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Public Invited to Native Land Return Event

Featured Public Invited to Native Land Return Event

For 176 years, generations of Methodist missionary societies and Methodists in West Ohio have held in trust the land upon which the Methodist mission among the Wyandotte (also known as Wyandot) people was planted. On September 21, 2019, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, that land will be returned to the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma. 

The Mission Church, built in 1824, was used for worship by Wyandot/te Methodists until 1843, when a U.S. government order removed the tribe from Ohio. In 1843, the Wyandot/te deeded the land to the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, forerunner of today’s United Methodist Global Ministries, to protect the sanctity of the sacred burial grounds and religious site.  The Wyandot/te Mission is one of the General Conference approved forty-nine Heritage Landmarks of The United Methodist Church.

The church was rebuilt in 1889 by Methodists in Upper Sandusky on the same site using the original stones. Additional renovations were done in 1983. Members of the John Stewart UMC, about a mile away from the mission church, coordinate use of the site and open it to the public for visitation throughout the summer months.

“It will be a historic day for the Wyandotte Nation,” said Chief Billy Friend of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma. “One hundred seventy-six years ago we left the mission church in the Methodists’ hands to take care of it for us until we came back. That time has come.”

Over the last decade, Friend has been taking elders and youth from Oklahoma to the Upper Sandusky site on a regular basis to teach them about their ancestors and their history in Ohio. 

“For over 200 years, the people called Methodists have had a unique bond with members of the Wyandot/te tribes,” said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of United Methodist Global Ministries, the worldwide mission agency of the denomination. “John Stewart, an African-American missionary, launched a historic friendship with them in 1816. Since 1843, we have served as stewards of this sacred land and these historic spaces. Now, it is time to return these lands to the Wyandot/te people, so they can continue the generations-long tradition of honoring our collective heritage.”

The land includes the site of the mission church and two burial grounds, where Stewart, later missionaries and Wyandot/te tribal members are buried. The mission church was built with U.S. government funds secured of President James Monroe by the mission’s second Methodist missionary, the Rev. James B. Finley, who stopped by the White House to meet the president on his way to General Conference in Baltimore. It was designated as a national Methodist historical site by the 1960 General Conference and was added to the U.S. National Registry of Historical Sites in 1976.

“A Remembrance of Our Shared History: The Wyandotte/Wyandot and the People Called Methodists”, presented by Global Ministries and the General Commission on Archives and History, will take place Saturday, September 21, 2019, at 1 p.m. The event begins at John Stewart United Methodist Church, 130 W Johnson Street, Upper Sandusky, Ohio, with a procession to the site of the Wyandot/te burial grounds and the mission church to follow.

The event is free and open to the public. For planning purposes, organizers are requesting attendees to register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/our-shared-history-the-wyandottewyandot-and-the-people-called-methodists-tickets-57543320621. Additional event information is available at www.umcmission.org/return.