Support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act

The House Natural Resource Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples is accepting written testimony in support of H.R. 5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.

There are two ways you can send your written testimony for the bill. One is by using The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition’s resources. Secondly, information from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is found at the end of this post. The FCNL site will help you write your letter and send it to the appropriate members of Congress.


The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

REQUESTING SUPPORTIVE WRITTEN TESTIMONY FOR H.R.5444

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) is currently pursuing the passage of H.R. 5444 / S. 2907, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the US Act. The House Natural Resource Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples held a hearing on Thursday, May 12, 2022, on H.R. 5444. We are reaching out to invite you to submit written testimony in support of this legislation. The House allows for written testimony until May 26, 2022. Therefore, we are humbly asking you to share your story by emailing the House Natural Resource Committee at:

HNRCDocs@mail.house.gov and CC NABS at info@nabshc.org 

To familiarize yourself with the legislation, NABS’s one pager can be found here, H.R. 5444/S.2907 the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. 
To submit testimony, please see NABS suggested draft template on how to write your story for Congress. It can be a minimum of two paragraphs up to 15 pages.
If you have any questions, please reach out to NABS at info@nabshc.org  
t’igwicid – Thank you, 

https://mailchi.mp/nabshc.org/nabs-requesting-your-story-6024016?e=039867b489

https://mcusercontent.com/a2409f90592cd87d4d9c47cad/files/0dd54e21-d6e2-e607-8bd1-dd35e41c0834/Outline_for_Testimony.01.pdf

Natural Resources Committee to Hold First Congressional Hearing on the Indian Boarding School Era

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, May 12, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States will hold the first congressional hearing in history to examine the “Indian Boarding School Era,” the time period from 1819 to 1969 in which the U.S. government forcibly removed Indigenous children from their communities and placed them into government-run boarding schools to assimilate them into Euro-American society. At these schools, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students were forbidden to practice their culture, use their given names, or speak their traditional languages. If they disobeyed, they were harshly punished. Many students experienced physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, and some never returned home to their families. To this day, the United States government has never formally acknowledged or apologized for these actions.

The hearing will be livestreamed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFeCr0gDopU

The legislative hearing will consider H.R. 5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, introduced by Rep. Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.), which will establish a formal commission to investigate and document the policies of the Indian Boarding School Era. The commission will develop recommendations on how the U.S. government can best acknowledge and heal the intergenerational trauma associated with the era.

Natural Resources Committee, U.S. House of Representatives


Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Support the Establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools

It is long overdue for the United States to acknowledge the historic trauma of the Indian boarding school era. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian churches collaborated with the government to create hundreds of boarding schools for Native American children. The conditions at these schools, some of them Quaker-run, were unspeakable.

Remind your members of Congress of their responsibility to tribal nations and urge them to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)


It’s time to elevate Indigenous voices

As I was praying about what to write this morning, I was thinking about the title from an email from Grist magazine: It’s time to elevate Indigenous voices

It’s time to elevate Indigenous voices

It’s clear that Indigenous leaders and communities play a critical role in climate action and have already faced significant climate threats. Elevating Indigenous voices is key to staving off the climate crisis, and the news industry must do better.

Our reporting brings light to the challenges Indigenous communities face and grounds these stories through the lens of solution and justice by elevating the Indigenous leaders and ideas that are critical to protecting the planet’s biodiversity and the health of our ecosystems

Donate now

Grist

Although there is colonialism in the idea that it is White people’s privilege to frame these narratives, it is important to make White people aware of the importance of elevating Indigenous voices.

White people cannot begin to have authentic relationships with Indigenous peoples until we have learned and acknowledged the truth about the history of White settler colonists stealing the land and committing genocide against native peoples. And the continued oppression today. To understand the trauma that has been passed from generation to generation. The grief of those living today.

I was blessed to participate in the Climate Justice Summit of the new coalition, the Buffalo Rebellion. A coalition that has leadership from Indigenous people and that is elevating Indigenous voices.

Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition of Iowa grassroots organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice!

