Two interrelated developments are finally bringing much needed attention to Indigenous peoples and forced assimilation as I wrote in Indian Boarding Schools: 1.
- One is the search and finding of the remains of Indigenous children on the grounds of Indian Boarding Schools in Canada and the US.
- The second is the release of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report about what happened in those schools
It is my sense that most Quakers don’t know a lot about these institutions of forced assimilation and the role white Quakers played in them. But because of this history, Quakers are in a unique position to educate ourselves and others and create/participate in actions today to help begin healing us all. A number of Quaker meetings and organizations have been working for truth telling and searching for ways for healing.
My friend Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge has shared a draft of a remarkable document from North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a Minute of Support for Indigenous People. I first met Mackenzie as we work on the Quakers for Abolition Network.
This draft Minute includes links to useful sources of information about Quakers and forced assimilation. And most helpful, a number of suggestions for Quakers and their meetings to begin the process of truth telling and work toward healing.
“We commit to courageously and compassionately listen and face the learning required to comprehend settler colonialism and grow relationships with Indigenous people.”
On Fri, Jan 21, 2022, Mackenzi wrote:
I’m so excited about this minute that NPYM is considering!
We’re finally going to directly engage the topic of #LandBack: that is, returning stolen land to Indigenous people. We’re also going to get into the Quaker history of modeling & running boarding schools for Indigenous children — which means grappling with what acknowledgement of and accountability for participating in genocide might look like.
When I talked to one of my Lakota friends about this minute, they nearly cried. They spoke about how meaningful it would be for Quakers, whose “good” relationships with Native peoples were instrumental in the creation of the boarding schools, to be the first majority-white faith community in the US to collectively attempt to heal those wounds.
My friend also told me about a few of the brutal horrors their parents had each survived at a boarding school, and we grieved/raged about how much has been erased from collective knowledge. Indigenous families should not be the only ones carrying these stories. It is past time for white colonizers, and those of us connected to the religions that directly perpetrated this form of genocide (which includes Quakers!), to help carry this burden, and to take up our responsibilities in the healing process.
Feel free to steal from this minute, or to share it anywhere you’re inspired!
In struggle and solidarity,
from Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge,
zie/hir or she/her
University Friends Meeting on Duwamish land (aka Seattle)
The North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends repudiates the Doctrines of Discovery, the basis for European colonization around the world. We acknowledge and regret Friends’ role in the ensuing genocide, land theft, and forced assimilation of the peoples indigenous to Turtle Island (‘North America’), including Friends’ role in operating and legitimizing compulsory residential schools for Indigenous children. We affirm the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We commit to courageously and compassionately listen and face the learning required to comprehend settler colonialism and grow relationships with Indigenous people. We intend that these relationships will guide us to develop thoughtful, grounded actions to oppose the ongoing systemic dehumanization and material dispossession of the original peoples of the land on which we live and worship.