The Truthsgiving Pledge

So often we don’t know what to do about things that bother us, things we know are not right.

I’m so glad my friends have created the Truthsgiving website that teaches us many ways to learn the truth about Thanksgiving, and ways for us to do the work of decolonizing ourselves.

Generations of American values are responsible for institutionalizing the Thanksgiving mythology, but ultimately, change can occur as individuals awaken to the reality that their Thanksgiving meals celebrate a violent, whitewashed history, and begin the process of truth-telling, healing, and reconciliation.

“Thanksgiving Promotes Whitewashed History, So I Organized Truthsgiving Instead” By Sikowis, aka, Christine Nobiss, Bustle, November 16, 2018

Take the pledge to reject colonial holidays that perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and whitewashed history. 

Truthsgiving Pledge Banner cropped.png

The Pledge has Three Easy Steps


Educate Yourself

What do you know about Native American Indigenous Peoples past and present, and about Indigenous resistance to Thanksgiving? See the list of resources here to get you started.

The greatest opportunity I’ve had to learn about Native American Indigenous Peoples was to walk with a small group of native and nonnative people along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline in 2018. This eight day adventure provided a great deal of time to share our stories with each other. I’m so grateful for the friendships I was blessed to make during that journey. And happy those friendships have continued and deepened since.

I was also glad to help organize workshops and presentations related to Paula Palmer’s ministry “Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples” when she came to Iowa and Nebraska last year.

I’ve also been learning from my Quaker meeting’s years long engagement with the annual Prairie Awakening ceremony held at the Kuehn Conservation Area, which is just a few miles away from our meetinghouse.


Educate Others

Tell at least three people what you’ve learned and encourage them to take the pledge to discuss the truth at their thanksgiving event.

For the past several years I’ve been writing and speaking about what I’ve been learning about settler colonization and indigenous peoples. This is often a subject of my blog posts Blog posts that are often related to things my native friends have spoken, or written about, and events they have organized. I’ve been sharing what I have learned with my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends and Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

I’m glad to have recently become involved with Decolonizing Quakers, which, as the name says, is about ways to help Quakers learn about and address our colonial history.


Give Back

Tell the truth at your thanksgiving gathering or abolish it in your own life and celebrate Truthsgiving by giving back to your community during this day or hosting an event that celebrates Indigenous resistance and honors historical truth.

Traditionally Thanksgiving is related to food. One way I’ve been giving back to my community also relates to food. I’m so glad I met Ronnie James, who is very involved in Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). I’ve been participating in one of DMMA’s projects, a free food store. Each Saturday morning we gather in a church basement to fill about 50 boxes of food, that we then distribute to those who come to the church.

I would be very glad to hear how you have engaged with these three steps of the Truthsgiving Pledge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I only recently heard about Truthsgiving, one of many things I learned from my new friends as we walked during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in September, 2018. The subject came up as we were eating dinner together in Boone, Iowa. The other pictures are from the next morning as we were leaving Boone. (see photos below).

Today most of us White people know the traditional story of Thanksgiving is a lie. But people continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with family gatherings, saying that is what Thanksgiving means to them now. But the truth is that real history has been whitewashed and that Thanksgiving perpetuates white supremacy and romanticized notions about Indigenous Peoples. To celebrate the current Thanksgiving mythology is to celebrate the theft of land through ethnic cleansing and enslavement.”

I’m so glad my friends have created a website of resources to teach us about Truthsgiving. There are many resources there.

Truthsgiving is an ideology that must be enacted through truth telling and mutual aid to discourage colonized ideas about the thanksgiving mythology

Truthsgiving is enacted through truth telling. I’ve always said stories are so important, especially for trying to create change. That’s what I try to do on this blog.


From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

I also love reading the quote above, that Truthsgiving must be enacted through mutual aid. Mutual aid is a wonderful concept my friend Ronnie James has been teaching me about. Teaching by example as we and other friends put together boxes of food to give away each Saturday morning. Des Moines Mutual Aid is a partner of the Truthsgiving Collective.

There are many colonial mythologies about Indigenous Peoples and the founding of the US and Canada. Thanksgiving is one of them, however, in the words of Wamsutta Frank James, Wampanoag, “the Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors, and stolen their corn, wheat, and beans.” The truth is that real history has been whitewashed and that Thanksgiving perpetuates white supremacy and romanticized notions about Indigenous Peoples. To celebrate the current Thanksgiving mythology is to celebrate the theft of land through ethnic cleansing and enslavement. It is a lie that overlooks the genocide of Native American Indigenous Peoples and the enslavement of African Indigenous Peoples in order for settler-vigilantes and colonial militias to steal land and labor–the legacy of which is still felt today.

TRUTHSGIVING The Truth Will Not be Whitewashed

Truthsgiving is an ideology that must be enacted through truth telling and mutual aid to discourage colonized ideas about the thanksgiving mythology—not a name switch so we can keep doing the same thing. It’s about telling and doing the truth on this day so we can stop dangerous stereotypes and whitewashed history from continuing to harm Indigenous lands and Peoples, as well as Black, Latinx, Asian-American and all oppressed folks on Turtle Island.