Formed in 2021, Buffalo Rebellion is comprised of seven Iowa organizations: Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement, SEIU Local 199, and Iowa CCI


Forced assimilation of native children

One of the most grievous wrongs was the forced assimilation of native children. [https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/forced-assimilation/]

  • This is a fraught issue in Quaker communities today. More than 30 Indian boarding schools were run by Quakers.
  • The first step toward healing for all those involved, White and Indigenous peoples, is truth telling.
  • Raw emotions are re-awakened as the process of locating the remains of native children on the grounds of Indian boarding schools occurs at more schools.
  • The first volume of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report has just been released.

Urge your members of Congress to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (S. 2908/H.R. 5444).


It’s past time for the United States and the faith community to acknowledge the historical trauma of the Indian boarding school era.

I know that. You know that. And this week, we received two strong signs that lawmakers are starting to understand it too.

Act Now

On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior released an investigative report documenting the brutal conditions endured by Native children who were forced to attend federal boarding schools. The next day, a House subcommittee held the first-ever hearing on this critical issue.

The impacts of this tragic era persist today. These schools—more than 30 of them run by Quakers—are inextricably linked to the loss of tribal languages, cultural resources, and dispossession of land. Many of the problems facing tribal nations today, including poverty, violence, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse, are rooted in the traumatic separation of children from their families and the abuses at these federally sponsored institutions.

Your advocacy is making a difference. We have to keep the pressure on. Urge your members of Congress to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (S. 2908/H.R. 5444).

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-WheelockSincerely, Portia K. Skenandore-Wheelock Congressional Advocate
Native American Advocacy Program

P.S. Read the Department of Interior report here.


It is long overdue for the United States to acknowledge the historic trauma of the Indian boarding school era. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian churches collaborated with the government to create hundreds of boarding schools for Native American children. The conditions at these schools, some of them Quaker-run, were unspeakable.

Now we must work with tribal nations to advance congressional efforts to establish a federal commission to formally investigate boarding school policy and develop recommendations for the government to take further action. Although the wrongs committed at these institutions can never be made right, we can start the truth, healing, and reconciliation process for the families and communities affected as we work to right relationship with tribal nations.

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
Support the Establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools


What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm?

As the world falls apart, I wonder where faith communities are? Where are White Christians, White Quakers?

As my friend Lucy Duncan writes, “we as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous.”

Recognizing the White dominant culture is fundamental for White people to understand. How we learn what we must change. White people must first change ourselves before we will be accepted in communities suffering injustice.

As Lucy writes below, “What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm?” Lucy speaks about slavery and racism.

I tell the stories of early White Quaker relationships to slavery because slavery was never really abolished. If we can reckon with the full truth of our connection to slavery and its afterlives, perhaps we can begin the healing necessary to fulfill the promise of the Religious Society of Friends of Truth. 

We as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous. Claiming the full truth of our history and committing to repair the harms done are deeply spiritual acts of healing our own wounds of disconnection. I would argue it is the pathway upon which we can, perhaps for the first time, discover and invigorate our faith with its full promise.

What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected  and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan, Friends Journal, April 1, 2021

I ask these same questions regarding our past and present complicity with harms to Indigenous peoples. I speak from my own experiences with Indigenous friends. (One place I share some of these experiences are at the website I created about the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March https://firstnationfarmer.com/ )

Two interrelated developments are finally bringing attention to Indigenous peoples, forced assimilation, and those who ran those residential schools.

  • 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

What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm to Indigenous peoples?

White people need to imagine what it would take to dismantle the White dominant culture. We cannot begin to reckon with our complicity in harm until we have the humility and prayers to recognize the history of those harms, and how we continue to do harm now. We cannot make authentic connections with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) until we unlearn our attitudes and actions of dominance.

How do we do that? We look for any kind of vertical hierarchy, and reject it. Vertical hierarchies are how dominance is enforced. Are the structures used throughout our society and government.

We should instead act in ways of horizontal, or no hierarchy. Dismantling vertical hierarchies is the path to reducing or eliminating dominance.

