On Monday, October 8 we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s appropriate to reflect on the historical connection between Moravians and the Indigenous People of North America. In 1740, Moravians established missions among the Mahicans at the Hudson Valley village of Shemomeko in New York. The English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts provided financial support for the effort. Unlike other missionaries at the time, the Moravians lived and dressed like the indigenous people. European visitors often mistook Moravians for Mahican.
A year later, Moravians opened a mission in Pennsylvania among the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) people. Moravians named the mission Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Today, Bethlehem continues as the center of the Moravian Church in America, Northern Province.
In 1782, during the Revolutionary War, a Pennsylvania militia under the direction of Captain David Williamson killed nearly 100 unarmed Moravian Lenape at the Moravian Church mission at Gnadenhutten, Ohio.
In 1801 Moravians established a mission among the Cherokee in the Southern United States. When the Cherokee were forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s, the Moravians went with them. The mission was active until the end of the Civil War in 1865.
In 1885, Moravians began ministry among the Yupik people of Alaska. Moravians played an instrumental role in translating the New Testament into Yupik. There are now 20+ congregations and fellowships in the Alaska Province of the Moravian Church in America.
Today, The Rev. Angelica Regalado ministers to Spanish-speaking indigenous people from Central and South America who reside in North Carolina.
Over the years, Moravians have had a special calling to transcend the barriers of culture and language to share the good news of Jesus Christ with indigenous people. The importance of this work was a central factor in our mission and journey to America and it remains fundamental to our identity.