A Bridge of Justice

The U.S. government took hundreds of thousands of square miles from native people. In a recent ceremony in Alaska, the church gave a small portion of that land back.

Episcopal Bishop of Alaska Steven Charleston presided over a service in which the diocese returned 450 acres of land along the Yukon River to the Athabascan people, from whom it was taken almost eight decades ago when the Wilson administration granted the land to the Episcopal Church. Charleston said the diocese took the action "not only to recognize our strong sense of community with the people, but also to make a statement that this land had always belonged and should always belong to the native community."

Charleston, the first native Episcopal bishop of Alaska, called the action "a powerful signal of renewal in our church." Charleston told Sojourners, "The wonderful thing about this event is that it was not a case of a group of people coming to the church trying to demand justice. Rather, it was a wonderful moment of native church leadership coming to one mind with native village leadership, with strong support from the European-American community."

Charleston stressed that the plans of reconciliation involved "not just a transfer of land, but more important, a religious, spiritual reconciliation between our church and the people in the community." He said that "a bridge of justice was built, and it just shows how we can do that if we're responsible to one another both as communities of faith and communities of color."

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Sojourners Magazine January 1994
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