An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

Yesterday I wrote at length why I’ve been led to leave Quakers for the time being. This morning I’m feeling a bit like “what have I done?” And what does that mean? Buried so deep in that lengthy article that few probably managed to read all the way through, was the following epistle. Recently a number of Friends have told me they have similar thoughts about Quakers today.

So what comes to me this morning are two things. If you would like to be a signatory of the epistle, let me know. I plan to have the epistle posted online, and updated with any other signatures that might come in.

Secondly, if you are interest in engaging with me, and hopefully other like-minded Friends, you can send me an email at jakislin@outlook.com. I’m not sure if there will be an email list, or Facebook group or what. If you have suggestions along those lines, let me know.

An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

Dear Friends,

The measure of a community is how the needs of its people are met. No one should go hungry, or without shelter or healthcare. Yet in this country known as the United States millions struggle to survive. The capitalist economic system creates hunger, houselessness, illness that is preventable and despair. A system that requires money for goods and services denies basic needs to anyone who does not have money. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected. Systemic racism. The capitalist system that supports the white materialistic lifestyle is built on stolen land and genocide of Indigenous peoples, and the labor of those who were enslaved in the past or are forced to live on poverty wages today.

Capitalism is revealed as an unjust, untenable system, when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores, but men, women and children are going hungry, living on the streets outside. White supremacy violently enforces the will of wealthy white people on the rest of us.

It has become clear to some of us who are called Friends that the colonial capitalist economic system and white supremacy are contrary to the Spirit and we must find a better way. We conscientiously object to and resist capitalism and white supremacy.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices. 
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement

Mutual Aid

How do we resist? We rebuild our communities in ways not based upon money. Such communities thrive all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always lived this way. Generations of white people once did so in this country. Mutual Aid is a framework that can help us do this today.

The concept of Mutual Aid is simple to explain but can result in transformative change. Mutual Aid involves everyone coming together to find a solution for problems we all face. This is a radical departure from “us” helping “them”. Instead, we all work together to find and implement solutions.  To work together means we must be physically present with each other. Mutual Aid cannot be done by committee or donations. We build Beloved communities as we get to know each other. Build solidarity. An important part of Mutual Aid is creating these networks of people who know and trust each other. When new challenges arise, these networks are in place, ready to meet them.

Another important part of Mutual Aid is the transformation of those involved. This means both those who are providing help, and those receiving it.

With Mutual Aid, people learn to live in a community where there is no vertical hierarchy. A community where everyone has a voice. A model that results in enthusiastic participation. A model that makes the vertical hierarchy required for white supremacy impossible.

Commonly there are several Mutual Aid projects in a community. The initial projects usually relate to survival needs. One might be a food giveaway. Another helping those who need shelter. Many Mutual Aid groups often have a bail fund, to support those arrested for agitating for change. And accompany those arrested when they go to court.

LANDBACK

The other component necessary to move away from colonial capitalism and white supremacy is LANDBACK.

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

What will Friends do?

It matters little what people say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words.  Thus, we Friends may say there should not be hunger and poverty, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that leaves many without basic necessities and violently enforces white supremacy, our example will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions.  Let our lives show that we oppose the capitalist system and white supremacy, and the damages that result.  We can engage in efforts, such as Mutual Aid and LANDBACK, to build Beloved community. To reach out to our neighbors to join us.

We must begin by changing our own lives if we hope to make a real testimony for peace and justice.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and sisters and brothers,

Jeff Kisling (and, soon, hopefully, others)

Note: Modeled from ‘An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription’

Posted in #LANDBACK, capitalism, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Indigenous, Mutual Aid, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized, white supremacy | Leave a comment

Spiritual discernment to leave Quakers

ABSTRACT

For months I’ve been in significant spiritual distress. I’ve been learning a great deal from my Native friends, and working with them on Mutual Aid projects. And they tell me the way white people can best support them is by embracing and teaching others about LANDBACK.

I caused conflicts in my Quaker meeting because I wanted them to join me in the work of Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. Despite my efforts to explain this, they haven’t had the time or the experiences that would make them understand all of this, yet.

At the same time I felt I was letting my Native friends down, because I wasn’t making some of the changes I wanted to make in my life. Which could be an example of how white people can join their work with Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This happened because I let myself be constrained by my Quaker community.

The solution the Spirit led me to was to leave my Quaker community, at least temporarily. That would remove the conflicts I am causing there. I hope and pray, with time, my Quaker friends will come to see the path forward is Mutual Aid and LANDBACK.

