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

Whiteness and Quakers

[References to Quakers here pertain to White Quakers. There is little diversity among Quakers in this country.]

There are several reasons I’m led to revisit this today.

  • Our Quaker meetings have dwindling numbers of attenders. Most of those remaining are elderly and white. Many meetings do not have new people joining.
  • I continue to hear stories from people of color, or those identifying as non-binary in gender or sexual orientation not being welcome in some Quaker meetings.
  • Those of us working outside our Quaker communities are often blessed to find beloved communities.
  • I wish others in our Quaker meetings would join these communities.
  • Despite the many wonderful aspects of these ‘external’ communities, I sometimes sense a lack of spiritual support for one another there.
  • There are many who don’t express their spirituality publicly, or in ways “organized” religions do.
  • Quaker presence will not be fully welcome in these communities until we come to terms with our own racism.

We know that those of us who are white must confront racism in ourselves and in the institutions we care about—our faith communities, our schools, our neighborhoods, our families, our Congress.

Racism and Whiteness, Diane Randall

People ask me if I believe in god… I tell them I pray to creator.
They tell me Jesus died for me… I tell them my ancestors did.
They say I will burn in hell for not following the Bible, but it has been used as weapon to colonize and murder my people…
for me it’s spirituality over religion. I don’t hate people for going to church, but I do hate what the churches have done to us…
before colonization we had our own ways and ceremonies, I choose the path of my ancestors.

Indigenous

For a long time, I’ve been in significant spiritual distress. I’ve been learning a great deal from my Native friends and working in Mutual Aid communities. And they tell me the way white people can best support them is by embracing and teaching others about LANDBACK.

I caused conflicts in my Quaker meeting because I wanted them to join me in the work of Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. Despite my efforts to explain this, they haven’t had the experiences that would make them understand all of this, yet.

At the same time I felt I was letting my Native friends down, because I wasn’t making some of the changes I wanted to make in my life that could be an example of how white people can join the work with Mutual Aid and LANDBACK.

As environmental chaos deepens, with the resulting collapse of the colonial capitalist economic system and the political systems propping up white supremacy fail, we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Ideally those would be Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This is a powerful incentive to embrace these concepts now.

Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

In the same way I can’t understand the involvement of many Quakers in the slave trade, and having enslaved people, I can’t understand Quaker’s involvement in forced assimilation of native children.

What does this mean for Quakers today? No matter what we say about justice for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) folks, those words are empty as long as we continue to take advantage of colonial capitalism and white supremacy.

The news of 215 Kamloops Native children buried on the grounds of a residential school shocked non-native people, who did not know how many of these residential schools existed in the lands called the United States and Canada. Did not know tens of thousands of Native children were forcibly removed from their families and taken to these institutions where thousands were abused in many ways. Thousands killed or died. Though the stated reason for doing this was to assimilate Native children into white society for their benefit, the real intent was to quell Indigenous resistance to the theft of their land by white settler colonists.

My friend Paula Palmer wrote an excellent article for Friends Journal, Oct 1, 2016. “Quaker Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves”.

The growing numbers of remains found at other schools has re-opened deep wounds in Native communities. Many have been triggered by these atrocities. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.”

A Native friend also told me, “The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest. To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.” Vigorous attempts are made to hide it, but history does not lie. He also told me, regarding what I had been telling him about my efforts with Quakers, “I wish you the best. I imagine it’s a hard struggle.”

I cannot face my BIPOC friends if I don’t continue to seek the Spirit, and act on the leadings I am given. Writing is one thing I am led to do.

“Don’t make orphans stand here covered in the blood of our parents and explain to you how this all came to be without doing something about it. “

The Tragedy of 215. Without truth, there can be no healing, by Sarah Rose Harper, Lakota People’s Law Project, 6/2/2021

I am so grateful to my BIPOC friends for teaching me that Mutual Aid and LANDBACK are alternatives to colonial capitalism and white superiority. LANDBACK is how to restore Native lands and leadership.

