Indigenous, Quaker Mutual Aid

We’re at the intersection of so many things we could once rely on and have no choice but to find different ways to move into the future. We’re bewildered by the collapse of so many things we took for granted. Such as our political, education, healthcare, and economic systems. Our communities, including family, neighborhoods, and faith. Mother Earth herself.

Above I first wrote “find new ways to move into the future”. But part of what follows is about returning to “old ways”. But not as nostalgia.

I’m excited to hear what Quakers will say about work they’re doing at a meeting tonight, which is why I’m praying about this now. This meeting is an invitation to Friends to talk about the history, and current relationships among Quakers and Indigenous peoples.

One part of this will be to research the history of Quaker involvement in the Indian boarding, or residential schools. Quakers were involved in some of these institutions of forced assimilation. We don’t know what individuals did and aren’t judging them. But looking back from here, we are learning of the terrible damage done to native children and their families and nations by these attempts to make children fit into white society. Devastating feelings are triggered as the remains of thousands of children continue to be located on the grounds of those residential schools.

In order for native peoples and Friends to work together, this history must somehow be acknowledged. In my own case, I only raised this with those I was becoming friends with. Then I said, “I know about Quakers’ involvement in the residential schools, and I’m sorry that happened.” And wait for their response. In every case I learned they and their families had been affected by those schools. I’m not sure that was the right way. I’ve since heard such apologies might better be done with more of a ceremony. In my case raising this was important for deepening friendships.

This is also in part the idea behind the title of this article. I’ve become increasingly involved in the work of Des Moines Mutual Aid, a concept I wasn’t aware of. It was a Spirit led meeting that brought my now good friend, Ronnie James, and I together two years ago. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer and I’m very grateful he has been willing to be my Mutual Aid mentor. Ronnie is also part of the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) established by another friend of mine, Sikowis Nobiss. Several other Indigenous friends of mine are involved with GPAS.

All that is why I believe the concept of Mutual Aid is the way Friends and Indigenous peoples can work together.

It is a bit confusing when you first learn about Mutual Aid, because it is essentially a framework to return to the ways of life of our grandparents. Communities where the people knew and cared for each other. Communities that were self-sufficient.

The basic concept of Mutual Aid is to remove vertical hierarchies, which by definition removes power structures of dominance and superiority. No matter what you call it, vertical hierarchies cannot exist if Quakers are going to be able to work with Indigenous peoples.

Mutual is the key concept, which is easiest to see in contrast to charity. Charity is not mutual. Resources are given to someone or some organization with no expectation of anything returning to the giver. The recipient never sees the giver.

Mutuality is essential, so there are no separate groups. So there are not, for example, people designated as providers or clients. So there is not a stigma associated with need. Mutual Aid communities teach us we are not in need through our own fault, but because systems have failed us. Those of us distributing food, for example, emphasize we ourselves may need food in the future. This type of political education is part of Mutual Aid.

The other thing that makes Mutual Aid communities so successful is the focus on meeting immediate needs, such as food, shelter or court support. Besides meeting urgent needs, this focus is highly motivating to those involved. This makes for long-term engagement and satisfaction. And attracts people to expand Mutual Aid communities. In the two years I’ve been involved I can’t remember a single instance of conflict among us. When everyone is there, voluntarily, to help, what would there be to complain about?

This is the background for my proposal for Indigenous peoples and Quakers to work together as Mutual Aid communities. Endeavoring to avoid hierarchies and instead facilitate working together on mutual, immediate needs has worked excellently in my experience.

Of course this requires Friends to build friendships with native people. This is happening more often now, as Indigenous peoples are emerging to reassert their authority and leadership on so many issues. How else can Quakers be guided how to contribute to this work? How else will we be welcome by Indigenous peoples?

I talked with an Indigenous friend of mine who indicated his support for these ideas.

Other articles about Mutual Aid can be found here:

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, September 2018

A reckoning on Native boarding schools is long overdue 

A reckoning on Native boarding schools is long overdue is the title of a recent article by my friend Bridget Moix, General Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

She writes of the sanitized version of the history of this country we white people were taught in school. This has been a deep concern of mine for years. It is jarring that every time I think of my Quaker boarding school, I think of the Indian boarding schools, as they were called. It hurts to realize how difficult it is for native children to hear the white version of history that continues to be taught in most schools today. And the absence of discussion of their history and culture. Forced assimilation continues. It is wonderful that native schools exist.

This is now in the news as the remains of thousands of children are being located on the grounds of those residential schools in this country and Canada. And as Bridget’s excellent article discusses, a reckoning is long overdue.

What are we, white Quakers, called to do in response now?

There are calls for Friends to respond in many ways. To educate ourselves about this history. To seek ways for healing and reparations. To research our own meeting’s history.

