Quaker Social Concerns as Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

We are moving further into chaotic times. I started to list all the ways, but there are so many, and you know what they are. People seem paralyzed by the destruction of our environment, and collapse of political and economic systems.

Quakers were once known for our work for peace and justice. Despite the hard work of many, there have been few successes for decades. Many Friends are as overwhelmed as the general public. I’ve become increasingly aware of the problems old, white males such as myself inherently, negatively have on injustices. And similarly the more general injustices of white supremacy.

Added to that are the foundational injustices related to enslavement and continue oppression of black people, and genocide and theft of land from indigenous peoples. Of colonial capitalism. In hindsight, we white people should have recognized the futility of attempts to create change within the context of these underlying, unjust systems.

Increasingly, black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) are rightfully demanding accountability for these damages. Which includes replacing colonial capitalism, and the insidious influence of white supremacy,

BIPOC and a few white folks are building alternatives now.

Mutual Aid is a way for people to work together to solve problems that affect everyone in local communities. One of the keys of Mutual Aid is everyone has a say in what is done. This intentional flat, or horizontal hierarchy is the way white supremacy, which is by definition a vertical hierarchy, is defeated. It can’t be both.

The other problem with vertical hierarchies is those on the bottom are waiting for help from above. Help that rarely comes and is always inadequate.

Yet another great thing about Mutual Aid is changing the dynamics from one group helping another, to all of us being in this together. When I participate in the food giveaway, everyone helping distribute the food is always very friendly and respectful to those who find themselves needing the food. They shouldn’t be blamed for the failure of the system. We know we may well find ourselves needing food in the future.

Following is the best description of LANDBACK that I’ve found so far.

But the idea of “landback” — returning land to the stewardship of Indigenous peoples — has existed in different forms since colonial governments seized it in the first place. “Any time an Indigenous person or nation has pushed back against the oppressive state, they are exercising some form of landback,” says Nickita Longman, a community organizer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The movement goes beyond the transfer of deeds to include respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water. Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.

Returning the Land. Four Indigenous leaders share insights about the growing landback movement and what it means for the planet, by Claire Elise Thompson, Grist, February 25, 2020

There are several reasons I’ve been praying, studying, and writing about LANDBACK. Most importantly my Native friends have told me the best way to support them is by doing so. Those who work for justice hear we need to follow the leadership of the communities impacted by injustice.

To summarize, I think Quakers should do the following:

  • Build Mutual Aid communities with our neighbors
  • Find ways to learn from native peoples how we can support them. How we can do our part in the concept of LANDBACK. I found indigenous people to learn from because of their involvement in Mutual Aid

I would also encourage Friends to stop trying to tweak inherently unjust systems.

There are a number of reasons why this is urgent.

It is becoming increasing clear how quickly and deeply we are moving into greater environmental chaos. Indigenous peoples have the knowledge and Spirit to do the best that can be done in these increasingly dire circumstances.

And white people need to do our part to accept our accountability for the grievous damage done to indigenous peoples. The recent confirmation of the remains of native children at a Canadian residential schools has devastated my indigenous friends and me. In part because this is a reminder of the tens of thousands of native children forced to attend such schools in the United States as well as Canada. Of thousands of those children subjected to all kinds of abuse. Thousands who died.

White people cannot continue to act as if these things aren’t their problem, especially if we have any hope of working together.

This is a diagram I’ve been working on to try to illustrate these ideas.





This entry was posted in capitalism, climate change, Des Moines Mutual Aid, enslavement, Indigenous, LANDBACK, Mutual Aid, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized, white supremacy. Bookmark the permalink.

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