Native American Ministries, Conference Committee on
The Committee on Native American Ministries has been actively supporting programs for the
Native population of Northern Illinois. We have been able to provide this ministry through the
efforts of many people and the support of local churches, women’s groups, and the Native
American Ministries Sunday offering.
We held a very successful summer Tipi camp at Camp Reynoldswood, with 25 campers and
seven adult leaders. Most campers were Native American youth from inner-city Chicago, who
came to spend four days camping in Tipi’s. They attended a local pow wow, cooked over a fire,
and did crafts, all while learning about the Christianity and seven concepts about how to live and
work together: wisdom, respect, love, honesty, bravery, humility, and truth. The costs for this
camp were almost entirely covered by the generosity of many individual United Methodist
Women and local churches, and we thank all of them especially for their support. Unfortunately
during our camping experience one of our camp counselors died due to an unknown heart
condition. We were helped through this tragedy with the support of the CGH Medical Center in
Sterling; Wesley UMC church of Sterling; their pastor, Nancy Weingartner, and laity; and St.
Mary’s Catholic Church in Sterling with the presence of their priest. A special thanks also goes
out to the Reynoldswood Camp staff that were a tremendous assistance, and to all involved who
helped us to deal with our grief and loss.
The United Methodist School of Christian Mission’s theme for 2009 was “Living the Sacred”.
Rev. Michelle Oberwise Lacock was an instructor for the Minnesota and West Michigan School
of Christian Mission, and Phyllis Singing Bird Ballard taught at West Ohio and winter school in
West Michigan School of Christian Mission both teaching about Native American cultural
perspectives on spirituality, the environment, and the community.
We continue our Native American Ministry of Presence on the north side of Chicago. Bill
Buchholtz continues to coordinate this ministry to the Native peoples of the Chicago area. Bill
also works with Dr. Jane Goodall and her program entitled Roots and Shoots, as well as
providing Native American flute and storytelling presentations to the Children’s museum,
Mitchell museum, Wheaton College, Youth Detention Center, and many other churches,
libraries, and schools. He has played his flutes at Pow Wows, dedications, worship services,
special UMW events, wakes, visitations, and funerals. Bill has also been in ministry to Northern
Illinois teaming with Ron Kinutski, a Canadian Ojibwe social worker and inspirational speaker.
They have held story-telling and music programs, engaging both Natives and Non-natives in
learning about Native culture, spirituality, and arts. Bill has a commitment to build bridges
between the Native community and the United Methodist community, encouraging
understanding and cooperation, and to provide assistance to both communities.
We also continue our collaborations with the Roman Catholic Ministry at the Anawim Center
and the American Indian Center in Chicago. At Anawim we support the senior’s luncheon, All
Nations Prayer Circle, a variety of worship services, and the leadership team meetings. At the
American Indian Center Michelle Oberwise Lacock serves on the Board of Directors of the
American Indian Center in Chicago, where she is Sergeant of Arms and chairs the personnel
committee. Throughout the year she supports the vast education, cultural and community work
the Center does with the Native Americans in the Chicago land area. These collaborations are
due to many years of work to build relationships with the Native community and the active
involvement of members of CONAM.
Phyllis Singing Bird Ballard, a member of CONAM, is active in her work with Emiquon, a
Nature Conservancy floodplain reclamation project. She, in partnership with the Nature
Conservancy, Seven Circles Heritage Center and Day Spring Native American UMC in
Lewistown, holds Healing of the Earth ceremonies each April at Emiquon. She also continues
her work with children’s curriculum, helping to bring the Message from a Native perspective to
many children through Vacation Bible School and summer camps.
CONAM also continues to support the education of Native young adults in Northern Illinois. In
the past we have awarded two $500 scholarships, renewable for four years. This year we hope to
be able to award this scholarship for Native American youth to continue their education.
Many members of CONAM also are very involved with other forms of ministry throughout
Northern Illinois. We have spoken at and celebrated with churches celebrating Native American
Ministries Sunday; attended Pow wows all over the Midwest; participated in other worship
services, meetings, and blessings; provided pastoral care with Native Americans at hospitals,
retirement centers, and nursing homes; and provided learning opportunities to those wishing to
study Native culture. We are grateful to the churches of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference
that continue to support our work through their prayers and financial support through the Native
American Ministries Sunday special offering. We pray that our work with the Native
communities will continue to expand because of and in spite of the tough economic times that we
Rev. Dr. Michelle “Morning Star Spirit” Oberwise Lacock and Elisa Gatz, co-chairs