This website was created to uplift the collective efforts of Tribal Nations, Indigenous-led organizations and Indigenous Persons that are attempting to abolish institutionalized and aggrandized white supremacy that is supported through the thanksgiving mythology

TRUTHSGIVING The Truth Will Not be Whitewashed

The idea of Truthsgiving did not emerge from anything new. Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island have been resisting this mythology since its inception, even when they did not know about it, simply because we have resisted colonization and genocide since Columbus set foot on the lands of the Lucayan People (now known as the Bahamas). 

Modern resistance to the holiday began during the rise of the Red Power movement during the civil rights era. According to Sikowis, “In 1970, the National Day of Mourning was instituted by James, the United American Indians of New England, and the local Wampanoag community as a resistance to Thanksgiving. This alternative holiday is held at Plymouth Rock and has occurred annually for almost 50 years. The National Day of Mourning also coincides with an event on the other side of the country that takes place on Alcatraz Island (an important Native American site). Unthanksgiving Day, also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, is a large cultural event that has been held annually since 1975 and commemorates the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement occupation of 1969. There are, in fact, many anti-Thanksgiving events that occur around the country each year — one of which I have co-organized, called Truthsgiving.”

There are also many other resistance events held all over Turtle Island every year through Indigenous-led organizations and family gatherings where the mythology is overridden. That is how Truthsgiving emerged–as a family gathering to resist Thanksgiving that then turned into local celebrations in Iowa City, organized by Great Plains Action Society founder, Sikowis.

This website was created to uplift the collective efforts of Tribal Nations, Indigenous-led organizations and Indigenous Persons that are attempting to abolish institutionalized and aggrandized white supremacy that is supported through the thanksgiving mythology. It is, so far, a collective effort by organizations in the Midwest.


Posted in Black Lives, decolonize, Des Moines Mutual Aid, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Great Plains Action Society, Indigenous, Mutual Aid, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Racism as a Public Health Threat

I’m not sure what the impact will be, but I’m hopeful this recognition of racism as a public health threat by the American Medical Association might help focus attention on systemic racism in this country. Bring attention to racism as a public health matter to health professionals. Result in study, research and education.

The American Medical Association has officially defined racism as a public health threat that has created substantial health inequality.

Racism, both systemic and structural, has historically perpetuated health inequality and cut short the lives of many Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the US and around the world.

  • The American Medical Association has officially defined racism as a public health threat.
  • “Racism negatively impacts and exacerbates health inequities among historically marginalized communities,” Willarda Edwards, an AMA board member, said in a statement Monday.
  • The AMA said it would enact new policies to address the injustice and work to support research in the area. 
  • Racism has historically perpetuated health inequality and cut short the lives of many Black, indigenous, and people of color in the US.
  • For example, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans are dying in greater numbers than any other ethnic group from COVID-19.

Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a Black OG-GYN in Dallas, told Business Insider AMA’s move is critical to address racial disparities in healthcare from the top down. 

“We fail to realize that there are so many things that occur at the systemic part of healthcare that if we don’t make changes such as the one we’re discussing now, then we’ll never really get to the heart of the problem,” Shepherd said.  

On Monday, the association said it would enact several new policies, including:

  • To “encourage governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations to increase funding for research into the epidemiology of risks and damages related to racism and how to prevent or repair them.”
  • To “encourage the development, implementation and evaluation of undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education programs and curricula that engender greater understanding of the causes, influences, and effects of systemic, cultural, institutional and interpersonal racism.”

The American Medical Association officially recognized racism as a public-health threat, saying it creates and entrenches health inequality by Bill Bostock and Anna Medaris Miller, Business Insider, Nov 17, 2020

Recognizing race as social construct

In an additional move to promote anti-racist practices, the AMA discussed the use of race as a proxy for ancestry, genetics and biology in medical research and health care delivery. Delegates adopted new policy to:

  • Recognize that race is a social construct and is distinct from ethnicity, genetic ancestry or biology.
  • Support ending the practice of using race as a proxy for biology or genetics in medical education, research and clinical practice.

The AMA also will encourage undergraduate medical education, graduate medical education and continuing medical education programs to recognize the harmful effects of presenting race as biology in medical education and that they work to mitigate these effects through curriculum change that:

  • Demonstrates how the category of “race” can influence health outcomes.
  • Supports race as a social construct and not a biological determinant.
  • Presents race within a socioecological model of individual, community and society to explain how racism and systemic oppression result in racial health disparities.

AMA: Racism is a threat to public health by Kevin B. O’Reilly, AMA, NOV 16, 2020

In Iowa, Des Moines Black Liberation Movement has declared a Black State of Emergency.