As environmental chaos deepens, with the resulting collapse of the colonial capitalist economic system and the political systems propping up white supremacy, we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Ideally those would be Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This is a powerful incentive to embrace these concepts now.

I wrote the following epistle that is modeled from ‘An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription’

An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

Dear Friends,

The measure of a community is how the needs of its people are met. No one should go hungry, or without shelter or healthcare. Yet in this country known as the United States millions struggle to survive. The capitalist economic system creates hunger, houselessness, illness that is preventable and despair. A system that requires money for goods and services denies basic needs to anyone who does not have money. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected. Systemic racism. The capitalist system that supports the white materialistic lifestyle is built on stolen land and genocide of Indigenous peoples, and the labor of those who were enslaved in the past or are forced to live on poverty wages today.

Capitalism is revealed as an unjust, untenable system, when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores, but men, women and children are going hungry, living on the streets outside. White supremacy violently enforces the will of wealthy white people on the rest of us.

It has become clear to some of us who are called Friends that the colonial capitalist economic system and white supremacy are contrary to the Spirit and we must find a better way. We conscientiously object to and resist capitalism and white supremacy.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices. 
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement

Mutual Aid

How do we resist? We rebuild our communities in ways not based upon money. Such communities thrive all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always lived this way. White people once did so in this country. Mutual Aid is a framework that can help us do this today.

The concept of Mutual Aid is simple to explain but can result in transformative change. Mutual Aid involves everyone coming together to find a solution for problems we all face. This is a radical departure from “us” helping “them”. Instead, we all work together to find and implement solutions.  To work together means we must be physically present with each other. Mutual Aid cannot be done by committee or donations. We build Beloved communities as we get to know each other. Build solidarity. An important part of Mutual Aid is creating these networks of people who know and trust each other. When new challenges arise, these networks are in place, ready to meet them.

Another important part of Mutual Aid is the transformation of those involved. This means both those who are providing help, and those receiving it.

With Mutual Aid, people learn to live in a community where there is no vertical hierarchy. A community where everyone has a voice. A model that results in enthusiastic participation. A model that makes the vertical hierarchy required for white supremacy impossible.

Commonly there are several Mutual Aid projects in a community. The initial projects usually relate to survival needs. One might be a food giveaway. Another helping those who need shelter. Many Mutual Aid groups often have a bail fund, to support those arrested for agitating for change. And accompany those arrested when they go to court.

LANDBACK

The other component necessary to move away from colonial capitalism and white supremacy is LANDBACK.

But the idea of “landback” — returning land to the stewardship of Indigenous peoples — has existed in different forms since colonial governments seized it in the first place. “Any time an Indigenous person or nation has pushed back against the oppressive state, they are exercising some form of landback,” says Nickita Longman, a community organizer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The movement goes beyond the transfer of deeds to include respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water. Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.

Returning the Land. Four Indigenous leaders share insights about the growing landback movement and what it means for the planet, by Claire Elise Thompson, Grist, February 25, 2020

What will Friends do?

It matters little what people say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words.  Thus, we Friends may say there should not be hunger and poverty, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that leaves many without basic necessities and violently enforces white supremacy, our example will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions.  Let our lives show that we oppose the capitalist system and white supremacy, and the damages that result.  We can engage in efforts, such as Mutual Aid and LANDBACK, to build Beloved community. To reach out to our neighbors to join us.

We must begin by changing our own lives if we hope to make a real testimony for peace and justice.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and sisters and brothers,

Note: Modeled from ‘An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription’




FCNL Native American updates

Following are Native American updates from the Friends Committee on Legislation (FCNL).

Seeking Truth, Healing, and Right Relationship: Quakers and the Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools
MAY 25, 2022, 5:30 – 6:30 PM Central, ONLINE

FCNL and Friends advocate in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Yet, historically, Quakers played a role in colonization and the cultural genocide of Native people through the operation of more than 30 Indian boarding schools. With legislation now before Congress to investigate the legacy of Indian boarding schools, how are Friends communities engaging to address Quaker complicity in these atrocities?

