Jen Hatmaker apologizes for line in inaugural prayer critiqued as erasing Native Americans

‘If God gave this land to anyone, it was to the Native community who always lived here,’ Hatmaker said.

Jen Hatmaker prays during the interfaith National Prayer Service hosted by the Washington National Cathedral on Jan. 21, 2021. Video screengrab

(RNS) — Jen Hatmaker was “proud” to offer the final prayer in the liturgy for the inaugural interfaith prayer service Thursday (Jan. 21) hosted virtually by the Washington National Cathedral.

The popular Christian author, speaker and podcaster has also apologized for it — at least for the first line of the prayer, which began, “Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.”

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“He didn’t. He didn’t give us this land. We took this land by force and trauma,” she wrote later on social media.

“It wasn’t an innocent divine transaction in which God bestowed an empty continent to colonizers. This is a shiny version of our actual history. If God gave this land to anyone, it was to the Native community who always lived here.”

Hatmaker apologized to Native Americans in the statement, posted on Instagram and Facebook.

She said in her post that the prayer was “written by the organizers to serve as an anchor.” It appears to be an updated version of the Prayer for our Country in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, which begins by addressing God as “Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage.”

The prayer wasn’t the only misstep regarding Native Americans that activists have pointed out during the week’s inaugural activities.

Some expressed disappointment Native Americans weren’t recognized Wednesday during President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony. Mark Charles, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and former pastor and independent presidential candidate, offered his own acknowledgment on Twitter.

“Since no one on the Capitol steps has bothered to mention it, I will. #inaguration2021 of President #JoeBiden & Vice President #KamalaHarris is taking place on Piscataway lands. I acknowledge their continued presence on these lands and thank them for their stewardship of them,” Charles tweeted.

Others raised issues with “This Land Is Your Land,” one of three songs performed during the inauguration. The song does not mention the land once was Native American land.

In place of the lyrics, “This land was made for you and me,” Potawatomi Christian author and speaker Kaitlin Curtice tweeted a suggestion: “This land was made… by Mother Earth, tended to by Indigenous peoples, and later stolen by settlers.”

And popular Muslim American social media personality and civil rights activist “StanceGrounded” tweeted a TikTok video of a young woman singing the song with rewritten lyrics that included, “This land is native land … this land was stolen from our people” and lists regions of the country and tribes indigenous to them.

While they weren’t prominently included in Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, Native Americans made appearances during the week’s inaugural activities.

President Jonathan Nez and first lady Phefelia Nez of the Navajo Nation offered prayers during Thursday’s prayer service.

The day before, the Parade of Nations featured the Native American Women Warriors Association; TikTok star Nathan “DoggFace” Apodaca, who is Northern Arapaho; a Hawaiian chant; and several traditional dancers, according to Indian Country Today.  And Biden’s nominee for interior secretary, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is Laguna Pueblo, was pictured at his swearing-in wearing a ribbon skirt, which is spiritually significant and often worn during ceremonies.

RELATED: Churches return land to Indigenous groups as part of #LandBack movement

“It MATTERS to me that we reckon with our history of white supremacy and the lies we surrounded it with, and I am filled with regret that I offered yet another hazy, exceptional rendition of the origin story of colonization,” Hatmaker wrote.

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