Luana Nelson-Brown, executive director of Iowa Coalition for Collective Change, said Blacks make up 4% of Iowa’s population, but 31% of gun violence. State money for victim services goes toward sexual assault and domestic abuse, not homicide and other violent crimes, she said. The state has a responsibility to provide resources for the families of homicide victims — especially since a third of them are Black, she said.

Other disparities plague Blacks, Nelson-Brown said, including:

  • Blacks make up 4% of Iowa’s population, but 6% of COVID-19 cases and 4% of COVID-19 deaths, according to the COVID Racial Data Tracker.
  • Black women in Iowa are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies and experience maternal mortality at 3 times the rate of whites. She also said there is a need for data disaggregated by race and for more Doulas.
  • “Black communities were disproportionately affected by the derecho storm, not only in exposure to damage but in the stark difference in relief efforts between black communities and other communities in Iowa. We want to specifically highlight the African refugee community in Cedar Rapids whose housing was completely destroyed, and who were abandoned by their state government without power, running water, food, or shelter for days on end,” she said.

Des Moines Black Lives Matter clarified why it’s now known as the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement. Matthew Bruce, an organizer with BLM, said the group wanted to make sure that “we reflected that not only are we valuing our lives, but we are dismantling the systems that keep us oppressed.”

Black Iowa in ‘State of Emergency’. Activists sound the alarm about the dire longstanding racial disparities harming Black lives by Dana Jamesitor, Black Iowa News, Oct. 14, 2020

Photo: Matthew Bruce, an organizer with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, speaks during a Tuesday press conference at Cheatom Park in Des Moines about the ‘state of emergency’ experienced by Black Iowans. Watch the video.

Posted in race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leaving Iran Nuclear Deal and War

It was just a matter of time before we heard the current administration would be considering military attacks against Iran. Knowledgeable people warned this would happen if the US left the Iran Nuclear Deal, and here we are.

In 2019 I wrote “increasing tensions with Iran now remind me of the work we did in 2015 to get the Iran Nuclear Deal approved. Tensions today are the direct result of the withdrawal of the United States from that deal.”

It was clear it would be a very close vote in Congress to approve the deal.

“While Durbin and Nancy Pelosi were tracking the votes in their respective chambers, the president took a larger part and also played rougher in this fight than had been his custom. He accused Republicans of “making common cause” with Iran’s hard-liners. He stated that the alternatives were the deal or war.  Even some of his allies thought he’d gone a bit overboard with these statements, potentially alienating some undecided Democrats, and he pulled back from them. Obama responded to the requests by Pelosi and Durbin to make calls to wavering Democrats, more calls than he’d made on any previous legislation. He held special briefings in the White House for members of Congress; he participated in a conference call with the outside groups on his side.”

How They Failed to Block the Iran Deal, New York Times, 10/22/2015

In the absence of your voices, you are going to see the same array of voices that got us into the Iraq war, leading to a situation in which we forgo a historic opportunity and we are back on the path of potential military conflict

President Barack Obama

Our work in Indiana to support the Iran deal began with the only time I have been on a conference call with President Barack Obama. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) helped make that call possible.

July 31, 2015

Last night President Obama spoke for half an hour by phone to activists who support him. He described how the Iran deal is a good deal for the United States and all the countries that joined in the negotiations in good faith that they would all agree to the deal. This is the agreement that the international community hammered out and supports. If Congress defeats this bill, that will likely end any influence the United States could have in the Middle East. Opponents of the bill only offer that we need a “better deal”, but have nothing to offer as to what that could possibly be. Those who say we should continue with sanctions don’t understand that is not possible now. Sanctions only work when the international community supports and enforces them. That won’t happen if they see the U.S. cannot agree on a foreign policy, as would be evident if this bill is defeated. There is also the question of who the sanctions hurt, which is the people of Iran, not their leaders. This feeds the movement to join terrorist organizations. An improved standard of living for the Iranian people should help mitigate that. The President specifically asked us to speak out to support this deal. “In the absence of your voices, you are going to see the same array of voices that got us into the Iraq war, leading to a situation in which we forgo a historic opportunity and we are back on the path of potential military conflict,” he said.

August 27, 2015

As a direct result of that call with President Obama, I’ve spent the past week, with the help of Erin Polley, AFSC, organizing the delivery of a petition with over 10,000 Indiana signatures supporting the Iran nuclear deal.  Members of North Meadow Circle of Friends, Indiana Moral Mondays, and MoveOn met with staff of Senator Joe Donnelly’s Indianapolis office yesterday.  Senator Donnelly now supports the deal, so this was a ‘thank you’ event, which the Senator’s staff indicated didn’t happen very often.

The following Minute was approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) the summer of 2015.

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) supports the peaceable agreement among world powers, including the United States and Iran, to dramatically curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing international sanctions against Iran. We hope this will be the beginning of many more peaceful negotiations.

But in May, 2019, the current administration chose to, unilaterally, withdraw from the deal.

