‘On Our Way to Truth and Healing’ theme for 2021 Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium

October 27, 2021

It was a U.S. federal policy for nearly 100 years to enforce family separation by stealing away Native children and taking them to off-reservation Indian boarding schools for the purpose of eliminating identity through forced assimilation. Most of these schools were federally funded and operated. Many others were operated by the Catholic church and mainline Protestant denominations. This cruel attempt to decimate Indigenous children and families was made even more shameful by the very successful and shameful cover up by the Church and the federal government of their complicity and active participation in this practice.

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. Other+Wise is a co-sponsor of the symposium.

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

The first night of the symposium features a keynote address by the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin (Osage), president of United Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa. The lecture takes place live Nov. 16, 7-8:30 p.m. Central time on Zoom.

In this lecture, Erwin will take a closer look at the intersection of Indian boarding schools and theological/Christian education.

New to this year’s symposium are Learning Lunches. At noon Nov. 16, Christine Diindiisi McCleave (Anishinaabe), CEO, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, leads ‘An Introduction to Indian Boarding Schools in the United States.’

On Nov. 17, the Learning Lunch with Kim Smith (Dine), INihi Ké Baa’ (For Our Relatives) and Indigenous Goddess Gang, is a discussion on ‘Creation and Climate Justice.’ The Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium is adding a climate justice session each year.

Rev. Manuel Retamoza (Cherokee), pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, San Diego, Calif., will be the guest preacher for worship Nov. 17 at 11:15 a.m. 

The 2021 Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium concludes Nov. 17 with a 7 p.m. panel presentation with Patsy Whitefoot (Yakama), elder, educator and consultant, and boarding school survivor; and Deborah Parker (Tulalip Tribes), director of policy and advocacy, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.  

Register to receive the Zoom links. 

About this year’s presenters

R. Guy Erwin (Osage) was appointed president of United Lutheran Seminary and Ministerium of Pennsylvania Chair and Professor of Reformation Studies in August 2020. He was the fourth bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA from 2013 to 2020. Erwin was the ELCA’s first gay, partnered bishop and the first openly gay male to serve in that office in any of the churches of the Lutheran World Federation. As an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, on whose reservation he was born in Oklahoma, he was also the first Native bishop in the ELCA.

Christine Diindiisi McCleave (Anishinaabe), is the chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. She is an enrolled citizen of Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation and a leader and an activist for Indigenous Rights advocating for truth, justice, and healing for the genocidal policy of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools.

Deborah Parker (Tulalip Tribes) is of Tulalip, Lummi, Yaqui, and Apache descent; her native name, cicayalc̓aʔ, extends back multiple generations. Parker has served in many key leadership positions internationally namely as the executive director of the residential healing school of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation where she helped create policy and healing programs for the victims of residential schools in Canada. Parker currently serves as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition where she has worked on legislation to create a U.S. Commission on Indian Boarding Schools. 

Manuel Retamoza (Cherokee), senior pastor, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, San Diego, Calif., is a first-generation Mexican American. His family history and experience of the US/Mexican border crossing with his family and his family’s crossing the border for generations inform his call to ministry. He guides several border education experiences for groups from across the country and in his own congregation each year. He is on the executive planning team for the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza, serves as VP of the board for American Indian and Alaskan Native Association of the ELCA, is on the MYLE Tech and Talent team for the 2022 ELCA National Youth Gathering and is the chair of the board for Miracle Ranch Children’s Home in Baja California, Mexico. 

Kim Smith (Diné) is of the Bitterwater clan, born for the Blackstreaked wood people, from the Diné Nation in the southwestern part of the U.S. She is currently a lead organizer with the Nihi Ké Baa’ Mutual aid which is currently working on building sustainable housing and infrastructure and remediating the land contaminated by fossil fuel extraction. Smith’s work as a citizen scientist engages community members through a health assessment on the impacts of the San Juan Coal plant and the 4 Corners Powerplant on their health, livelihoods, culture, and environment. She is the founder and editor-at-large for the online collective indigenous feminist magazine, “Indigenous Goddess Gang.” She is considered an expert on Climate Change for the United Nations and is a registered International Front-line Defender.

Patricia “Patsy” Whitefoot (Yakama) was raised in Medicine Valley and White Swan, Wash., by her maternal grandparents. As a traditional food gatherer, she is a member of the Toppenish Creek Longhouse where tribal practices are sustained. She advocates in support of treaty rights and tribal sovereignty through community mobilization, voting rights, health and welfare issues, civics education and is committed to addressing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis. Whitefoot has served in elected positions of her tribe including over 25 years as Education Chair. She has had a 45-year career in managing and teaching from early childhood to adult education. She consults in teacher education, Native Art education with students and teachers, curriculum development and Native research. She has previously served two-terms as president of the National Indian Education Association and continues to serve on the board. 

Vance Blackfox (Cherokee), founder and director of Other+Wise and creator and producer of the symposium, will serve as moderator of the sessions. Other+Wise is a co-sponsor of the 2021 Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium. He currently serves the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as the Desk Director for American Indian Alaska Native Tribal Nations. An alumnus of Texas Lutheran University (TLU) and LSTC, he has previously served the ELCA in multiple capacities.

Read the full presenter biographies here.

Learn more about Other+Wise at their Facebook page.

About the Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium

In 2013, the Annual American Indian and Alaska Native Symposium at LSTC was renamed in honor of Vine Deloria Jr., an alumnus of Augustana Seminary, Rock Island, Ill., a predecessor school of LSTC. The symposium has been held in November each year since it began over 10 years ago. It has featured presentations, lectures, food and cultural activities. Past keynote speakers include Elonda Street Stewart (Delaware Nanticoke), Susan Kelly Power (Standing Rock Sioux), Rev. Dr. Gordon Straw (Brothertown Nation), Dr. Daniel Wildcat (Yuchi/Muskogee) and Prairie Rose Seminole (Three Affiliated Tribes of ND).


Erik Christensen

Pastor to the Community and Director of Strategic Initiatives


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