Peace, Social Concerns and Native Peoples

Yesterday I discussed the visionary statements we wrote during our Peace and Social Concerns committee meetings this summer at Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

One area of ongoing interest and concern is our relationships with Native peoples. The blog post at this link summarizes some past work of our Yearly Meeting regarding Native Americans: Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friends and Indigenous Peoples. This has been the focus of my spiritual work, study and activities for several years now. Participating on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in September, 2018, was transformative for me. As a group of about forty Native and non-native people walked 94 miles over 8 days together, along the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline, I was blessed to make so many friendships. Now I have Native friends who can help me learn more about Indigenous life and spiritual practices.

As written below, we were fortunate to have Paula Palmer with us this summer, leading workshops related to “Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples”. More about that can be found here: https://jeffkisling.com/?s=toward+right+relationships. One important thing related to that was writing a land acknowledgement statement, describing the history of the land we are meeting on. I encourage Friends who don’t have such a statement yet to write one. Consulting with Native people in your area to help write, and verify the accuracy of your statement will help you build relationships with Native peoples.

Following is part of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee report that was approved this summer.

To this day we have not come to grips with fundamental injustices our country was built on, the cultural genocide and theft of land from Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans and the legal justifications of bestowing rights and privileges on white land-owning men. The consequences of these injustices continue to plague our society today. And will continue to impact us until we do what is necessary to bring these injustices to light and find ways to heal these wounds.

Several Friends recently assisted Boulder Meeting Friend, Paula Palmer, to lead workshops and discussions as part of her ministry “toward right relationships with Native people.” Part of the tragedy of the theft of Native land is that some Native people don’t have the concept of land as property, belonging to a landowner. Rather they have a spiritual connection to Mother Earth, that the land is sacred and not something that can be claimed as property by anyone. Being forced to leave their land broke their spiritual bonds with the land.

Native people have asked us to begin work toward reconciliation and healing. The first step needed is truth telling, recognizing that injury or harm has taken place. One of the important parts of holding “right relationship” workshops is to determine which Native nations were on the land before white settlers arrived. The following Land Acknowledgement for Iowa was approved by the Meskwaki Nation. We encourage Friends to read this acknowledgement statement when meetings take place on the land called Iowa.

We begin by acknowledging that the Land between Two Rivers, where we sit and stand today, has been the traditional homeland for many independent nations. These include the Ioway and the Otoe, who were here since before recorded time. The Omaha and the Ponca were here, moving to new lands before white settlers arrived. The Pawnee used this land for hunting grounds. The Sioux, Sauk and Meskwaki were here long before European settlers came. Members of many different Indigenous nations have lived on these plains. Let us remember that we occupy their homeland and that this land was taken by force. Today, only the Meskwaki Nation, the Red Earth People, maintain their sovereignty on their land in the state of Iowa. They persevered and refused to be dispossessed of their home. Place names all over our state recognize famous Meskwaki chiefs of the 1800s like Poweshiek, Wapello, Appanoose, and Taiomah or Tama. We honor the Meskwaki Nation for their courage, and for maintaining their language, culture and spirituality. May our time together bring respectful new openings for right relationship to grow.

Iowa Land Acknowledgement Statement

Part of the healing needed relates to the forced assimilation that was attempted, and often time occurred, by kidnapping Native children and taking them to Indian Boarding Schools. This was the topic of Paula’s presentation at Scattergood Friends School and Farm. Some may question why this needs to be discussed today. The reason is for the truth telling, and to name how whiteness historically ignores the multigenerational trauma imposed upon indigenous people. Healing begins when truth telling begins. Multi-generational trauma affects Native people today. One Friend shared with a Native friend that he knew about the Quaker Indian Boarding Schools, and he was sorry for what happened. His friend then told about a phone call from his mother when he was at Standing Rock. She was very distraught because she recognized the rope used to tow a boat across a narrow channel of water, and it reminded her of the Indians using a similar boat and tow rope to help the Native children escape when white men came to take them to boarding schools.

Some Friends have been working to support the concept of an indigenous led Green New Deal. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) is supporting the youth organization, the Sunrise Movement, that has been successful in moving toward a Green New Deal.


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