The United States announced its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the “Iran nuclear deal” or the “Iran deal”, on May 8, 2018.[1][2][3][4] The JCPOA is an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached in July 2015 by Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security CouncilChinaFranceRussiaUnited Kingdom, United States—plus Germany)[5][6] also called E3/EU+3.

In a joint statement responding to the U.S. withdrawal, the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom stated that United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal remained the “binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute”.[7]

United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

As predicted, Iran has increased its nuclear production, and the current administration is considering an act of war against the country.

When will they ever learn?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Pete Seeger
Posted in Friends Committee on National Legislation, peace, Quaker, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Defending Protestors

Last night Drake University’s National Lawyers Guild held a Zoom panel discussion about Defending Protestors. The panel explored the role the legal community plays in defending activists and their rights to protest and organize.

I found out about the event from an announcement on the Facebook page of my friend Ronnie James, who was on the panel. I was really impressed that there was such an event. I’ve been involved in many vigils and protests and don’t remember there being lawyers present at any of them. Although none of them had any real police presence, or need for there to be any.

One of the roles we did fill when we were organizing our local direct action in Indianapolis related to the Keystone Pledge of Resistance was legal observer. That action wasn’t triggered because President Obama denied the permit to build the pipeline.

There were several legal observers on the panel last night. Legal observers are really helpful resources to have during demonstrations. They can answer protester’s questions, and monitor the legality of what police are doing.

One of the most powerful experiences of the Keystone Resistance was when we took a statement of what we intended to do, to law enforcement officers at the Federal building where our direct action was planned to occur, should the actions nationwide be triggered. We actually had an interesting discussion. Not surprisingly, we learned law enforcement in Federal buildings all over the country already knew about these potential actions.

I was especially interested in this panel discussion because I know one of the projects of Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) is a bail fund. The other two DMMA projects are the free food store, and work to help those who are houseless or facing eviction. So DMMA works on providing basic necessities of food and shelter, and supporting those who are arrested for agitating for change.

During the panel discussion Ronnie spoke about Mutual Aid as a framework for multiple, diverse organizations and people to come together to help the most marginalized people in our communities.

The panel discussion began with the question “why now”? related to the escalation of police brutality in the country in general, and in Des Moines specifically, this year.

The discussion was about how the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered protests, and police responses all over the country, and in Des Moines. It was about the extreme grotesqueness and length of time it took to kill him, all transmitted all over the world via social media.

And social unrest was triggered in relation to the crash of the economy, with millions more becoming unemployed, and struggling to find basic necessities.

It was also the prolonged and varied response of those in Minneapolis, transmitted in real time, that influenced the prolonged protests in Des Moines, which triggered the police response here.

The Des Moines police, showing up in riot gear and aggressively responding escalated tensions. Tear gas and pepper spray were used when they weren’t called for. It was also the false depictions, by the police, of what was going on that was reported in the media.

Police body cam videos were so chaotic that charges against many individual protesters had to be dropped.

Warnings, that I had heard from Ronnie, were made about the dangers of people supporting the protestors, live streaming what was going on. Because the police can use those videos to bring charges. Police were actually scanning the crowd to grab individuals from prior videos from the local news media. Days after protests police went to people’s homes to arrest those they had identified from videos.

State Police also banned individuals who were protest leaders, from the grounds of the State Capitol, in clear violations of constitutional rights.

Some people on the panel felt that police were intentionally bringing multiple, and more severe charges against protestors, in order to try to deplete Des Moines Mutual Aid’s Bail Fund. Ronnie has told me the bail fund has paid the bail for every protestor in central Iowa.

Someone said police actions were the best fundraisers for the bail fund. Another person mentioned that was especially true when police turned their guns on white youth.

There was a heartfelt statement about the difficulty of white people, who grew up believing police are the good guys, finding out they are not always. Most Black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) never had those delusions.

The discussion ended by expressing this was all about community, and supporting those who are most marginalized.

Posted in civil disobedience, decolonize, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Indigenous, Mutual Aid | Leave a comment

The Red Nation Statement on the US Elections 2020

It’s been a stressful year as we’ve experienced the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of which have provided further evidence of the failure of capitalist economic systems in a dramatic way.

Recent years been stressful as politics and policing at all levels have become increasingly violent, oppressive and moving toward austerity at the same time as the continued transfer of massive wealth to those already wealthy.

The Red Nation Statement on the US Elections 2020 articulates much of what I have been praying and thinking about, and learning.

The recent US election highlights the widespread disgust of the type of in-your-face white supremacy exemplified by Donald Trump. The large voter turnout, especially among Black and Indigenous working poor showed that large sections of the population reject his politics.  But it also underscores the extensive support for those very same politics from a significant share of the population. Trumpism is not going away anytime soon.

Thus, while Trump’s defeat is cause for celebration, the roots of white supremacy in the United States are deep and must be confronted. These roots sprout not only fiends like Donald Trump, but a whole political establishment in the service of settler colonialism and world domination. A Biden presidency means a continuation of the very same neoliberal policies that brought us Donald Trump to begin with. These are the politics of war and aggression abroad, and of austerity and police repression at home.

