an active CONAM which plans to continue to build the relationship with the Chemawa Indian School.