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Save the date for April 2006 conference to celebrate Native tribes


Some of the committee members are pictured here at Koinonia Mennonite Church in Clinton. From left are Lawrence Hart, planning committee member and pastor of Koinonia; Blanche White Shield, his aunt; Raylene Hinz-Penner, planning committee member, of Topeka, Kan.; Betty Hart, Hart's wife; and the Harts' granddaughter.

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Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Church USA joint release
March 1, 2005
-by Laurie Oswald

Clinton, Okla. — A committee is shaping a future conference, "Cheyenne, Arapaho, Mennonite: Journey from Darlington," to be held March 30 through April 2, 2006, in Clinton. The Historical Committee and Archives of Mennonite Church USA is the sponsor.

The conference will celebrate and review the historical relationship and interconnected faith stories of the native tribes and the very first Mennonite mission begun 125 years ago when Mennonites were called as educators to the Darlington Agency in Oklahoma, says John Sharp, director of the Historical Committee.

Participants will explore connections and expressions of faith through time and culture, using storytelling and other presentations, arts, music and worship. The Historical Committee seeks to nurture a relationship that honors the past, acknowledges the need for healing wounds and contributes to the mission of the church.

"This event, the first one of its kind we've sponsored, is very significant in that it focuses on the earliest North American Mennonite mission effort by any denomination. And it will help to inform us about this early impulse for missions in General Conference Mennonite history," Sharp says. "Perhaps even more significantly, we will learn from the experience of Native American brothers and sisters in Oklahoma," he adds.

Activities will include a keynote address by Dr Donald L. Fixico, of Arizona State University. His title is, "American Indian Leadership." Also, Sharp says the committee hopes participants can help dedicate one of the burial sites that are part of the repatriation movement in the United States through a Mennonite Central Committee project called "Return to the Earth." The Cheyenne Cultural Center is slated to be one of several sites throughout the United States. "It's an effort to retrieve Native American bones and skeletal remains from museums and anywhere else they may be languishing to give them a proper burial," he says.

The committee is inviting people to submit proposals for presentations for the future conference by contacting either Sharp or James Juhnke, the planning committee chair of North Newton. To contact Sharp, call (574) 535-7477; to contact Juhnke, call (316) 283-1236. Updates on early registration and on conference activities may be found at