US imperialism is in crisis. This drives the capitalist system towards austerity, increased suffering among the working poor, repression at home and imperialist aggression, subversion and wars abroad. This is not something new and is not something that Trump created in the last four years, although he intensified it. Obama also intensified the suffering, the repression and US aggression abroad during his administration.

TRN Statement on US Elections 2020 Posted on November 15, 2020 by the Editorial Council

My friend Christine Nobiss recently organized “Capitalism is the Pandemic“, that included flying this banner over New York City.

With any crisis there is revolutionary opportunity. We don’t just “make” revolution, it has to be manufactured. It has to be organized. It will not be a continued uprising in the streets. An insurrectionist approach, while valid in its expression, is unsustainable.

What is the way forward? The change that we need requires that the masses of people in this country grasp that capitalism cannot be reformed and that it is headed into ever deeper systemic crisis. Poverty, climate change, police repression, state surveillance, are systemic problems. Already this understanding is reaching larger sections of the population, especially among the most oppressed. Calls for defunding and even abolishing the police spread quite broadly last summer. Steps in that direction are being taken up throughout the country and organized by various groups. These steps weaken the repressive apparatus and allow for broader democracy.

This understanding of the actual social reality in the US is key to building the forces needed to change it. The battle of ideas against the ideology of greed and individualism, and the need for communal organization are key. Communalization is both an Indigenous legacy and an ongoing set of practices that the US settler colonial project has tried to destroy from its inception. But these efforts to maintain a different world endure and point us all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards a better future. Indigenous peoples, peoples of tribal nations, peoples of Maroon communities, peoples of the land have lived before capitalism and against capitalism. They have cultivated relations with each other and the land that do not rely on conquest and surplus but bring abundance and joy and dignity to all. These communal forms should be developed and become schools for freedom. We call these schools for Indigenous socialism. Join us in the struggle to create a better future.

TRN Statement on US Elections 2020 Posted on November 15, 2020 by the Editorial Council

My friend Ronnie James has stated this core idea that “capitalism cannot be reformed.

“I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

As The Red Nation states above, “the need for communal organization” is key. The concept of Mutual Aid is an example of communal organization. Ronnie is a key person in Des Moines’ Mutual Aid work. And has been teaching me about it. I’ve been blessed to be able to participate in the free food store.

I’ve been working for some time now on this diagram, to help me understand the relationships among these things.

Posted in decolonize, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boarding School Healing Virtual Summit

There is a long and tragic history related to the Indian boarding, or residential schools in the lands known as United States and Canada. Not nearly all of them involved Quakers but some did. The topic of the residential schools, their history, the historic and ongoing trauma, and how healing might come about are concerns of many Friends (Quakers) today.

Following is information about an online summit organized by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) that will be held this Wednesday.

The deadline to register is Tuesday, November 17.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) is excited to announce our very first Boarding School Healing Virtual Summit, Healing Narratives: Past, Present, and Future, to be held on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.​

It was our plan to host another in-person Boarding School Healing Conference this year, yet we remain committed to helping keep all of our elders and friends healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided that a Virtual Summit was just the ticket!​

We are grateful for the support of the WK Kellogg Foundation for their support of this Summit. Because of their generosity, we are offering complimentary registration for everyone who wishes to attend but we are encouraging a $25 donation from those who also wish to support this important work to understand and address the ongoing trauma caused by Indian boarding schools. ​

Over the last 7 years, more and more stories from our boarding school survivors and descendants have been offered by our elders. It so important for us to hear these stories and we are grateful. During our first two conferences in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Tulalip, Washington, we were gifted with even more stories about their boarding school experiences and their healing. We must continue to share and listen.

An area of work of Friends Peace Teams is Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples. A number of Quakers and others have experienced workshops and presentations that came out of Paula Palmer’s the call to this ministry.

What would right relationship among Native and non-Native peoples of North America look like? How can we begin to take steps in that direction in our communities, places of worship, schools, and other institutions?

The Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples (TRR) program promotes education, reflection, dialogue, and action in response to these queries.

Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples

Posted in First Nations, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

What does it mean to be a truth teller?

I’ve recently heard about additional experiences of a friend of mine, a Quaker friend. A friend who is a person of color.

She has had many experiences related to racism and White supremacy, in more than one Quaker meeting she has attended.

These are difficult situations, because there were Quakers who were involved in the enslavement of black people. This seems at odds with stories of some Quakers as abolitionists. Both are true.

I’ve been present when there was great tension in Quaker gatherings as we began discussions related to the role of Quakers in forced assimilation of Native children. Discussions even more difficult because some of our ancestors were involved with those Indian boarding schools.

My friend asks, “what does it mean to be a Quaker? Truth teller?”

A truth teller does not try to modify a fact, experience, or idea to hide what is ugly. It is often uncomfortable to tell the truth. (see Brutally Honest Guide to Being Brutally Honest” below).

