For decades I’ve watched the failure of white dominant society to address the increasingly dire threats to Mother Earth.
So I began looking for ways to learn more about Native peoples, who have always known of the sacredness of our environment and relationships with each other. I’ve written extensively about my journey along this path: https://jeffkisling.com/?s=native
As it says below, “the decolonizing that needs to take place, both the educating and the healing, are matters of urgency to the survival of the human species and the health of the Earth as Mother of us All.“
After dinner on the seventh day of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Trisha CaxSep GuWign Etringer led a very interesting discussion about decolonization. (Trisha also opened the evening when the Green New Deal Tour came to Des Moines, and spoke about the importance of Indigenous leadership as the Green New Deal begins to take shape).
I appreciated the recent presentation from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL): Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day: The Long Arc of FCNL Advocacy.
Since 1976, FCNL’s Native American advocacy program has worked to restore and improve U.S. relations with Native nations so that our country honors the promises made in hundreds of treaties with these groups. FCNL provides information to Congressional offices and to national faith groups about the continuing struggles of Native people and advocates in support the resilient and inventive solutions proposed by tribal governments and Native American organizations.Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
One of the panelists at the FCNL presentation was my friend Ruth Flower. I had just learned about a new website titled “Decolonizing Quakers: Seeking Right Relationship With Native Peoples“. This shouldn’t be confused with Paula Palmer’s work “Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples”, which has a similar purpose.
Decolonizing Quakers also has a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/DecolonizingQuakers/
I hadn’t known, until the FCNL presentation, that Ruth was very involved in this effort. That’s not surprising since a good deal of her work at FCNL was Native American advocacy.
The following is from the Decolonizing Quakers website.
We are a group of North American Quakers of multiple ethnicities and backgrounds seeking to:
- Learn, receive, own, and act upon the truth of Quaker history with Indigenous Peoples, to explore the wounds resulting from this history for all peoples impacted, learn how to move toward healing those wounds, and engage in actions that recognize the dignity of all those concerned;
- Support each other practically and spiritually as we work on this concern as individuals, and in our efforts to raise awareness within the broader Quaker community;
- Offer support, information, and resources for non-Indigenous Quakers to help them discern and develop relationships of greater integrity with Indigenous Peoples, within and beyond the Quaker community;
- Acknowledge, honor and respect Indigenous ways of knowing that offer non-Western/non-colonial paradigms, including potential approaches to environmental, social, economic and spiritual conditions that threaten us all;
- Walk respectfully in ways that increase cultural integrity and justice for Indigenous governments, communities, and for the Earth.
We understand our call to be part of a broader call to address the spiritual distortion of racism, the societal heritage of colonization, and the domination paradigm of human beings within the Earth community.
How We Came Together
Decolonizing Quakers is an organization that had its origins in a conference at Pendle Hill in May 2018 entitled “Truth and Healing: Quakers Seeking Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” which involved Quakers of multiple ethnic identities and some indigenous people who did not identify as Quaker. At that conference, Maggie Edmondson felt a leading to organize a North American group of Quakers to continue the work that was identified as ours to do, institutionally and individually as Quakers. A steering committee formed in the months following the conference to discern the way forward.
The steering committee has met monthly since July 2018 and has wrestled with a statement of purpose that has evolved as its members have acknowledged the complex interconnectedness of issues: The North American experience shares commonalities with the dismissal and attempted erasure of Indigenous Peoples worldwide and particularly, with English-colonized countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The work of decolonizing the mindsets, patterns, and cultural domination of those who have benefited from colonization and of decolonizing the minds, patterns, and cultural subordination and attempted erasure of those who have suffered from colonization are different, interconnected, and necessary. Some of this work needs to proceed independently without causing further injury to Indigenous Peoples by placing a burden on Native peoples to “educate” European-Americans, and yet has to proceed in relationship with and following the leadership of Native peoples.
The decolonizing that needs to take place, both the educating and the healing, are matters of urgency to the survival of the human species and the health of the Earth as Mother of us All. Part of our struggle has been to define a mission and purpose that can remain sufficiently focused to be effective and at the same time recognize that it is only a part of a broader vision of healing.
There is a great deal of information on the website. For example, Re-Learning is a good place to start.
Indigenous people and settlers share a history — some of us are survivors of that history, some of us benefited from it, and some of us carry both survival and benefits through our ancestors. This deep historical conflict divides all our relations from one another and ourselves. To heal and move forward from this history, we need to know what happened so that we can better recognize our to decolonize our minds, our hearts, and our actions.