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Indian tribes gain control of CRC-owned land and school

First property purchased in 1903

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GALLUP, New Mexico - The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) is returning title of 950 acres of land back to local Indian tribes. The land originally was purchased by the denomination’s Home Mission for its mission station and Christian school. The CRC has worked among the Navajo and Zuni Indians for nearly a century.

The CRC purchased a ranch south of Gallup in 1903 to support its ministry. It subsequently bought other tracts of land nearby and built the Rehoboth Christian School on the site where it since has educated generations of Indians. Nevertheless, the school and the land holdings remained sources of controversy among the tribes. The story is extensively detailed in the book Flourishing in the Land, by Hoezee and Meehan.

Negotiations for the title transfer began about five years ago. The property is now controlled by the Indian tribes through the newly formed Rehoboth/Red Mesa Foundation. Some Indian leaders pushed for autonomy, others favored continuing the close relationship with the CRC which has maintained (and paid for) the mission and the school over the years.

The CRC listed the property on its books for $500,000 but market value could be as much as $60 million. The foundation upon receiving title deeded 162 acres back to the school.

The CRC lists a number of churches among the Indians which mostly are organised in Classis Red Mesa. The CRC started its mission in New Mexico when many of its official synod and classes’ reports still were published in the Dutch language. The use of Dutch in the CRC has all but disappeared. However, with work among immigrants languages such as Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese now are used widely in local church services throughout the denomination.