I have my own stories related to the Quaker Indian boarding schools. In 2018, I was blessed to walk on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. A small group, about a dozen native and dozen nonnative people, walked together along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline. The intention was for us to share each other’s stories, to get to know each other and begin to build some trust so we could work on things of common concern. Which would build more trust.

Knowing some of the terrible history of Quakers and Indian boarding schools, I didn’t know what to do about that as we marched together. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to those discussions, if they came up. I admit I was kind of hoping they would not.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize people would not be able to trust me if I didn’t confront the issue of the boarding schools. For some roleplaying, I imagined I was a native person on the March. What would I think of a White person walking beside me, knowing as I (the native person) did the history of those schools? This was very relevant now because I knew the trauma from the past, such as the trauma of these boarding schools, has been passed from generation to generation.

In other words, the trauma of the Indian boarding schools is affecting the lives of the people I am walking with now. And their families.

“The Past Isn’t Dead. It Isn’t Even Past”

William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

I wrote the following on my blog:

It didn’t take too many hours of getting to know Matthew when the Spirit led me to say to him, “I know about Quakers’ involvement in the Indian boarding schools. I’m sorry they did that.” I was apprehensive about whether I should have said that, whether that was appropriate or could pull up bad memories. We continued to walk side by side. All I noticed was a slight nod of his head. He always smiles, and that didn’t change.

But the next time we walked together, Matthew shared a story with me. He had been living at Standing Rock for about six months, when he learned a new rope was needed to ferry people back and forth across a narrow channel of water. He offered a rope so ferry’s operation could continue. He went on to say his mother called him after she recognized the rope while watching a TV news story. She was very upset because that brought back terrifying memories of how the Native families would try to help their children escape when white men came to kidnap them and take them to a boarding school.

The Past Isn’t

I am certain Matthew and I could not have become friends if we had not shared our stories with each other. I am so grateful he listened to, actually heard, my story. And was willing to share his in return. I imagine it was painful for him to do so. I treasure our friendship now.

I have brought up the issue of Quakers and the Indiana boarding schools with every one of my native friends, at one time or another, since then. And I have been shocked by the traumatic experiences each have had, and continue to have, related to the residential schools.

Truth telling is fundamental for the development of honest, mutual, deep relationships. For the beginnings of trust.

“The Brutally Honest Guide to Being Brutally Honest” by Josh Tucker.

Well, I have to tell you something, and you may not like to hear it. But if you struggle with the art of being frank, you need to hear this. It will make you a better person, a better communicator and a better blogger.
So here it is …
You’re a coward.
If you can’t be brutally honest with people, especially when you know it’s in their best interest, you’re a coward.
You’re not doing anyone a favor by withholding a truth from them, even if it’s difficult for them to hear.
The only person you’re protecting is yourself. Because you’re afraid of the consequences to you.
But it’s not about you.
Being honest is about making sure your audience has the information they need to make good decisions. That includes information they may not like.


Posted in decolonize, Des Moines Mutual Aid, enslavement, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My tree friend

I subscribe to poem-a-day (

Today’s poem is “To the Pine Tree” (which can be found at the end of this).

That reminded me of the blog post I had written in 2019 about my tree friend.

August 26, 2019:

I just returned from an amazing event, the National Network Assembly, held at the Des Moines YMCA Camp near Boone, Iowa. From information about the Assembly we received ahead of time, I knew I wouldn’t have WiFi or cell phone access, so I didn’t even bring my laptop. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post though, there were so many things I wanted to write about and I was missing my (nearly) daily writing, so I wrote two blog posts by hand.

As I sat in Quaker Meeting yesterday, at Bear Creek Friends meeting, which is in a rural setting, surrounded by trees, the image of my tree friend appeared, illuminated by the Inner Light.

Bear Creek Friends meeting near Earlham, Iowa

One thing we talked about at Meeting yesterday was the upcoming ceremony of the planting of two memorial trees on the grounds of the meetinghouse to honor the memories of a married couple who were members and elders of our community.

8/31/2019 Knight tree planting

Please Note: Since I wrote this, Lance Foster told me the land was Ioway land before the Dakota or Meskwaki were there.

To the Pine Tree

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft – 1800-1842

Audio recording of this poem:

Zhingwaak! Zhingwaak! Ingii-ikid, – Pine! Pine! I said,
Weshki waabamag zhingwaak – The one I see, the pine
Dagoshinaan neyab, endanakiiyaan. – I return back, to my homeland.
Zhingwaak, zhingwaak nos sa! – The pine, the pine my father!
Azhigwa gidatisaanan – Already you are colored
Gaagige wezhaawashkozid. – Forever you are green
Mii sa naa azhigwa dagoshinaang – So we already have arrived
Bizindamig ikeyaamban – Listen in that direction
Geget sa, niminwendam – Certainly I am happy
Miinwaa, waabandamaan – And I see
Gii-ayaad awiiya waabandamaan niin – He was there I saw it myself
Zhingwaak, zhingwaak nos sa! – The pine, the pine my father!
Azhigwa gidatisaanan. – Already you are colored.
Gaawiin gego, gaa-waabanda’iyan – Nothing, you did show me
Dibishkoo, ezhi-naagwasiinoon – Like that, the way it looks
Zhingwaak wezhaawashkozid – Pine he is green.
Wiin eta gwanaajiwi wi – He is beautiful
Gaagige wezhaawashkozid. – Forever he is the green one.