I am concerned that many people are not aware of attitudes we could be bringing to this work. In the same the way so many white Quakers have trouble understanding white supremacy and privilege related to racial justice, many are also unaware of how deeply we are immersed in this colonized society. Colonization and white supremacy are the foundation of forced assimilation of native children. And the ideas behind the land theft and genocide of native peoples.

We need to decolonize ourselves. If not, we risk doing more harm than good. We can begin by deeply considering what our motivations are for becoming involved in this work. And educating ourselves to give us more insight into what was done and why. And hopefully avoid the mistakes of the past.

As painful as it can be, we simply cannot create a more just nation without filling in those gaps with the complicated truth of our past. 

Bridget Moix

Bridget discusses one thing we can do.

Congress must build upon the work done by the Boarding School Initiative. Lawmakers can do so by swiftly passing the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act (H.R. 5444/S. 2907), which will be marked up this month. If enacted, it would establish the first formal commission in our history to investigate and address the harms committed — and critically, ensure progress isn’t derailed by any change in administrations.


But the more we learn, the more we see gaping holes between our country’s traditional narrative and the realities of how our nation was built and who paid the costs. As painful as it can be, we simply cannot create a more just nation without filling in those gaps with the complicated truth of our past.  

Between 1819 and 1969, across 37 states, there were 408 schools and more than 1,000 other institutions involved in educating Native children, including day schools, orphanages and asylums. These institutions were sponsored by the federal government and administered by a number of Christian denominations, including my current faith community, Quakers.

The “assimilation” tactics employed at the schools were brutal. They included renaming children with English names, cutting their hair, prohibiting the use of Native languages and religions, extensive military drills and manual labor. Abuse was commonplace, including the use of solitary confinement and the withholding of food. 

A number of these schools were established and run by the Religious Society of Friends. In an 1869 letter, Edward Shaw, a Friend from Richmond, Indiana, wrote that Quakers aimed “to protect, to Civilize, and to Christianize our Red Brethren.” Charles Eastman, a Lakota physician, described the treatment he experienced at the Santee School, a Quaker-run institution in Nebraska: “We youthful warriors were held up and harassed … until not a semblance of our native dignity and self-respect was left.”  

This reckoning must also extend beyond the government. Faith communities, including Quakers, were undeniably complicit in the historic trauma of the boarding school era. We have a moral obligation to share records and accounts of the administration of these schools as investigations continue. In the Quaker community, which does not have a centralized governing body, individual meetings have begun taking on this responsibility. 

The truth is we cannot undo the harm caused by these institutions. It is a permanent stain on our history. But by fully acknowledging the sins of the past, we can begin taking steps to chart a more just relationship with Native communities nationwide. It’s time, at long last, to shine a light on this dark chapter of American history and take the next steps toward reckoning and repair.

A reckoning on Native boarding schools is long overdue by Bridget Moix, General Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) (excerpts)

Follow-up on North Korea

In response to a recent blog post, Rising Tensions with North Korea and Farm Diplomacy, Jon Krieg (American Friends Service Committee) who played a key role in this endeavor, wrote, “Isn’t it pretty cool how one thing that feels relatively small at the time can send bigger waves?”

I also heard from another key participant, Dan Jasper who wrote “You’ve done a lot to keep the history alive and I think you documented some important stuff on that post. It was a good trip when Linda and I came to Iowa and this retelling is very timely. We’re in the middle of our Korea peace advocacy week (an annual event where we set up meetings for grassroots folks to speak to their members of congress on Korea related bills). I also recently presented my sabbatical research on the connections between food, climate, and peace at AFSC. I’ve come to believe that it’s no accident that ag offers a place for communities and even adversaries to come together.

We could also set up a meeting with your congressional delegation as a sort of extension of the Korea peace advocacy week.”

Isn’t it pretty cool how one thing that feels relatively small at the time can send bigger waves?

Jon Krieg, American Friends Service Committee

This AFSC website will help you send a letter about tensions in North Korea to your US Congressional representatives.

The U.S. must act now to build peace and humanitarian cooperation with North Korea. 

June 25, 2022 marks the 72nd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. Though there was a ceasefire in 1953, the United States and North Korea have yet to sign a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. This open wound is a root cause of the conflict and hostilities still present on the Korean Peninsula today.  

This “forever war” risks further military conflict, fuels arms races, exacerbates global humanitarian crises, and keeps families separated. And it’s time for it to end. 

Join us in calling for peace and humanitarian cooperation today! 

This is the letter that is created from that link. And the response from Senator Chuck Grassley.

As someone concerned about the well-being of the people on the Korean Peninsula and as a supporter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), I ask you to please co-sponsor H.R. 1504 – the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act. The bill expedites the provision of nongovernmental humanitarian assistance, including life-saving medical care, to the people of North Korea. In the weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea, it is critical that you support these measures, which will help private aid organizations respond when the borders reopen.

Please also co-sponsor S. 2688, the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act, which would require the State Department to work toward reuniting Korean-American families separated by the Korean War.