Join us on Weds. May 25 at 6:30 p.m. EDT to learn how FCNL and F/friends are reckoning with this history and advocating in solidarity with Native communities.

In conversation with Paula Palmer and Jerilyn DeCoteau, FCNL’s Congressional Advocate for Native American Advocacy Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock will discuss FCNL’s work to build support for the bipartisan Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444). Paula and Jerilyn will share from their expertise and experience co-directing Towards Right Relationship with Native Peoples with Friends Peace Teams. Director of Quaker Leadership Alicia McBride will moderate the conversation.


Reauthorize FVPSA with Critical Support for Tribal Domestic Violence Programs

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act (FVPSA) is the primary federal grant program for domestic violence shelter and supportive services. This is especially significant for tribal communities, which deal with domestic and sexual violence at unparalleled rates. 

FVPSA will help all tribes provide culturally appropriate and life-saving prevention and treatment resources for their citizens by funding domestic violence programs, shelters, hotlines, resource centers in Alaska and Hawaii, and tribal coalitions. In short, FVPSA is a key piece of legislation to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

The House passed their bill (H.R. 2119) in October 2021, but the Senate has yet to vote on their version (S. 1275).

Remind your senators of their responsibility to tribal nations and urge them to pass the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act.


Historic Funding for Tribal Nations in FY 2023 Budget Proposal

For the first time in history, the president’s budget process included direct consultations with tribal nations. As a result, President Joe Biden’s FY 2023 budget proposal includes increased funding for tribal nations and programs. Notably, it would also significantly invest in the stabilization of the entire tribal healthcare system.

By recategorizing Indian Health Service (IHS) funding as mandatory rather than discretionary spending, IHS funding would automatically keep pace with increasing healthcare costs and population growth. This change would gradually close longstanding shortfalls, address backlogs and inequities, and modernize record systems. The budget proposal recommends $9.1 billion in mandatory funding for tribal healthcare.

“This proposal is a historic step forward towards securing adequate, stable, and predictable funding to improve the overall health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler. “It also ensures we never repeat the disproportionate impacts experienced during the pandemic…and acknowledges the need to implement long-term solutions to address IHS funding challenges, which contribute to the stark health disparities faced by American Indian and Alaska Native people.”

Other wins in the budget proposal include increased funding for tribal programs in general, Violence Against Women Act programs, and the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.


Interior Department Reverses Nearly 50 Year Obstacle to Tribal Water Rights

On April 7, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland reversed the Morton Moratorium, a 1975 memorandum directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to disapprove tribal regulation of water use on reservations. With this change, tribes requiring secretarial approval of tribal water codes will be able to better regulate and protect waters on tribal lands.

“If we are to truly support tribal self-determination, we cannot be afraid to review and correct actions of the past that were designed to create obstacles for tribal nations,” said Haaland. The Interior Department will hold tribal consultations for guidance on an improved review process for tribal water codes.


What we’re reading

Grateful and humbled

I am grateful for many things this morning. For the waters falling from the sky. For my Mutual Aid friends who demonstrate what a Beloved community is. For the Buffalo Rebellion, growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. Thankful for my Quaker communities. I give thanks to the Spirit.

I am grateful for my Indigenous friends. Humbled by the grace they have shown me and other white people as we seek ways to heal from the horrendous history of white supremacy and forced assimilation, abuse, and death of thousands of Native children. As we search for ways to deal with the present, ongoing injustices. The intergenerational trauma. Ripping open deep wounds as the remains of children are located. As the title of this new documentary says, “They Found Us”.

Growing up I heard references to Quakers who worked in the residential schools. I was told they were helping the Native children adjust to living in white society. I didn’t have the awareness to question why that was not a good thing.

I’ve had a life-long concern about environmental devastation. I grew up on farms. When I moved to Indianapolis in 1970, I was horrified by the dense, noxious fumes from every tailpipe, making it difficult to even see. This was before catalytic converters hid the damage being done. I was led to refuse to own a car.

It was obvious Indigenous peoples lived in sustainable ways.