Eliminating vertical hierarchies is the core concept of Mutual Aid. My participation in a Mutual Aid community these past two years has been a real education. A deeply spiritual experience. Mutual Aid is how I’ve been learning to reject vertical hierarchies. Some of my experiences with Mutual Aid can be found here: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

Recognizing White dominant culture makes it possible for us to look at the past and recognize our complicity with what happened then. And helps us envision how to stop the ongoing harms of White dominance now.

By asking the question where are faith communities (above) I’m implying where should faith communities be? I believe white faith communities should be working on their structures, actions, and attitudes of dominance. Learning about and embracing Mutual Aid is a way to do that.


Queries related to Mutual Aid
Do we recognize that vertical hierarchies are about power, supremacy and privilege? What are Quaker hierarchies?
Do we work to prevent vertical hierarchies in our peace and justice work?
What are we doing to meet the survival needs of our wider community?
How are we preparing for disaster relief, both for our community, and for the influx of climate refugees?
Are we examples of a Beloved community? How can we invite our friends and neighbors to join our community?

A Hierarchy Resister

I’ve been working on this diagram to show the structures of injustice, and concepts to address them. This is a work in progress. Relevant to today’s discussion is White supremacy and the way forward via Mutual Aid.


DRAFT: NPYM Minute of Support for Indigenous People

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.”

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. 

Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge

On Fri, Jan 21, 2022, Mackenzi wrote:

Friends,

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)
(1/21/2022)


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.

DRAFT North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a Minute of Support for Indigenous People.


Indian Boarding Schools: 1

Finally, some national attention is being given to the terrible history of Indian Boarding Schools in this country. Many object to characterizing these institutions of forced assimilation as “schools”.

There is a long and complicated history related to the policies and implementation of forced assimilation in the United States and Canada.

Forced assimilation is an involuntary process of cultural assimilation of religious or ethnic minority groups during which they are forced to adopt languageidentitynormsmorescustomstraditionsvaluesmentalityperceptionsway of life, and often religion and ideology of established and generally larger community belonging to dominant culture by government.

Wikipedia

Today I want to introduce

  • Quaker involvement in these institutions
  • Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report

As my friend Bobby Trice describes here, White Quakers were involved in some of these schools.

Quakers Grapple with Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools

The recent discovery of 215 graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in Canada’s Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nations territory, has re-centered a widespread reckoning with past government cultural assimilation policies. Some Quakers are responding by reflecting, learning about Friends’ complicity in running Indian Boarding Schools, and starting to tell the truth about this history.

Following FCNL’s tradition of witnessing in solidarity with Native Americans, we are amplifying the efforts of Native advocates to formalize this truth-telling process in current legislation. It’s vital to ground these efforts in an honest history of the Religious Society of Friends’ oppression of Indigenous people in North America.

Such oppression, rooted in white supremacy, has led to systemic discrimination and inequity that permeates our society today.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States government systematically enacted cultural assimilation laws targeting Native Americans. The implementation of these policies led to Christian churches working with the government to found hundreds of boarding schools for Indigenous children.

Quakers ran more than 30 Indian boarding schools. The students faced cruel practices of child labor, forced assimilation, and physical punishments. In an 1869 letter, Friend Edward Shaw from Richmond, Indiana, wrote that Quakers participated “to protect, to Civilize, and to Christianize our Red Brethren.”

“For far too long, the truth of cultural genocide led by European-Americans at Indian boarding schools has remained hidden in secrecy and ignored,” said FCNL General Secretary Diana Randall. “Christian churches, including Quakers, carry this burden of transgression against Indigenous people.”

Quakers Grapple with Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools by Bobby Trice, Friends Committee on National Legislation, October 25, 2021

Another reason for national attention is the release of Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report that I wrote about yesterday. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/05/12/federal-indian-boarding-school-initiative/

Following is a link to that report, and part of the introduction.


“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement. “We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

I plan to continue to write about this. See the section about Forced Assimilation on this blog. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/forced-assimilation/

And here is a link to other blog posts I’ve written on another blog: Forced assimilation

Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report, May 2022, has just been released. The forced assimilation of Indigenous children has been a deep concern of mine. There is a long history regarding Quaker involvement in this. I hope Friends will be led to share what they know with their friends and neighbors. The general public knows little about this tragic history. For healing to begin, the truth must be told and acknowledged. The purpose of this post is to share some resources related to the Indian Boarding Schools in this country. (I don’t think it is right to call these institutions “schools”, but to search for information, that is how they were referred to in the past.)