Help us respond to critical humanitarian needs and reunite Korean Americans with their families in North Korea.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jeff Kisling

June 16, 2022

Dear Mr. Kisling:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your support for the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act (S.690) and the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act (S.2688). As your senator, it is important to me that I hear from you.

I appreciate hearing your support for the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act which was introduced by Senator Edward Markey. This legislation, if enacted, would require the Treasury Department to expand existing humanitarian licenses for North Korea to include larger humanitarian projects as opposed to medical supplies and food.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Treasury Department and the Department of State have expanded licensees for the provision of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in sanctioned countries. That said, I do not believe that the wholesale removal of sanctions on North Korea would alter the regime’s behavior or ensure adequate distribution of relief within the country. Rather, it would provide Kim Jong-Un with resources to continue persecuting the North Korean people and antagonizing the United States and the rules-based international order. 

I also appreciate hearing your support for the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act. This bill was introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono and if enacted, would require the State Department to report to Congress on its consultations with South Korea about potential opportunities to reunite Korean Americans with family in North Korea. 

Both of these bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Should either of these pieces of legislation come before the full Senate, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please keep in touch.


  Chuck Grassley
  United States Senator

My great thanks to my fellow activist photographer, Jon Krieg, of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for these photos of the visit of Linda Lewis and Dan Jasper, of AFSC, to Iowa to tell us about their work in North Korea, March 2018. (Another activist videographer, Rodger Routh joined us. His video of this visit can be found below). You can see Linda and Dan visited us at Bear Creek Meeting. Russ Leckband presented them with a gift of his pottery. Linda and Dan also spoke at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting. Also attending was my friend Reza Mohammadi. Ed Fallon interviewed them on his radio program. And I’m glad they were able to visit Scattergood Friends School and Farm where they spoke with Mark Quee and Thomas Weber.

Photos by Jon Krieg, AFSC

A Love Letter to Y’all

I’m looking forward to being with my Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) friends this morning, for our weekly free grocery store, described below.

As a Quaker, I find it particularly interesting that the first public action of DMMA was participation in a peace march.

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.

A Love Letter to Y’all (a thread)

One year ago yesterday Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming.

As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.

This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread.

Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.

In the past year DMMA has expanded it’s work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.

We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM) to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid (@egma_dsm), DSM Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM), and The Great Plains Action Society (@PlainsAction).

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (@prairielandsff) (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.

All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize.

But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.

Much gratitude to you all.

In love and rage,
Des Moines Mutual Aid

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.

The Worker’s Summit of the Americas

As often as I think about why we need to move toward Mutual Aid communities and know that Mutual Aid is far from a new idea, I haven’t spent much time learning about the many cultures and countries that live this way, that are not based on capitalism.

Even though there has been little mainstream media coverage in this country, the Summit of the Americas was a dismal failure because so many countries boycotted it when the Biden administration refused to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The alternative summit, the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers declares they will, “take concrete action to combat the labor and social violence applied to our peoples by the U.S. and Canadian governments.” I don’t yet know what the power of this group is.

More leaders of Latin American countries have announced they will not attend the Summit of the Americas, which is taking place in Los Angeles. The summit has been mired in controversy after the Biden administration refused to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. On Monday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced he would boycott the talks over Biden’s decision. The presidents of Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have also said they will not attend the summit.

Latin American Leaders Boycott Summit of the Americas, Democracy Now, June 8, 2022

Here is the final declaration of the alternative to the Summit of the Americas, the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers.

We, representatives of Trade Union, Peasant, Political and Social organizations, gathered in Tijuana – Mexico, June 10-12, 2022, on the occasion of the realization of the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers, in immediate response to the exclusion of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua imposed by the Government of the United States.

There is a systemic and structural crisis of capitalism in its imperialist phase. It is in itself a civilizational crisis. The capitalist economic model and its political arm neoliberalism, as well as its modern cultural foundation, have put the planet’s life in crisis. If not eliminated, imperialism’s necropolitics leads us to the planetary collective suicide, which is more lacerating in the sectors less favored by the current world system. Our position is a bet for life, and the empire offers us death: it is either life or death!

We are witnessing a process of recolonization over the people. This is expressed in the excessive growth of racism, poverty, unemployment, job insecurity, environmental deterioration of territories, criminalization of migration, and gender and cultural violence. For this reason, we call upon the programmatic unity of the American continent’s workers, peasants, and progressive and popular forces to reflect, debate, and take concrete action to combat the labor and social violence applied to our peoples by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

We consider that the working class of the 21st century will only be able to play an independent and central role if – in addition to fighting for the most heartfelt demands of the labor movement – it assumes the struggle against patriarchy together with the feminist movement, the struggle of the native peoples against climate change and the defense of the biosphere together with the youth and the broad spectrum of professionals and scientists.

We must build articulations and alliances in which we structure our common forces for a unique and global struggle. Globalize the struggles. Build new organic forms of the working class from the political-cultural to the socio-productive to overcome capitalism and build socialism.

