Quakers and Indigenous Peoples

One evening last year at the annual meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) there was a panel discussion about “Building Bridges with Native Americans.”  On the panel were Christina Nobiss (Indigenous Iowa), Donnielle Wanatee (Meskwaki tribe and settlement) and Peter Clay (Des Moines Valley Friends). From the Yearly Meeting Minutes:

Peter shared what he has learned this past year from going to the Oceti Sacowin Camp at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Christina spoke of her role in establishing ‘Indigenous Iowa’ and ‘Little Creek Camp’ and stressed the importance of decolonizing our minds and including a true history of Native Americans in the history of all of us so that we can move forward together. Donnielle Wanatee spoke of the importance of building community, and how the history of the Meskwaki tribe and settlement teaches valuable ways to do this. Both Christina and Donnielle emphasized that we all come from somewhere, are all “indigenous”, our stories and intertwined, and by not fearing but embracing the truth in our history, we can come to understand that “we are one”.

At the end of that panel discussion, Donnielle invited us to attend the annual Meskwaki Powwow, which my father and I did.  (This blog post discusses permission to use these photos and the concept of cultural appropriation. I was asked to share my photos with the powwow, and did.)

September 8 last year my parents dropped me and my bicycle off in Des Moines at the State Capitol building where a group of us, including Christina, delivered a petition to the governor’s office, asking for the removal of Richard W. Lozier, Jr. from the Iowa Utilities Board, because of his close ties to the fossil fuel industry. This was one of several things I was involved with as part of the national StopETP (Energy Transfer Partners) campaign events held all over the country this weekend.


After the petition delivery, I rode my bicycle forty miles to Bear Creek Friends meeting.

The next day, as another event related to the StopETP weekend, Bear Creek Meeting invited people to attend an evening discussion about Native Americans and the Dakota Access Pipeline. I shared some of my experiences related to Nahko and Medicine for the People. The first clip I shared was Nahko saying:

Where my warriors at?
And so I feel like what has been said many times tonight and I appreciate the sentiment that we can say this now in this time and this generation is that prayer is the most G thing you can do homey. And I can say that for my life, in the things that have happened in my life, the anger, for the pain, for the hate, that I’ve carried, that forgiveness, and therefore remembering to pray for those that oppressed us, is the most powerful testament to mankind.

More about that evening can be found here: https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/september-journey-day-2/

The next day, Sunday, the third day of this journey, was the day of the Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony. Bear Creek Friends have worked to support this event for many years. Having heard about this for years, I was excited to finally be able to attend myself. I was truly amazed at the beauty and power of the many things that occurred there. The full description of this can be found here: https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/september-journey-day-3-prairie-awakening/ (I asked permission to take those photos, too, and they were shared with the people who organized the event.)

This February 3rd I had another chance to be with both Donnielle and Christina. Ed Fallon (Bold Iowa) organized a van trip to Minneapolis the day before the Super Bowl was held there, where we held a rally against funding pipelines at the headquarters of US Bank. Donnielle was in the van and I mentioned I had heard her speak at the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) panel discussion last summer, and that Dad and I attended the Meskwaki Powwow. She and Christina both spoke during the event.

I also saw Christina and Ed at both the “March for Our Lives”, and Poor People’s Campaign events.

Recently my friend Peter Clay (who was part of the Yearly Meeting panel discussion mentioned above) was able to attend the Truth and Healing conference at Pendle Hill. His first report of that follows. He asks a number of questions for us all to consider.

With support from Iowa Yearly Meeting and Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting I attended the Truth and Healing conference at Pendle Hill during the first week of May. The impact of this gathering on all who attended was profound. There was a rich diversity among those in attendance. Included were many Quakers and some non-Quakers. Many Indigenous people were also present, and their voices were given deeply respectful attention.

At the beginning, we acknowledged that we were gathered on the Lenapehokink — the traditional lands of the Lenape tribal nations. Do Des Moines Valley Friends ever think about on whose land our Meetinghouse is sited? Do we have permission to be here? The Iowa Tribe was here long before us and the place where we meet is certainly stolen land. Are Friends in our meeting ready to acknowledge these truths? Would we consider putting up a plaque on our building to plainly state on whose land we gather each week for worship? I invite all of us to reflect on these questions, and many others.

The terrible harm that Quakers knowingly participated in by overseeing about thirty of the more than 350 Indian Boarding Schools in the United States needs to be studied and fully acknowledged. Emphatically, it is NOT something in the past! The trauma that we caused reverberates to this day through intergenerational impacts on families. It is long past time to consider how we are led to speak and what actions we will take today in seeking to heal both ourselves and the Indigenous Peoples whom we harmed.

There is so much more to share. This is a start. Below is a partial description of the conference, from the Pendle Hill website:

“Both Canada and the United States of America are built on the so-called Christian Doctrine of Discovery, which purports to justify the theft of land and resources and the enslavement or destruction of many Nations. As descendants of European settlers, Quakers benefitted and benefit from this history. Even when well-intentioned, Quakers often played a paternalistic role with Indigenous Peoples, and US Quakers ran Indian Boarding Schools, enterprises designed to erase Indian language and culture from Native youth – “Kill the Indian . . . Save the Man.”

As Friends, we rarely talk about our continuing benefit from this history or about our roles as invasive peoples on what the Original Peoples of this land called Turtle Island. We invite Quakers from throughout Canada and the United States to gather at Pendle Hill to meet together with Indigenous people, to hear truth spoken plainly, to listen deeply with open hearts and minds, and to seek together ways of acknowledging ongoing and intergenerational injuries, owning responsibility, and repairing injustice as Spirit guides us.”

I joined those who gathered and I was changed by what I heard, saw and learned.  Peter Clay

I look forward to continuing to build bridges. Here are several more opportunities to do so. The 104th Meskwaki Powwow will be held August 9-12 this year, at the settlement at Tama, Iowa. I haven’t heard the date for the next Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony. September 1-8 there will be a First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March from Des Moines to Fort Dodge. I plan to be part of that.

climate march poster


This entry was posted in #NDAPL, Indigenous, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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