Copyright © 2020 by Margaret Noodin. Reprinted with permission of the poet. All rights reserved. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets. 

“To the Pine Tree” appears in When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (W. W. Norton & Company, 2020).

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft was born in 1800 in Sault Ste. Marie, in the northern Great Lakes region of what is now Michigan. She grew up speaking both Ojibwe and English and began writing poems in both languages as a teenager. Schoolcraft was the co-editor of The Muzzeniegun, or Literary Voyager and is considered to be the first known Native American woman writer. She died on May 22, 1842.

My tree friend at the National Network Assembly, Boone, Iowa, August, 2019

Posted in Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Flat or hierarchical world view?

[Note: Capitalization represents a hierarchy]

Mutual Aid is: Making decisions by consensus rather than relying on authority or hierarchy. Mutual Aid 101 #WeGotOurBlock

One of the most significant things I’ve been learning about Mutual Aid is the mutual part, that puts the focus on us working together, rather than “us” helping “them”.

And, related, the organizational model is flat, instead of the hierarchical organizational structures we are so accustomed to. This means no one sees themselves as superior, or above anyone else.

Back in the 1970s I attended the annual retreat of Pittsburgh Friends Meeting. I was in a small group discussion of about ten people and somehow we got on to the topic of how people see the world organized. Only one other person, Margaret McCoy, and I saw the world as a flat, non-hierarchical construct. All the others saw the structure of the world as hierarchical. Everyone is enmeshed in a large number of hierarchical rankings. God is on top. Under him (the use of the pronoun is intentional) is the government – national, state, and then local. Men are over women, parents over children, capitalist over laborers, teachers over students, the educated over the poorly educated, the wealthy over the common people, the famous over others, certain racial groups over other racial groups, American born versus foreign born, the privileged on top, and the rugged individual over the community, and so on and on and on.

I suggest to readers that at this point they should reflect on how they see the world organized, flat or hierarchical.

Reflect back on the founding of the United States. It is well known that those founding fathers considered slaves to be only 3/5 of a person. In addition, though, all women were excluded. Likewise only those few white males with a considerable amount of property were considered eligible to vote. In summary the United States was based on the myth that there were only certain people who were destined to rule the rest of the people in the world. When I arrived at Harvard College in 1961, I was informed, perhaps fifty times in the first few weeks, that as a Harvard man (no women in Harvard in those days), I was one of the elect few that were destined to rule. Even then at eighteen years old, I considered this nonsense as I found that my fellow Harvard students were not a whole lot different than my classmates from my public high school.

Even though at the time of independence in 1776 the United States got rid of the monarchy, American society lauds its elite – the rich, the famous, movie and athletic stars, politicians, and so on. This is a result of the acceptance of the hierarchical zeitgeist of the US. Many who voted for Trump were convinced to vote for him because he was a TV star and a rich man who represented the elite. For a person meshed in a hierarchical mindset, approval of, envy for, and support for an elite person is perfectly normal. This is how the elite continue to rule.

To return to white supremacy, it includes much more than racist classification. As such it can include others who are not “white”. White supremacists are quite willing to include blacks and others if they conform to the white supremacy world view – for example, Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, among many others, comes to mind. This then allows someone like Donald Trump to proclaim that he is not a racist at all.

The implications of this analysis are profound. In order to make American society equal and just, the hierarchical zeitgeist has to be replaced with a flattened view of society. This is a million times more difficult than removing Trump from the presidency.

David Zarembka, The Root of White Supremacy. Report from Kenya #630 – November 13 2020

Following are some things I’ve written and referenced as I’ve been learning about hierarchy.

Mutual Aid has been around since the beginning of human communities. I wasn’t aware of using the idea of Mutual Aid as an organizing concept until I met Ronnie James. As I think about how to characterize his role, I remember one of the important aspects of Mutual Aid is there isn’t a hierarchy with some people in leadership positions. In Mutual Aid, we all take care of each other, and all have an equal say in what we do.

You might notice I say “we” because I have been blessed to join in some of the work of Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). Saturday mornings I look forward to gathering with my new friends to make boxes of food to distribute at the Free Food Store.

A Radical Act, October 29, 2020, Jeff Kisling

Mutual aid is inherently anti-authoritarian, demonstrating how we can do things together in ways we were told not to imagine, and that we can organize human activity without coercion. Most people have never been to a meeting where there was not a boss or authority figure with decision-making power. Most people work or go to school inside hierarchies where disobedience leads to punishment or exclusion. We bring our learned practices of hierarchy with us even when no paycheck or punishment enforces our participation, so even in volunteer groups we often find ourselves in conflicts stemming from learned dominance behaviors. But collective spaces, like mutual aid organizing, can give us opportunities to unlearn conditioning and build new skills and capacities.