To pull this all together, here is the link to a recent blog post, Midwest Quakers and Native Peoples, which describes how I was blessed to become friends with Indigenous folks in the Midwest and the history of some of the work we’ve done together. It also talks about the Indian Residential Schools and includes a letter from Curt Young, member of George Gordon First Nation, describing the documentary he created, “They Found Us”. Sikowis is also a member of George Gordan First Nation.



“I thought it would be important to document these searches and capture some of the stories told by members that were forced to go to these institutions. It’s a first hand look into some of the experiences survived in residential school.”

Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos, creator of “They Found Us”.

Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss is one of my close Indigenous friends. We’ve discussed the residential schools, briefly, a few times. I was glad she felt she could ask me if Quakers would help pay for expenses to travel with the film for viewing in a number of communities. She later told me it was difficult for her to ask for funds.

I am clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Our committee has a budget of $1,100 to support justice work. In the past we sent $50 or $100 to a number of such organizations. Someone suggested instead sending a larger amount for one or two projects. We decided to do that but didn’t have a project in mind when we were meeting last summer.

I believed the Spirit would show us the way. The request for “They Found Us” seemed to be what we were waiting for. Our committee met to discuss and unanimously approve this. I’m grateful and humbled for that, as well.

Additional funds would be helpful. Please contact me if you are interested. jakislin@outlook.com

Quaker Slavery and Manumissions

I pray and think about the past a lot. I cannot feel it, but I see some of the impacts of trauma from the past on my friends’ lives today. The intergenerational trauma. A number of White Quakers in the past were involved in the institution of slavery, the theft of land from Indigenous peoples, and/or the forced assimilation of Native children.

This morning I came across the term “intergenerational transformative justice”. “As we deal with the uncomfortable truths of our White Quaker ancestors, we release them from the amber in which our myths have captured them. “

The myths we tell ourselves and the lies those myths uphold are embedded in our contemporary faith practice. When we believe and perpetuate falsehoods about ourselves, it not only disconnects us from the truth, it also limits our ability to act with full integrity today. Telling the truth about ourselves and our White Quaker ancestors grounds us in reality, in a sense of the complexity of our identity. It allows us to create a different future, not built from delusion and half of the story but from an honest and grounded reckoning with who we are and who we have been. My friend Mila Hamilton calls this “intergenerational transformative justice.” As we deal with the uncomfortable truths of our White Quaker ancestors, we release them from the amber in which our myths have captured them. As we allow them to become the full, flawed humans they were, we also free ourselves to reckon with our present, which arises from their past, and to tell the full truth of who we are.

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

Friends Journal senior editor Martin Kelley speaks to my friend, Quaker preservationist Avis Wanda McClinton about her work as a community liaison to Haverford College’s “Manumitted: The People Enslaved by Quakers.”

Inside Haverford’s Manumission Archives by Martin Kelley, Friends Journal, February 1, 2022


A manumission is a legal document that promises to free someone who is enslaved. In this context, we’re talking about American chattel slavery. Manumission has existed in many different forms of slavery, generally referring to the freeing of an enslaved person. But in this context, it’s specifically in the Americas with stolen African people. 

Manumissions are often standard sizes of paper, maybe half sheets at times. It might be a normal-sized piece of paper with two manumissions, one on the top and another on the bottom. 

They are promising to free someone, either immediately or in the future. There aren’t a lot of details on whether that promise was ever fully completed or not. These records were turned over to the yearly meetings and the quarterly meetings, which is why we have them. And so at least in that regard, there was some sort of process that Quaker members would go through, in order to demonstrate to their meeting that they were in agreement with the rules. 

Inside Haverford’s Manumission Archives by Martin Kelley, Friends Journal, February 1, 2022

Bibliography:

  • Block, Kristen. Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean: Religion, Colonial Competition, and the Politics of Profit. University of Georgia Press, 2012.
  • Frost, J. William. The Quaker Origins of Antislavery. Norwood Editions, 1980.
  • Gerbner, Katharine. Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.
  • Soderlund, Jean R. Quakers & Slavery: a Divided Spirit. Princeton University Press, 1985.