A robust internationalism is needed to pay adequate and immediate attention to the dangers of extinction: extinction by nuclear war, climate catastrophe, and social collapse.

In this regard, we agree:

  • To promote active solidarity with the peoples and sovereign nations (Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela) and the other peoples of the world “sanctioned” and attacked by economic blockades and unilateral coercive measures imposed by the U.S. and its allies.
  • To hold an annual meeting in Tijuana, Mexico, with the workers and social movements of the Americas to express solidarity with the peoples of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua and their revolutions to repudiate unilateral coercive measures against sovereign governments.
  • To constitute a Committee for the organization of the Meetings to be held annually in the North and South of Mexico, integrated by: Unión del Barrio of the USA, Movimiento Social Por la Tierra de México (MST), Sindicato Mexicano Electricista (SME), Alianza por la Justicia Global of the USA, Central Bolivariana Socialista de Trabajadores de Venezuela, Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo de Nicaragua (ATC), Movimiento Magisterial Popular de Veracruz Mexico, Fire This Time of Canada, Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) of the USA, International Action Center (IAC) of the USA, Task Force on the Americas of the USA and the Plataforma de la Clase Obrera Antimperialista (PCOA).
  • Demand the immediate release of Alex Saab. He is a Venezuelan diplomat kidnapped by the U.S. and illegally detained in its territory since October 16, 2021. Saab’s arrest is an action that attacks diplomatic immunity, a right guaranteed by international law to any diplomatic official in the exercise of his duties.
  • Reaffirm the resolutions agreed upon at the Meeting of the Peoples of the Americas, held June 7-8, 2022, in Chiapas, Mexico.
  • To ratify our unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian and Saharawi peoples.
  • Demand that the U.S. Congress immediately cut off military aid funds to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, and Haiti.
  • Promote a campaign to hold an international day of action in solidarity with Cuba to be held when the U.N. General Assembly meets to condemn the blockade against the Caribbean island.
  • Expand the “Bridges of Love” program to other countries and international coordinate days on the last Sunday of each month in the form of caravans or other activities.
  • Demand the immediate release of comrades Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Iman Jamil Abdullah al-Amin and Julian Assange.
  • Demand the immediate release of the social fighter Simón Trinidad from Colombia, who is deprived of liberty in prison in the USA.
  • To promote the regional integration of the anti-imperialist working class of Our America and the participation in the strengthening of ALBA TCP, CELAC, and UNASUR. In this sense, the Bolivarian Socialist Workers Central of Venezuela will call a meeting for the 3rd quarter of 2022.
  • To promote a campaign against the U.S., NATO, and Colombia’s policies of interference and expansionism and to ratify the declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace promoted by CELAC.
  • We reaffirm the Mexican Electricians Union workers’ demands for their reinstatement in the Federal Electricity Commission.
  • We stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people and their dignified struggle for independence and sovereignty.



Rising tensions with North Korea and farm diplomacy

I recently received the following from Dan Jasper of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) about rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. The state of Iowa and my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends, have a long history related to North Korea. Dan visited us in Iowa in March 2018.

Tensions between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”) are on the rise once again. In recent weeks, North Korea has conducted missile tests, and the U.S. and South Korea have responded with missile of tests of their own.

To make matters worse, a recent outbreak of COVID-19 in North Korea threatens a population that is already experiencing shortages of food and basic supplies.

A peace agreement would be a crucial step toward nuclear disarmament, and without it renewed military conflict could erupt at any moment. It would also help reunite thousands of families—including many Korean Americans—who have been separated for over 70 years.

As the pandemic further threatens lives and livelihoods in North Korea, the U.S. must also support private aid organizations providing critical humanitarian assistance in the country. 

Call on Congress today to take action. Urge them to pass legislation to end the Korean War, support nongovernmental aid missions, and reunite families.

Dan Jasper 

Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator 
American Friends Service Committee

Farm Diplomacy

Sept. 1, 2017, Kenneth M Quinn, President of the World Food Prize suggested inviting a North Korean delegation to visit the United States as a way of easing tensions.  In 1959 the Des Moines Register invited Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to come to Iowa to discuss agricultural practices.  The Register’s Lauren Soth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for that editorial, in part because Khrushchev accepted the offer.

In 1959, at what was the most dangerous moment of human history as Soviet and U.S. nuclear weapons were poised to be fired at each other, an event on a farm in Iowa contributed indirectly, but crucially, in keeping those missiles from ever being launched.

As the artwork that accompanies this essay and hangs in our World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines shows, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev traveled to Coon Rapids on Sept. 23 of that year to visit the Roswell Garst Farm. Standing at the corn crib and holding an ear of hybrid corn, the Premier asked Garst why he couldn’t have corn like this in the Soviet Union.

Garst responded by sending his nephew John Chrystal on multiple trips to Russia over the next three-plus decades as an unofficial ambassador of agriculture, sharing aspects of Iowa technology.