As environmental chaos deepens, with the resulting collapse of the colonial capitalist economic system and the political systems propping up white supremacy, we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Ideally those would be Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This is powerful incentive to embrace these concepts now.


Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

As I began to write this article several days ago, I wrote “its been a long time since I’ve felt this lost.” I’ve been struggling with Quaker history and present related to black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). Miraculously, praying since then and spending yet another Saturday morning with my Mutual Aid family at our food giveaway, a clear vision of what I am being led to do has emerged. As is often the case, the answer seems so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t realize it before.

What I’m about to do is step away from my Quaker meeting, for reasons I’ll try to explain here.

Since moving to Iowa three years ago I’ve been blessed to become good friends with a number of Native people. It was transformative to walk and camp for a week, 94 miles along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline with a small group of Native and non-native people. About 25 of us. Someone pointed out it was a sacred journey. One purpose of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was for the group to begin to get to know each other. Begin to build trust so we could work together on things of common concern going forward. This succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.
See: First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March (firstnationfarmer.com)

Since then, we would come together for various actions. For example to lobby Senator Grassley’s staff about legislation that would affect Native peoples. And for Indigenous People’s Day, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, to get rid of racist statues, support the black liberation movement.

As I was preparing to go on that March in 2018, I thought a lot about Quakers’ participation in the Native residential schools in the late 1800’s. When I first heard about this, I assumed the Quakers involved were doing a good thing, as they helped the Native children learn how to live in the white culture that was beginning to envelop them.

So much for assumptions. I am not judging those Quakers. What I am judging is the very idea that white settlers thought they had to try to forcibly assimilate Native children. The very idea that Native culture needed to be replaced, erased. Very recently what I learned was even worse. That cruelty was to crush the resistance of Natives peoples as they were forced off their lands. The more I learned about this, the more distraught I became.

Of course the children’s parents, their whole tribe, suffered immeasurably as well. Every child subsequently born into these Native communities grew up and became aware of these tragedies, and were thus traumatized themselves. Native people alive today are suffering. In numerous ways I’ve seen that suffering of my Native friends.

Returning to the Climate Unity March, I wondered if and how I should bring up the subject of the residential schools. People on the March became aware that I am a Quaker, as was my friend Peter Clay who also participated on the March. I wondered if bringing up the schools would add to the trauma of the Native folks I was beginning to know.

The biggest reason for my hesitation was fear of their reaction if I did bring it up. Of perhaps anger and/or condemnation.

Walking and camping together over eight days afforded opportunities to share our stories with each other. As we got to know each other, we shared more intimate stories. Early in our time together, I began to feel very uncomfortable about not bringing up the subject of the Indian Boarding Schools. Not doing so felt like an act of omission. Felt dishonest. I did not think it would not be possible for trust to be built without somehow addressing this history. Following is the story of how sharing that history came about, and the reaction to it.

It didn’t take too many hours of getting to know Matthew when the Spirit led me to say to him, “I know about Quakers’ involvement in the Indian boarding schools. I’m sorry they did that.” I was apprehensive about whether I should have said that, whether that was appropriate or could pull up bad memories. We continued to walk side by side. All I noticed was a slight nod of his head. He always smiles, and that didn’t change.

But as we walked together a little later, Matthew shared a story with me. He had been living at Standing Rock for about six months. When he learned a new rope was needed to ferry people back and forth across a narrow channel of water, he offered his rope so the ferry’s operation could continue. He went on to say his mother called him after she recognized the rope while watching a TV news story. She was very upset because that brought back terrifying memories of how the Native families would try to help their children escape when white men came to kidnap them and take them to a boarding school.

Later that day he was shooting a video, and as I came into the picture he waved and said, “hi buddy”, and we both laughed. Every time we saw each other after that, we would say “hi buddy” and laugh. We have kept in touch and maintained our friendship since.

I don’t believe that would have happened if we had not shared our stories about the residential schools. I didn’t bring up the subject with anyone else during the March. But over the next few years, when it seemed an appropriate time, I brought this up with each of my friends. One shared this was a good first step. Several told me briefly of their family’s experiences. Their hurt was palpable as they spoke.

My friend Paula Palmer wrote an excellent article for Friends Journal, Oct 1, 2016. “Quaker Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves”.

In the same way I couldn’t understand the involvement of so many Quakers in the slave trade, and having enslaved people, I couldn’t understand Quaker’s involvement with forced assimilation.

