One of the primary reasons I embarked upon this journey about the evolution of my foundational stories was to encourage people who hadn’t been much involved in justice work to change that.
- Injustices abound. The victims should be supported while working to address the root causes of the injustice.
- We should search our own lives to see if and how we are contributing to injustice.
- Spiritual guidance often leads to justice work.
- If others observe our Spirit guided work, they may join our Quaker communities.
It is discouraging to see attendance of our Quaker meeting diminish as Friends die or move away, and few new people join. Many Friends do justice work, but that is often unseen by people in the community. This is a time of great spiritual poverty, and Quaker meetings for worship could be what some seekers are looking for. For seekers to find us, we need to be seen in our communities. And doing justice work is a way for that to happen.
The reason I’m thinking about all this now is because a group of us will be meeting with Senator Ernst’s staff in Des Moines to talk about the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).
There is a web of interrelationships among Native and non-native peoples in the Midwest that presents opportunities to work together to learn and publish the truth about Indian Boardings Schools. There are parts of this that are only appropriate for each community to work on separately. But hopefully these Congressional visits will be the beginning of further work together.
This began with an appeal from Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) for us to ask our Senators to support that legislation (S. 2907). And specifically, to do this during their current recess when they would be in Iowa.
I know my friend Sikowis Nobiss is interested in supporting legislation related to Native Americans, so I contacted her about this. She put me in touch with Jessica Engelking, who is also part of the Great Plains Action Society. Fortunately, I met Jessica when we were attending the Buffalo Rebellion conference recently. Some of the networking that occurred there. Others at that conference included my friends Peter Clay, Sikowis, Mahmud Fitil, Ronnie James, Miriam Kashia and Jake Grobe.
When Jessica asked what Quakers have been doing related to our role in some of the residential schools, I shared FCNL’s decades of advocacy for Native Americans. We began to work together to arrange visits to our Senators about the truth and healing commission act, and included Jessica Bahena, FCNL’s National Organizer, who is FCNL’s contact related to this legislation in our planning.
Over the past several years there have been changes in how I do justice work. What hasn’t changed is the I’ve tried to be obedient to what the Spirit is telling me to do.
Most of my life I did justice work within the framework of Quaker meetings, communities, and organizations, such as FCNL. For about 8 years I was clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. At our annual sessions a month ago, someone else took over that responsibility.
The Quaker involvement in the Indian Boarding Schools has long been a concern of mine. When I learned about this appeal from FCNL, I wanted to work on that. But no longer being on the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, I wasn’t thinking about working in the context of that committee, although I did contact the clerk of the committee in case they wanted to become involved.
For the past two years I’ve been working in the Des Moines Mutual Aid community. This has answered a deep need in my life to find accomplices who are doing justice work in a way that focuses on root causes of injustice and builds community. (See: Mutual Aid PDF)
I’d like to explore the possibility of Native Americans and White people working together on these traumatic problems. At first, I thought the Mutual Aid part would just be an interesting possibility to frame this work, but the more I think about it, the more important I think it could be, for making our work together avoid the problems of hierarchy, who’s in charge.
It is common to feel vulnerable when we meet new people, in new organizations and communities. But we need to venture out of our meetinghouses more often. I’ve been blessed to have found numerous communities to work with over the years. What follows are guidelines I’ve discovered that can help you as you begin to work with other communities or cultures.