Agriculture could be key to easing U.S.-North Korea tensions by Kenneth M. Quinn, Des Moines Register, Sept 1, 2017

After that article was published, Jon Krieg, of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Des Moines, shared the story below, Growing seeds of relationships with Des Moines Register editor, Lynn Hicks, about AFSC hosting a North Korean agricultural delegation’s visit to Iowa in 2001. October 5, 2017, the Register published the following editorial  Could North Korea’s Kim visit Iowa, as Khrushchev did? 

In 1955, this newspaper invited Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to send a delegation to Iowa “to get the lowdown on raising high quality cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. We promise to hide none of our ‘secrets.’”

The Register’s Lauren Soth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for that editorial, because the Kremlin took note. Exchanges of farmers followed, and hybrid seed-corn entrepreneur Roswell Garst met with Khrushchev in Moscow. And in 1959, Khrushchev shocked the world by accepting Garst’s invitation and visiting his Coon Rapids farm.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn evoked the Khrushchev visit in a Register op-ed last month. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, wrote: “With so few good options to defuse the current situation over North Korea’s enhanced strategic capabilities, including possible nuclear-weaponized long-range missiles, using agriculture as a vehicle to reduce tensions would seem worth a try.”  

Could North Korea’s Kim visit Iowa, as Khrushchev did?, the Register’s editorial, Oct 5, 2017

In response to that editorial, Eloise Cranke, the author of the story about the 2001 visit (below) published Farm Diplomacy is a Good Idea, October 6, 2017, in the Des Moines Register.

Thanks to the Register for its Oct. 5 editorial, “Let’s Invite North Korea’s Kim to Iowa.”

It was my distinct pleasure and honor to accompany the five North Koreans who visited an Iowa farm in 2001. What a warm and friendly evening it was, as we gathered for a delicious potluck with friends at the Bear Creek Meeting House.

That kind of one-on-one conversation and exchange of ideas is sorely needed today.

Why not invite Kim Jong Un to Iowa? “Farm diplomacy” helped ease tensions in the 1950s. Why not now? It could be a powerful way to move the conversation with North Korea from bombs and missiles to food and feeding hungry people.

Herb Standing’s words still ring true today, “We must tell people that it is not through missiles and bombs that we find security and peace, but rather through the one-on-one sharing with persons of different countries, cultures and experiences.”

Let’s give it a try.

— Eloise M. Cranke, Des Moines

Growing seeds of relationships, Eloise Cranke, Regional Director, American Friends Service Committee, Spring, 2001

I am fascinated by the story of the 2001 visit to my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek, because I wasn’t living in Iowa at the time.  In the photo above, Burt Kisling is my father, Russ Leckband continues to attend Bear Creek, Herbert Standing was a cousin, and Arnold Hoge was the father of Win Standing, whose husband Ellis, is my mother’s brother.  The delegation visited the farm of Ellis and Win.  Then, after the potluck meal at the meetinghouse, I can easily imagine them gathered around the wood burning stove as described above, “…the conversation ranged from farming to families to religion, touching on many topics of curiosity and interest”.

Several of the people who had participated in that visit in 2001, were at Bear Creek meeting the morning of 10/8/2017.  They shared their memories of that time.  Winifred Standing shared what she had written in her journal that day:

Wednesday, February 28, 2001
2 degrees above zero this morn.  Sunny
I made an Economical Sponge Cake and a soybean casserole.  Browned roast.  Lots of phone calls  this morn about wood and about tonight.  I went to meetinghouse–cleaned a bit, set dishes out, got coffee pot ready, etc.   I started cooking roasts at 2:00.  Peeled potatoes.   Eloise Cranke arrived just  before 4.  We visited with her until Randy Iverson and 5 North Koreans arrived.  They looked at our heifers and quizzed Ellis.  Eloise took me to meetinghouse about 5:15 to get supper started.  Ellis brought Dads and Dorothy later.  A good crowd gathered.  A good supper and questions and answers around fireplace after–Home about 9.  We visited and rested.  Seemed a good evening.

We discussed how this might relate to our current political situation.  I said I had shared a recent blog post about this with Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Scattergood Friends School, and several people at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).  If another North Korean delegation did come, I thought a visit to Scattergood Friends School’s Farm at West Branch would be very beneficial.

The meeting wanted to support the idea of the Des Moines Register inviting another delegation from North Korea to visit us and approved the following letter, which was published by the Register.

When we looked into what was being done regarding North Korea at this time (2018) we were surprised to learn that the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) had been involved in bringing agricultural practices to North Korea for many years. We contacted the people who had been doing this work, Linda Lewis and Daniel Jasper, and they agreed to visit us in Iowa to share what they had been doing in North Korea.

Jon Krieg, AFSC, recorded the following video of the presentation about work Linda and Daniel have been doing in North Korea that was held at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting on March 18, 2018. Both have been to North Korea and described how the AFSC has used efforts to improve agricultural practices in North Korea to facilitate understanding and build peace between North Korea and the United States since 1980.

