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Aurora church hosts KAIROS blanket exercise

Posted: November 10 2021 at 02:19 PM
Author: Al Benson

Fwd Aurora Methodists Host Ojibwe Nation Member For Blanket Exercise Talking Circle

Joseph Standing Bear Schranz, Ojibwe nation member, speaks about U.S. Indigenous peoples at Aurora's Wesley United Methodist Church Sunday, Nov. 7. (Al Benson photo)

"What you do to one color, you do to all colors," said an Ojibwe nation member at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora Sunday, Nov. 7.

Joseph Standing Bear Schranz, a United Methodist, chronicled centuries of injustices imposed on native Americans by the U.S. government, settlers and European explorers. He keynoted a KAIROS interactive blanket exercise outdoors on the church's east lawn. 

Schranz founded the Lockport-based Midwest SOARRING (Save Our Ancestors Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group) Foundation. According to Schranz, injustices included forced removal of tribes from ancestral lands, prohibition of worship customs and no voting rights until the 1950s.

"We don't want a handout," Schranz said, "We want a hand up." He pointed to poor schools, high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction and lack of opportunities as Native American issues. 

"What we don't lack is courage," he said. "We're not crushed."  

Small group discussions followed presentations. Accompanying Schranz was Annette McFeely, another activist, who invited the public to visit a Native American cultural center in Glen Ellyn that is currently in development and will open soon.

The two-hour afternoon program attracted about 50 persons. Blankets arranged on the ground inside a circle of folding chairs represented Native American lands.

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Michelle Curiel, right, narrates a KAIROS blanket exercise Sunday, Nov. 7, at Aurora's Wesley United Methodist Church to teach history between U.S. Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Curiel directs worship and children and family discipleship at Wesley. (Al Benson photo)

Michelle Curiel, director of Wesley worship and children and family discipleship, narrated the script provided by KAIROS, a Canadian ministry working towards peace and justice. A half dozen congregants read prepared statements. Refreshments were served before and after the program. 

Members of the Northern Illinois Conference Anti-Racism Task Force and NIC Committee on Native American Ministries partnered with Wesley UMC in organizing the event.

Rev. John Bell, Wesley UMC pastor, said his church began a celebration of Native American Heritage Month on Nov. 1.

"It is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people," he said quoting the National Congress of American Indians. "Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about how tribes lost access to their lands, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges."

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