Some Quakers were involved in the Underground Railroad, to help people who had been enslaved escape from the South. Many Friends today bring up those stories in an attempt to indicate Quakers did some good related to enslavement and racial justice. It appears not that many Quakers were actually involved in the Underground Railroad. And in any case, people should not take credit for things they themselves didn’t do.

But there aren’t even such stories of Quakers’ work regarding the Native residential schools.

What does this mean for Quakers today?

First, there is very little diversity in most Quaker meetings in the country called the United States. Do white Friends think about this in relation to our history?

In the past Friends were sometimes called peculiar people as a result of public examples of their faith. For an example, Quakers would not do things like remove their hats when approaching others, or use titles to address people, such as “your highness” because they did not believe certain people were better than others. Many Friends were imprisoned for such actions.

Today most Friends are so integrated into society you don’t know they are Quakers. This begins to explain why I feel I need to distance myself from Friends. We need to make our lives reflect our concerns, to be public examples of our support for BIPOC folks. We can say we are for racial justice and Indigenous rights, but how do we actually do that? Especially when our daily lives benefit from the labor of enslaved people, and lands stolen from Native peoples. Every day. My BIPOC friends don’t care about what I say, but do care about what I do.

We can choose how much we engage with the culture of white supremacy. The culture behind the idea of forced assimilation of Native children. A culture that feels it does not have to honor treaties with tribal nations. A culture that feels it can pollute and otherwise destroy the water, land and air Native people try to protect, for the benefit of us all.

And there is the white, mainstream economic system of colonial capitalism Quakers are living in. A system that puts a price on everything, including what is priceless. A system of economic servitude that requires money for any commodity or service. That doesn’t care if people are hungry or living on the street if they don’t have money.

So no matter what we say about justice for BIPOC folks, those words are empty as long as we continue to take advantage of colonial capitalism and white supremacy.

It has been traumatic to find my Quaker community, which is nearly entirely white, has not had the understanding, yet, to break free from capitalism and white supremacy. People who have in many ways inspired me by their concerns for peace and justice. But, as with all white communities, no progress toward justice occurs when we are afraid to leave the frameworks that cause the injustice. It should be no surprise that few BIPOC people join us, much as we appreciate those who do.

The recent news of 215 Kamloops Native children buried on the grounds of a residential school has shocked non-native people, who did not know how many of these residential schools existed in the lands called the United States and Canada. Did not know tens of thousands of Native children were forcibly removed from their families and taken to these institutions where thousands were abused in many ways. Thousands killed or died. Though the stated reason for doing this was to assimilate Native children into white society for their benefit, the real intent was to quell Indigenous resistance to the theft of their land by white settler colonists.

The news has re-opened deep wounds in Native communities. Many have been triggered by this atrocity. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.”

One of my Native friends also told me, “The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest. To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.” Vigorous attempts are made to hide it, but history does not lie. He also told me, regarding what I had been telling him about my efforts with Quakers, “I wish you the best. I imagine its a hard struggle.”

I cannot face my BIPOC friends if I don’t continue to seek the Spirit, and act on the leadings I am given.

“Don’t make orphans stand here covered in the blood of our parents and explain to you how this all came to be without doing something about it.“

The Tragedy of 215. Without truth, there can be no healing, by Sarah Rose Harper, Lakota People’s Law Project, 6/2/2021

I am so grateful to my BIPOC friends for teaching me that Mutual Aid and LANDBACK are alternatives to colonial capitalism and white superiority. LANDBACK is how to restore Native lands and leadership.

As environmental chaos deepens, with the resulting collapse of the colonial capitalist economic system and the political systems propping up white supremacy, we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Ideally those would be Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This is powerful incentive to embrace these concepts now.

An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

Dear Friends,

The measure of a community is how the needs of its people are met. No one should go hungry, or without shelter or healthcare. Yet in this country known as the United States millions struggle to survive. The capitalist economic system creates hunger, houselessness, illness that is preventable and despair. A system that requires money for goods and services denies basic needs to anyone who does not have money. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected. Systemic racism. The capitalist system that supports the white materialistic lifestyle is built on stolen land and genocide of Indigenous peoples, and the labor of those who were enslaved in the past or are forced to live on poverty wages today.

Capitalism is revealed as an unjust, untenable system, when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores, but men, women and children are going hungry, living on the streets outside. White supremacy violently enforces the will of wealthy white people on the rest of us.

It has become clear to some of us who are called Friends that the colonial capitalist economic system and white supremacy are contrary to the Spirit and we must find a better way. We conscientiously object to and resist capitalism and white supremacy.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices. 
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement

Mutual Aid

How do we resist? We rebuild our communities in ways not based upon money. Such communities thrive all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always lived this way. Generations of white people once did so in this country. Mutual Aid is a framework that can help us do this today.