Following is an excellent video by Rodger Routh interviewing Linda and Daniel on March 20, 2018, about their work for peace in North Korea. Linda and Daniel were in Iowa to discuss their work with agricultural projects in North Korea and to talk with us about how we might arrange for another North Korean agricultural delegation to Iowa, as happened in 2001, to try to reduce tensions between North Korea and the United States. Unfortunately, another visit has not occurred, so far.

Returning to Dan Jasper’s email about present day tensions with North Korea, Call on Congress today to take action. Urge them to pass legislation to end the Korean War, support nongovernmental aid missions, and reunite families.

Dangerous disconnect

I’m heeding the suggestion that it isn’t good for young people to continuously hear proclamations of near-term extinction. And nobody really knows what will happen as we move further into environmental devastation and chaos.

But there are many things we do know about our evolving environmental disaster.

Daily breaking high temperature records for large areas of the world is directly linked to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As are the increasingly frequent and severity of storms. And the increasing severity of drought conditions over larger areas of land. All of which will increasingly stress, or cause failures of power, water, and waste management infrastructure.

And yet, the Biden administration is aggressively pressuring oil companies to increase oil and natural gas production and releasing millions of barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. A dangerous, disastrous disconnect.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) today announced an additional Notice of Sale of up to 40.1 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). This Notice of Sale is part of President Biden’s announcement on March 31, 2022, to release one million barrels of crude oil a day for six months to address the significant global supply disruption caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine and help stabilize volatile energy costs for American families. 

DOE Announces Additional Notice of Sale of Crude Oil From The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, May 24, 2022

New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional.

U.N. Secretary−General António Guterres

U.N. Secretary−General António Guterres warned Tuesday of a “dangerous disconnect” between what scientists and citizens are demanding to curb climate change, and what governments are actually doing about it.

Guterres said global greenhouse gas emissions need to drop by 45% this decade, but are currently forecast to increase by 14%.

“We are witnessing a historic and dangerous disconnect: science and citizens are demanding ambitious and transformative climate action,” he said at a climate conference in Austria. “Meanwhile many governments are dragging their feet. This inaction has grave consequences.”

New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional,” he said in a video message to the Austrian World Summit, initiated by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It will only further feed the scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe.”

Guterres urged countries to instead end all coal use by 2040, with rich nations doing so by 2030, and focus on replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power.

“Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century,” he said.

Inaction on climate is ‘dangerous’, warns U.N.’s Guterres, By Associated Press | News | June 14th 2022



We are outraged that the B.C. Prosecution Service plans to pursue criminal contempt charges against the 15 people arrested at Gidimt’en Checkpoint Village during the RCMP raid on November 18, 2021.

What’s more, the Crown has until July 7th to decide whether to charge 10 others, including Sleydo’, who were arrested at Coyote Camp on November 19, 2021, with criminal contempt. This criminalization of Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders goes against their inherent rights and title on their unceded territory.

Will you call/email Attorney General David Eby and tell him to refuse intervention?, 205-387-1866. Sample email here

While Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders are grappling with unjust criminal charges, daily RCMP harassment, and imminent drilling under the Wedzin Kwa RBC held a huge golf tournament, the RBC Canadian Open. Luckily, activists were there to show the guests RBC’s true colours. Last Saturday, Decolonial Solidarity organizers joined activists and ravers in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people for a rave against RBC!

RBC is the title sponsor of the Canada Open golf tournament in Etobicoke, Toronto. We took the streets and marched to the gates of St. George’s Golf Club to let golf fans know what else their tournament sponsor funds. Equipped with a giant inflatable of RBC CEO Dave McKay, DJs, rappers, megaphones, and bubbles, we brought noise and energy to an otherwise quiet and low-key sport.
As the largest investor in the CGL pipeline, RBC needs to be held accountable. Those charged after the arrests in November 2021 include Wet’suwet’en elders, Haudenosaunee members, and legal observers. Recent investigations into the events in November show RCMP officers making racist remarks during the arrests and using coercive tactics to stop the blockade.

These charges are a disgusting and unacceptable demonstration of the law and policing protecting private companies and profits over people, land, and water. In the past, the Crown decided that prosecution of Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders was not in the public interest. We can help this time by telling Attorney General David Eby that it’s not in the public interest now either.
Call/email Attorney General David Eby today and tell him to refuse intervention., 205-387-1866. Sample email here

You can also check out this map to join an affinity group near you and take part in our Adopt-a-branch campaign targeting RBC.

In Solidarity,
The Decolonial Solidarity Organizing Team

Decolonial Solidarity (DS) is an ally-led Indigenous solidarity campaign. We currently stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders in their fight against the Coastal GasLink pipeline which is being built in their territory without necessary consent and which threatens their lands and waters.

