Reflections — Decolonizing Quakers

Yesterday I wrote about the new website Decolonizing Quakers. I appreciate this quote from the site: “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 the section labeled “About Us”, which was included in my blog post yesterday, the next section is “Reflections”.


One of the reflections is a sermon by Paula Palmer. Paula spent several days with us in Iowa this summer, leading workshops and giving presentations related to her ministry, “Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples”.

One thing I’ve learned from living and working with Native peoples is to be attentive to place – to the earth beneath our feet, to all the living beings that surround us, and to the humans whose stories are embedded in the land. That’s why we began today’s service by acknowledging the Piscataway people – their history on this land and their continuing presence here today. Native peoples are asking churches and civic organizations around the country to open our services and meetings with acknowledgments like this. (see the land acknowledgement for Iowa below). It’s a way for us to recognize the Native peoples who live here today, and remember those whose ancestors lived and died here – right here. We can connect with them through the land.

  • Think for a moment about places on this continent that are meaningful to you…
  • Let your mind travel to one of those places that you know and love.
  • Close your eyes, picture it.
  • Now imagine that place as it might have been before you or your ancestors knew it, before colonists from other continents arrived.
  • Who were the people there, living and moving along the same rivers and shorelines and hills and valleys that you see in your mind’s eye?
  • What were their names?
  • Where did they go?
  • What happened?
  • Where are they now?

Reflections, Paula Palmer Sermon

My Reflection – The photo that changed my life

The place that is most meaningful to me is the Rocky Mountains.

One of the many things I’m learning from Indigenous ways is the Spirit is in all things, including animals, plants, water, sky and mountains. I felt this deeply when I was in the forests and mountains. I’ve heard others express this in various ways as feeling closer to God, and that was how I felt.

This spiritual connection I developed with the mountains, lakes and forests had profound consequences in my life.

When I moved to Indianapolis in 1971, the city was enveloped in smog. This was before catalytic converters, which began to appear in 1975. When I saw the polluted air, I had a profound spiritual vision of the Rocky Mountains being hidden by clouds of smog. The possibility that I would no longer be able to see the mountains shook me to my core.

I was thinking specifically about the photo below, and how terrible it would be to no longer be able to see Long’s Peak. Although I now have many photos of the same view, I was thinking of this black and white photo specifically when I had that vision. The quality isn’t near what I get now with a digital camera. And I developed the film and the print in a darkroom. But this is the one connected to my vision.

Long’s Peak from Moraine Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Iowa Land Acknowledgement Statement

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.

Statement reviewed by the Meskwaki Nation
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