Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change

We have been so blessed to have had Paula Palmer bring her ministry related to “Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples” to Iowa and Nebraska over the past several days. Supported by Boulder Friends Meeting, the resources for Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples can be found here:

My leading started with a nudge four years ago and grew into a ministry called Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples. This ministry has grown in depth and breadth under the loving care of the Boulder (Colo.) Meeting. Working in partnership with Native American educators, I learned about their efforts to bring healing to the Native people, families, and communities that continue to suffer illness, despair, suicide, violence, and many forms of dysfunction that they trace to the Indian boarding school experience.

Friends Journal, October 2016

Paula spoke on the topic of “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools–Facing Our History and Ourselves” at Scattergood Friends School and Farm, a Quaker boarding school, on July 7. That presentation was followed by Quaker meeting for worship at Scattergood.

On July 10, Paula showed the film “Two Rivers” at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting. The film shows how white people in a rural community in Washington state found Native people who helped them find ways to build bridges between Native people who live in the area and the townspeople. The film shows how relationships began to develop, and more Native and non Native people were drawn into the process. This video is helpful for those who would like to begin to create their own relationships with Native people.

Paula led the workshop “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change” several times, including in Lincoln, Nebraska, West Branch, Iowa, and last night at the First Unitarian Church in Des Moines. This workshop uses a script Paula and Native educators developed to visually show how Native land and population was decimated during the westward expansion of white settlers. Several people filled the roles of facilitator, narrator, Native American, historian and European. Last night those roles were filled by:

  • Kate Allen, European Colonist
  • Lyra Halsten, Narrator
  • Chancy Bittner: Historian
  • Nikira Hernandez – Evans, Native Speaker, associate minister at Plymouth Congregational Church
  • Paula Palmer Facilitator

Kate, Lyra, and Chancy are members of First Unitarian. Following is a brief video of the speakers reading parts of the script.

One of the reasons I think this workshop is so powerful is because the audience participates. People stand on rugs that represent the area of Native land, and are given a piece of paper, the color of which indicates their role. As the narrator describes an historical event that represents either the loss of Native lives, or land, the people holding the color of card that represents that event, leave the circle. For example, the kidnapping of Native children to go to an Indian Boarding School might be related to the color yellow. When that part of the script is read, the people holding the yellow card leave the circle. Every time one of these events occurs, a period of silence is asked for, and everyone in the room reflects on that event.

When the event is about the death or loss of Native people, the number of people left in the circle gets smaller. When the event is about the theft of Native land, the rugs people are standing on, are removed or rolled up, leaving less room for the participants to stand on. The series of photos below show how that process evolves.

At the conclusion of the “rug” exercise, people are invited to share how they felt about the experience.

The following animation is another way to visualize the theft of Native land:

Be sure to look at the “Doables” for many references and resources for things you might do next to work toward right relationships with Native peoples.

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