RBC is a primary funder of both Coastal GasLink and fossil fuels more generally. The DS Adopt-a-Branch campaign demands that RBC divest from the Coastal GasLink pipeline and respect Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty and rights. Groups are going to RBC branches regularly and speaking with customers and employees in order to pressure RBC from within.

Our actions are non-violent and completely legal. We are committed to following the guidance of front-line Land Defenders and to long-term solidarity action. Everyone who respects these principles is welcome!

Decolonial Solidarity is an ally-led Indigenous solidarity campaign. Follow us on Instagram @decolonialsolidarity and Twitter @decolonialsol.

Sample email

Honourable David Eby Attorney General
PO Box 9044 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC
V8W 9E2
Phone: 250 387-1866
Fax: 250 387-6411

Dear Mr. Eby,

I am writing as a concerned citizen about the human rights violations and violations of the UN
Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, among other things, that have been happening
in Wet’suwet’en Territory. The Hereditary Chiefs have repeatedly stated they do not consent to
this pipeline and people are being arrested for upholding their laws through their traditional
governance system which has been recognized through the Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa Supreme
Court of Canada victory December 11, 1997.

Recently, your office agreed to intervene to criminalize Indigenous land defenders that were
arrested on November 18th. I urge you to decline intervention on July 7th against Sleydo’ and
others arrested on November 19th, 2021. That would further criminalize the land defenders
currently facing charges as Coastal GasLink is requesting. Violently entering homes without
warrants is not the process for dealing with Wet’suwet’en sovereignty. The Hereditary Chiefs of
the Wet’suwet’en Nation have stated their position and are defending their territory and sacred
headwaters Wedzin Kwa as they have done since time immemorial. We as guests on unceded
land need to respect the decisions of the Hereditary Chiefs and enact reconciliation instead of
disrespecting and criminalizing them further for practicing their culture and laws.

Mutual Aid and money

The role money plays in Mutual Aid is what I had the most questions about, and the question most often asked of me when I talk about Mutual Aid.

The Mutual Aid project I’m involved with is the free food distribution, which has been in place pretty much continuously since the Black Panthers in Des Moines organized the Free Breakfast for School Children program. It was when this program looked like it might have to close several years ago that Des Moines Mutual Aid to over the program.

The first Survival Program was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, which began in January 1969 at one small Catholic church in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, and spread to many cities in America where there were Party chapters. Thousands of poor and hungry children were fed free breakfasts every day by the Party under this program. The Program became so popular that by the end of the year, the original Black Panther Party set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.

Bobby Seale
All Power To All The People!

Food from local farms, and dated food from local grocery stores is the source of our food to distribute to the community.

What Is Mutual Aid?

Mutual aid is collective coordination to meet each other’s needs, usually from an awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them. Those systems, in fact, have often created the crisis, or are making things worse. We see examples of mutual aid in every single social movement, whether it’s people raising money for workers on strike, setting up a ride-sharing system during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, putting drinking water in the desert for migrants crossing the border, training each other in emergency medicine because ambulance response time in poor neighborhoods is too slow, raising money to pay for abortions for those who can’t afford them, or coordinating letter-writing to prisoners. These are mutual aid projects. They directly meet people’s survival needs, and are based on a shared understanding that the conditions in which we are made to live are unjust.

There is nothing new about mutual aid— people have worked together to survive for all of human history. But capitalism and colonialism created structures that have disrupted how people have historically connected with each other and shared everything they needed to survive. As people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property, and wealth became increasingly concentrated, our ways of caring for each other have become more and more tenuous.

In this context of social isolation and forced dependency on hostile systems, mutual aid— where we choose to help each other out, share things, and put time and resources into caring for the most vulnerable— is a radical act.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 104-120). Verso.

The key is when we think about money, we are thinking within the context of capitalism, which is the system we (Mutual Aid) are working to replace. Think how the communities of our grandparents depended so little on money. Where everyone knew everyone else. Where people just naturally helped when there was a need. Came together to harvest the crops, going from one farm to the next with the machines to do the harvesting.

Since then, increasingly, “people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property.”

The key is when we think about money, we are thinking within the context of capitalism, which is the system we (Mutual Aid) are working to replace

Handling Money

Handling money can be one of the most contentious issues for mutual aid groups. Because of this, it can be very useful for groups to consider whether this is something they want to do. Some groups can do their work without raising money at all. Some groups can do their work just raising money through grassroots fundraising in their communities, taking small donations from many people. That kind of fundraising can avoid the problem with grant-making foundations attaching strings to grant money and trying to control the direction of the work. Grassroots fundraising can help build a sense that the community controls the organizations rather than an elite funder and doing grassroots fundraising can be a way of spreading the ideas of the group and raising awareness about the problems the group works on. However, even if money is raised in this way, managing money still comes with pitfalls. Handling money brings logistical issues that can cause stress and take time, such as figuring out how to do it fairly and transparently and figuring out how to avoid a problem with the IRS or otherwise expose group members to legal problems. Because most people in our society have a tangled, painful relationship with money that includes feelings and behaviors of secrecy, shame, and desperation, a lot of otherwise awesome people will misbehave when money is around or get suspicious of others’ behavior.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 1199-1209). Verso.