The concept of Mutual Aid is simple to explain but can result in transformative change. Mutual Aid involves everyone coming together to find a solution for problems we all face. This is a radical departure from “us” helping “them”. Instead, we all work together to find and implement solutions.  To work together means we must be physically present with each other. Mutual Aid cannot be done by committee or donations. We build Beloved communities as we get to know each other. Build solidarity. An important part of Mutual Aid is creating these networks of people who know and trust each other. When new challenges arise, these networks are in place, ready to meet them.

Another important part of Mutual Aid is the transformation of those involved. This means both those who are providing help, and those receiving it.

With Mutual Aid, people learn to live in a community where there is no vertical hierarchy. A community where everyone has a voice. A model that results in enthusiastic participation. A model that makes the vertical hierarchy required for white supremacy impossible.

Commonly there are several Mutual Aid projects in a community. The initial projects usually relate to survival needs. One might be a food giveaway. Another helping those who need shelter. Many Mutual Aid groups often have a bail fund, to support those arrested for agitating for change. And accompany those arrested when they go to court.

LANDBACK

The other component necessary to move away from colonial capitalism and white supremacy is LANDBACK.

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

What will Friends do?

It matters little what people say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words.  Thus, we Friends may say there should not be hunger and poverty, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that leaves many without basic necessities and violently enforces white supremacy, our example will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions.  Let our lives show that we oppose the capitalist system and white supremacy, and the damages that result.  We can engage in efforts, such as Mutual Aid and LANDBACK, to build Beloved community. To reach out to our neighbors to join us.

We must begin by changing our own lives if we hope to make a real testimony for peace and justice.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and sisters and brothers,

Jeff Kisling (and, soon, others)

Note: Modeled from ‘An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription’

Posted in #LANDBACK, Black Lives, capitalism, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, enslavement, Indigenous, monuments, Mutual Aid, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, race, residential schools, solidarity, Uncategorized, white supremacy | 5 Comments

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.





Posted in #LANDBACK, capitalism, climate change, Des Moines Mutual Aid, enslavement, Indigenous, Mutual Aid, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized, white supremacy | Leave a comment

Keystone XL is dead

In some ways it feels like more than eight years have passed since I signed the Keystone Pledge of Resistance and was trained as an Action Leader. I learned a great deal, and connected with a large number of people during the years I worked on the Keystone resistance campaign. Things that were invaluable for subsequent fossil fuel resistances, including the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). And were helpful as I made more Native friends, including our walk together on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018 which was another action against DAPL.

The Keystone Pledge of Resistance

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The Pledge was an Internet campaign designed to put pressure on President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry the thick tar sands oil from Canada to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists were having a difficult time persuading the public and industry to transition away from fossil fuels. The environmental organizations Rainforest  Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and The Other 98% recognized the Keystone decision as an opportunity to both raise awareness about the dangers of tar sands and possibly even stop the construction of the pipeline. 97,236 activists signed the Pledge

One of the things I worked on with my friend Derek Glass, was the following video that we used as an educational tool.

We held multiple public rallies in downtown Indianapolis. When Indiana’s US Senator, Joe Donnelly said Keystone would create many jobs, the Indianapolis Star printed my letter to the editor. He didn’t say anything about jobs after that.

Multiple times it looked as if our efforts would be defeated. The last administration re-approved the pipeline’s permit. I/we are truly thankful President Biden terminated the permit on his first day in office. Finally forcing TC Energy to give up.

The Keystone XL pipeline project is officially terminated, the sponsor company announced Wednesday.

Calgary-based TC Energy is pulling the plug on the project after Canadian officials failed to persuade President Joe Biden to reverse his cancellation of its permit on the day he took office.

“OMG! It’s official,” Dallas Goldtooth, Mdewakanton Dakota and Diné, wrote on Twitter regarding Keystone XL’s termination. “We took on a multi-billion dollar corporation and we won!!”

Goldtooth is part of the Indigenous Environmental Network. The network said it has been organizing for more than 10 years against the pipeline.

“We are dancing in our hearts because of this victory!” wrote the network in a statement. “From Dene territories in Northern Alberta to Indigenous lands along the Gulf of Mexico, we stood hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water and our communities from this dirty tar sands pipeline. And that struggle is vindicated. This is not the end – but merely the beginning of further victories.”

