The West Virginia Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) was formed as a bridge building ministry between the church and our Indigenous brothers and sisters across West Virginia and Garrett County, Maryland.
Since the formation of this ministry team, the West Virginia Annual conference has had the privilege of raising awareness of native people and helping our local churches increase the knowledge and understanding of their deep cultural traditions.
One of the practices that was born from this relationship is the blessing of our Wesley Chapel meeting and worship space in a traditional smudging performed by Ellesa High, chairperson of the WV-CONAM, the day before annual conference begins.
In Native culture, the line between sacred and secular is very thin. While smudging can be seen as a spiritual practice, Elle High emphasizes the two-fold nature of this practice. As the sage burns, the smoke is a visual representation of our prayers traveling up and banishing negative energy.
“Smudging is also a practice used to bring our focus into the matters before us, often used before tribal meetings,” Elle High shared, “for our own practice of holy conferencing, we may view the smudging ceremony as a way to bless the sacred space we occupy and draw our focus towards the business before us.”
A video land acknowledgement was presented at the start of this year’s annual conference session in a further effort by WV-CONAM to reconcile the harm done to native peoples. This video is meant to be used not only at Annual Conference sessions but within the local churches, at the start of meetings or other gatherings across the conference.
“We’ve been ahead of a lot of people in doing [the land acknowledgement], not just within West Virginia, but beyond” Elle High stated. By acknowledging that the ground on which we gather and worship were sacred to the Native people of our region, long before they were sacred to us, we can more faithfully nurture the connections we have formed and continue to build bridges of peace and understanding between all people.
Follow the link below to watch the Land Acknowledgement video.
You may also download the video for West Virginia Conference uses.