Our Mutual Aid group appeals to the community for funds for a need in the moment.

Native Americans, Quakers and Mutual Aid

The Department of the Interior has released the first volume of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Report. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland first announced the creation of the Initiative last June, with a primary goal of investigating the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of these schools.

This report, and ongoing news of locating the remains of Native children on the grounds of numerous Indian residential schools has brought attention to Quakers’ role in these institutions in North America.

There are calls for Friends to respond in many ways. To educate ourselves about this history. To seek ways for healing and reparations. To research and publish our own meeting’s history.

But I’m concerned that Friends will follow a common pattern of only working within their meetings. When this is a time we need to reach out to Native peoples.

And I am concerned that many Quakers are not aware of attitudes we could be bringing to this work. In the same the way so many white Quakers have trouble understanding white supremacy and privilege related to racial justice, many are also unaware of how deeply we are immersed in this colonized society. Colonization and white supremacy are the foundation of forced assimilation of native children. And the ideas behind the land theft and genocide of native peoples.

We need to decolonize ourselves. If not, we risk doing more harm than good.

My spiritual vision is of Quakers building personal relationships with native peoples when we are invited to do so. I have been blessed to experience this for the past couple of years while working with my local Mutual Aid community. This diverse community includes a number of native people. It was a Spirit led opportunity that connected me with an Indigenous organizer who is involved in Mutual Aid. We got to know each other over several months of email exchanges (this during the COVID crisis). When I thought we knew each other well enough, I asked if it would be appropriate for me to join this Mutual Aid work, and he said yes. But it wasn’t until I’d been involved for several months that he said, “welcome to the community”. Although I had invited myself to join this work, I wasn’t really part of the community until that moment.

I was blessed to find this community was not only another way to build friendships with native people, but also taught me what a Mutual Aid community is. Based on these experiences, I believe Mutual Aid is a model for how Friends can be involved in work outside the meetinghouse. Mutual Aid is a way we can decolonize ourselves.

What I think is needed in this moment is to show up at events and causes being led by Indigenous peoples near us

Mutual Aid is all about replacing vertical hierarchies with a flat, or horizontal hierarchy. This removes the power structures among members of the community and nearly eliminates friction, in my experience.

An essential part of the truth and healing process should be doing this work together as a Mutual Aid community, with its emphasis on inclusivity and rejecting dominant relationships. It is important that attitudes and practices of superiority not be brought to the work of healing from policies that are based on dominance and colonization.

“We sought to show the power our communities possess when we come together unified under the belief and knowledge that what we do today is both work to heal past generations and lift the spirits of our future generations.”

Matt Remle on the efforts to pass the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution

Mutual Aid focuses on meeting community needs now, in the moment. The food project I’m involved with distributes food to those in need every week. Those working with the houseless camps take food and propane tanks there. It is the experience of meeting needs in the present that brings us joy and attracts new members. That also affects our interactions with those who come for the food. We realize it is the failure of capitalism that leaves them hungry. We all know we ourselves might need such help in the future.

There are many suggestions of things Quakers might do related to the Indian Boarding Schools.

What I think is needed in this moment is to show up at events and causes being led by Indigenous peoples near us. Most Quaker meetings and many individuals have such relationships to build upon.

It would be good to have a place to share such information. The following are a few examples that I’m aware of:

There are two general guidelines for interacting with communities.

  1. Don’t expect oppressed peoples to educate you. We shouldn’t add to their burden. I kept this in mind when I was getting to know the native person who was teaching me about Mutual Aid. But he encouraged me to learn from him. He was training me.
  2. The idea behind the two row wampum is two groups, such as Native people and white people, agree to travel together but separately. Neither interfering in the affairs of the other.

One interesting campaign of the Great Plains Action Society that specifically asks for our support is open letters. These letters express Indigenous people’s views on various topics and are meant to help supporters contact people who have the power to make decisions related to the topic. For example:

Recently, four Iowa Democrats have introduced a bill to phase out the use of Native American mascots in Iowa schools by 2024. Great Plains Action Society’s Director of Operations, Trisha Etringer, was quoted in an article in which she expressed her support for this proposed legislation, which reflects our organization as a whole. This letter is to celebrate this step in the right direction, and to provide more information about the issue at hand. With this Open Letter Campaign, we will be calling upon you to join us in communicating to the people in power that we need to be working toward a New Iowa. Unfortunately, that will often mean calling people out for failing to act, or for acting in harmful ways. Fortunately, in this case, it means asking you to send your support and encouragement to those that are fighting the difficult battles on behalf of our children.

There are many things Quakers should be doing in our own meetings related to the Indian Boarding Schools. But I think it is most important to support things native people are asking of us now.