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) says one thing we can do now is remind our members of Congress of their responsibility to tribal nations and urge them to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).
https://fcnl.quorum.us/campaign/35660/


What can be done to heal the damage done to native communities by colonists, including Quakers? As Paula Palmer shares, it begins with telling the truth.

And one of the best discussions related to Quakers and the Indian Boarding Schools is Quaker Indian Boarding Schools. Facing Our History and Ourselves by Paula Palmer, Friends Journal, October 1, 2016.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition says that for healing to occur, the full truth about the boarding schools and the policy of forced assimilation must come to light in our country, as it has in Canada. The first step in a truth, reconciliation, and healing process, they say, is truth telling. A significant piece of the truth about the boarding schools is held by the Christian churches that collaborated with the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation. Quakers were among the strongest promoters of this policy and managed over 30 schools for Indian children, most of them boarding schools, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The coalition is urging the churches to research our roles during the boarding school era, contribute this research to the truth and reconciliation process, and ask ourselves what this history means to us today. 

Quaker Indian Boarding Schools. Facing Our History and Ourselves by Paula Palmer, Friends Journal, October 1, 2016

This is a link to the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative report


Following is a recent video from PBS NewsHour, of Judy Woodruff interviewing Interior Secretary Deb Haaland about forced assimilation.

Like Canada, America has a painful history of creating boarding schools to assimilate Native American children, leading to trauma, abuse and death. For more than 150 years, Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced into far away boarding schools. But now there’s a reckoning and a new federal investigation underway. Judy Woodruff discusses it with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

https://youtu.be/3HlJ7_V9U-0

https://www.bia.gov/sites/default/files/dup/inline-files/appendix_c_school_maps_508.pdf
https://boardingschoolhealing.org/

Acknowledging the Trauma of Indian Boarding Schools

Letter Writing May: Acknowledging the Trauma of Indian Boarding Schools

From the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

“Native organizations are not asking us to judge our Quaker ancestors. They are asking, ‘Who are Friends today? Knowing what we know now, will Quakers join us in honest dialogue? Will they acknowledge the harm that was done? Will they seek ways to contribute toward healing processes that are desperately needed in Native communities?’” – Paula Palmer, Friends Journal

It is long overdue for our country to acknowledge the trauma inflicted by Indian Boarding Schools in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Christian churches often collaborated with the government to create hundreds of these schools around the country with the goal of assimilating Native children into white society. Quakers were among the religious bodies that ran these boarding schools, causing unspeakable harm to Native children and communities. 

Today, Congress can pass legislation that would begin to seek truth and healing for the Native communities that are still affected by this trauma. Friends today are working with tribal nations to advance this congressional effort to formally investigate boarding school policy and develop recommendations for future action.

Act Now!
Urge your members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).

Download the Letter

Increasingly, more members of Congress are signing on to co-sponsor this legislation. Your voices are vital in continuing the momentum to push this effort forward. While the wrongs committed at these boarding schools can never be made right, this truth and healing commission can begin a process of working to right the relationship with tribal nations.

Please act using the accompanying letter template, call script, and this email template. Add 2‐4 sentences letting your legislator know why you are personally concerned.

Then, call Congress at 202‐224‐3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s and senators’ offices. Leave a message if they do not pick up or if you are calling after office hours.

I also hope you will join FCNL’s Quaker Changemaker event on May 25 at 6:30 p.m. EDT, “Seeking Truth, Healing, and Right Relationship: Quakers and the Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools.”

Your letters, emails, and phone calls to Congress matter now more than ever.

We ask Friends to continue contacting their elected officials using our materials. Please share this call to action with your community email lists and organize virtual gatherings for collective advocacy. 

Learn more and get training from FCNL staff at fcnl.org/lobbyfromhome.
Emma Hulbert
In peace, Emma Hulbert Program Assistant
Quaker Outreach