Readings: A Mennonite minister sells her land, shares the proceeds with the tribe that once lived there

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This land is your land… Photo by Artur Roman on

This is an extraordinary story:

“This was not always our land,” said Florence Schloneger, a 71-year-old retired Mennonite minister in North Newton. “I got my part . . . and, I wanted to acknowledge it wasn’t always our land.”

So, when her portion of the farm’s proceeds was received, she wrote a letter to the Kanza Heritage Society accompanying her check.

“This gift is a small acknowledgment that what our family homesteaded and owned was not unoccupied land – it is acknowledgment that no land can truly be owned and that the pride in our farm passed down through our family came at a great cost to your people,” Schloneger began her letter. “As my eyes have been opened, I have experienced great sorrow. Not only were your hunting grounds appropriated, but your rich culture and language was nearly lost through assimilation. My hope is that this small gift can help build and restore the strength of Kanza traditions for coming generations. Many blessings.”

Read the whole thing.

I’ve often wondered how we need to pay our debt to history. The lands that I live on were acquired through invasion and exploitation. I can’t change that. So how do I acknowledge that? Is there any way I can begin to repay the debt? It sometimes seems impossible.

I’m not sure I know the answers. Florence Schloneger, though, has offered one possibility.

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