Keystone XL is dead!’ INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY, June 9, 2021

“When this fight began, people thought Big Oil couldn’t be beat,” Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, who led sit-ins against Keystone XL in 2011 at the White House, said in a statement. “But when enough people rise up we’re stronger even than the richest fossil fuel companies.”

Keystone XL pipeline developer pulls plug on controversial project by Brady Dennis, The Washington Post, June 9,2021

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Posted in civil disobedience, Keystone Pledge of Resistance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

LANDBACK and Quakers, a Case Study

Yesterday’s post was the most recent of a series of blog posts I’ve been writing about the concept of LANDBACK. Here is a link to other LANDBACK posts: landback | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

You may be familiar with the concept of LANDBACK. I’m learning there is a lot more to it than I had known.

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. Although these goals are herculean, the landback movement has seen recent successes, including the removal of dams along the Klamath River in Oregon following a long campaign by the Yurok Tribe and other activists, and the return of 1,200 acres in Big Sur, California, to the formerly landless Esselen Tribe.

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 often hear we need to follow the leadership of the communities impacted by injustice. It is often not clear how to go about doing that.

I’ve been a bit apprehensive about trying to get Friends involved with LANDBACK because many Friends have trouble dealing with the history of Quakers’ involvement with the forced assimilation of Native children. Many white Friends have trouble dealing with Quakers’ history related to enslavement. Many white Friends are uncomfortable with their white privileges today.

So I was very grateful to receive a response to something I’d written about LANDBACK from my friend and fellow Quaker, Marshall Massey, which you can read here: One Quaker’s Response to LANDBACK | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com).

I wrote the following case study, hoping to give an example of the implementation of the ideas related to LANDBACK.

This is a link to the PDF version of the LANDBACK case study, Wet’suwet’en and Quakers.

Following is a flip book version of the same material.

Following is the latest version of a diagram I’ve been working on, which tries to show LANDBACK and Mutual Aid are ways to move away from colonial capitalism and white privilege.

Posted in #LANDBACK, decolonize, Indigenous, Quaker, Uncategorized, Wet’suwet’en, white supremacy | Leave a comment

Time for a Reset

The Spirit tells me it is time for a reset.

My whole life I have tried to protect Mother Earth. Live without a car, live in small apartments, protect the water. Protect us from pipelines and other fossil fuel projects. Organize nonviolent direct actions.

I learned what I could about the many atrocities related to enslavement, land theft, and cultural genocide here and globally. White people must learn these things, which are not taught in our schools. White people must learn the dynamics of the forces that perpetuate these injustices before we can have meaningful interactions with those subjected to these injustices. Injustices which resulted, and continue to result in all kinds of trauma, genocide, suicide and death.

I followed Spiritual leadings to develop connections to communities of black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).

Time and again, I found progress for justice only happens when white people such as myself spend a great deal of time in the communities where justice is needed. And by listening closely to, following the leadership of the people in those communities. White and BIPOC folks need to get to know each other before trust can begin to be built. That takes a long time of intentional work by all, in the presence of each other. This is not an intellectual exercise. This does not happen remotely.

Time and again, I have learned the root causes of injustice in this country are colonial capitalism and white supremacy. And the reasons I’ve been making changes in my life are because the white communities I have lived in have refused to break free from capitalism and white supremacy. White people are corrupted by the many advantages they enjoy.

It has been traumatic to find even my Quaker community, which is nearly entirely white, has not had the courage to break free from capitalism and white supremacy. People who have in many ways inspired me by their concerns for peace and justice. But, as with all white communities, no progress toward justice occurs when we are afraid to leave the frameworks that cause the injustice. It should be no surprise that few BIPOC people join us, much as we appreciate those who do. I have caused hurt and harm in my interactions with BIPOC Friends. Another reason I’ve been spending time in diverse communities.

The recent news of 215 Kamloops Native children buried on the grounds of a residential school has shocked non-native people, who did not know how many of these residential schools existed in the lands called the United States and Canada. Did not know tens of thousands of Native children were forcibly removed from their families and taken to these institutions where thousands were abused in many ways. Thousands killed or died. Though the stated reason for doing this was to assimilate Native children into white society for their benefit, the real intent was to quell Indigenous resistance to the theft of their land by white settler colonists.

The news has re-opened deep wounds in Native communities. Many have been triggered by this atrocity. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.”

One of my Native friends also told me, “The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest. To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.” I have come to believe that. Vigorous attempts are made to hide it, but history does not lie. He also told me, “I wish you the best. I imagine its a hard struggle.”