By participating in groups in new ways and practicing new ways of being together, we are both building the world we want and becoming the kind of people who could live in such a world together.

“Mutual Aid is essential to our survival” by Dean Spade, Truthout, October 28, 2020

One of the things this past year led me to is to participate in Des Moines Mutual Aid’s free food store. This continues the work of the Black Panther program in Des Moines, that began many years ago. It has been a revelation to see people come together, even during this pandemic, to fill and distribute fifty boxes full of food. To experience the joy as we do this together. And to see this is mutual aid, as we are also encouraged to take food.

I see there is no leadership hierarchy. There are people who have taken on the role of working with grocers and farmers to donate the food. But on Saturday morning the work flows effortlessly. There was one “team huddle” where we formed a circle, and each determined what our role would be as the cars came by one at a time. Someone opened the car door, someone put in a food box, another put in a gallon of milk. Everyone greeted those in the cars. I especially liked it when there were children. The always gave big smiles

Election, November 3, 2020, Jeff Kisling

I wonder why it took me so long to discover mutual aid. As I’ve begun to share this with other Quakers, I was told Quaker meetings, and other churches have always practiced mutual aid. That may be true of some religious bodies some of the time. Unfortunately, I think too many churches of any denomination use the model of ‘us serving them’ which is the opposite of what mutual aid means. Mutual Aid means what is says, working together to help each other. There is no hierarchy. I believe the ‘us versus them’ thinking is what has driven so many away from ‘organized’ religions.

A Radical Act, October 29, 2020, Jeff Kisling

When democracy came to America, it was wrapped in white skin and carrying a burning cross. In the early 19th century, the same state constitutional conventions that gave the vote to propertyless white men disenfranchised free Blacks. For the bulk of our republic’s history, racial hierarchy took precedence over democracy. Across the past half century, the U.S. has shed its official caste system, and almost all white Americans have made peace with sharing this polity with people of other phenotypes. But forfeiting de jure supremacy is one thing; handing over de facto ownership of America’s mainstream politics, culture, and history is quite another. And as legal immigration diversifies America’s electorate while the nation’s unpaid debts to its Black population accrue interest and spur unrest, democracy has begun to seek more radical concessions from those who retain an attachment to white identity. A majority of light-skinned Americans may value their republic more than their (tacit) racial dominance. But sometimes, minorities rule.

Many GOP Voters Value America’s Whiteness More Than Its Democracy by Eric Levitz, Intelligencer, SEPT. 2, 2020

Fania Davis of the Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth points to the work community organizers have done in schools, prisons and other parts of the community, including organizations like MPD 150 in Minneapolis, and Showing up for Racial Justice. “We can’t rely on existing systems or governments to lead these processes,” she says. “If these processes are hierarchical, or top-down, or government-centered, we will just create a new future of hierarchy and systems of dominations.”

Does America Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? by SARAH SOULI, POLITICO, 08/16/2020

This pandemic has brought into sharper relief what some of us have always known to be true: Capitalism, and the culture of hierarchy that props it up, is extremely screwed up. Rich celebrities like Kris Jenner are getting tested for coronavirus without having symptoms, while regular people who do show symptoms have a tough time getting tests. A journalist at a White House press briefing asked President Donald Trump, “How are non-symptomatic professional athletes getting tests while others are waiting in line and can’t get them? Do the well-connected go to the front of the line?” The president responded by saying, “No, I wouldn’t say so. But perhaps that’s been the story of life.”

The Coronavirus Pandemic Demonstrates the Failures of Capitalism by BY KANDIST MALLETT, Teen Vogue, March 24, 2020

The basic idea is that, in the face of the huge problems we are facing, we are taught that we need solutions with a huge impact in order to address them.  He (Eisenstein) writes about an implicit hierarchy that values the contributions of some kinds of people more than others–those with big reach, basically.  “That valuation is, you may notice, nearly identical to the dominant culture’s allocation of status and power–a fact that should give us pause.”

“The logic of bigness devalues the grandmother spending all day with her granddaughter, the gardener restoring just one small corner of earth to health, the activist working to free one orca from captivity.  It devalues anything that seemingly could not have much of a macrocosmic effect on the world.  It devalues the feminine, the intimate, the personal, and the quiet.  It devalues the very same things that global capitalism, patriarch, and technology have devalued.”

“We all have another source of knowledge that holds the small, personal actions sacred.  If a loved one has an emergency, we drop everything to help them because it feels like the most important thing we could possibly be doing at the moment.”

For Big Problems, Small Solutions, by Charles Eisenstein, UNTE, Winter, 2016

Posted in Des Moines Mutual Aid, Uncategorized | Leave a comment