I cannot face my BIPOC friends if I don’t continue to dedicate myself to seek the Spirit, and acting on the leadings I am given. Don’t make orphans stand here covered in the blood of our parents and explain to you how this all came to be without doing something about it.

When I ask my Native friends how white people can help them, they say one word, “LANDBACK”. The video below is a very good introduction to that concept. And the diagram below is the current version I’ve been working on to summarize the relationships I see among these concepts.

In that diagram you see Mutual Aid as a branch of a possible way forward. Mutual Aid communities are based on the principle of a horizontal, flat hierarchy, a way that rejects the vertical hierarchy of white societies. There can not be white supremacy if their isn’t a structure of some people somehow being above others. White people who are looking for ways to leave capitalism and white supremacy should look for Mutual Aid communities near them. But only if you have done some research ahead of time. Only if you are determined to not bring the attitude of white supremacy with you. Only if you are prepared to be led by the example of others. Only if you come as a student. Only if you are committed to change in your life. See: “mutual aid” | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

I think we all know we live with significant injustices. I believe most white people know we need to change. Unfortunately my observation is most white people are afraid of change. But we don’t have a choice. Significant change is upon us, and will continue to deepen and accelerate, driven by environmental chaos and the economic and political consequences of that. All the more reason to build better, just communities now. As the video below explains, we need Indigenous leadership to guide us through environmental chaos.

I’m not yet sure what the direction of the Spirit might be for me, for us. The Spirit has been and continues to be agitated. The Spirit has shown Mutual Aid is part of the answer for me. I am truly blessed to have Native friends who are teaching me by their example. Neither they, nor I, nor perhaps you, will put up with continued white obstruction.

I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning

In case you somehow missed the tragic story about the discovery of 215 First Nations children who passed away at the hands of a Canadian “school,” it’s time to wake up. This is our reality. You are shocked; you are heart broken. I wish we could be. This was not shocking — this was known.

Don’t make orphans stand here covered in the blood of our parents and explain to you how this all came to be without doing something about it. Don’t, for one second, think this is over. Remember, this was one chapter in the book. The story continues today in the form of the Department of Social, Family and Child Services. Our children are still being taken away from us, stripped of their identity, their culture and all humanity — and our babies do not always survive this process.

So yes, this latest news means we are acutely hurting. And we are angry. But we will carry on. We are mourning, and asking Creator to watch over those 215 souls. We are trying to take the time to heal the best way we can.

The Tragedy of 215. Without truth, there can be no healing, by Sarah Rose Harper, Lakota People’s Law Project, 6/2/2021

Don’t make orphans stand here covered in the blood of our parents and explain to you how this all came to be without doing something about it

Sarah Rose Harper, Lakota People’s Law Project

https://youtu.be/c2SGaGRhYZs
Posted in #LANDBACK, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, residential schools, Uncategorized, white supremacy | 2 Comments

Much worse than I realized

I’ve been writing about the Native residential schools for years. The latest, horrible news is the discovery of the remains of 215 Native children at the Kamloops Residential School.

As another example of how much I admire and appreciate my Native friends, in the midst of all they face, in this re-opening of deepwounds, one friend took the time to respond to what I’ve been writing, offering me encouragement. He said “I’m trying not be enraged in my mourning.” And “we’ll figure something out.”

An article I highly recommend is The Tragedy of 215. Without truth, there can be no healing by Sarah Rose Harper, Lakota People’s Law Project, 06/02/2021 And as stated below from the Lakota People’s Law Project, Please sign and share our petition to Congress and the president. Tell them to form a Truth and Healing Commission today.

As much as I’ve studied the Native residential schools, I hadn’t understood the even more sinister reasons why they were created. It was horrible enough that the schools were created to destroy the children’s culture, and far too often their lives. The justification suggested by the government and churches was that they were attempting to help children adapt to white culture.

But I hadn’t really quite grasped that these atrocities, so cruelly implemented, were to break the resistance of Indigenous peoples. To force them to give up their lands. “Because the children would be hostages for the good behavior of their people.”

During the late 19th century Plains Indian Wars, the Indian boarding school found its primary purchase. The bloody consequences of two bedrock U.S. institutions — African slavery and the killing of Indians — inspired Carlisle’s founder, Richard Henry Pratt, a military man, to embark on a bold experiment to solve the so-called “Indian question,” once outright extermination was no longer palatable. Like many of his peers, Pratt was a Civil War veteran turned Indian fighter. And he came to regard Indian killing as he had slavery — as unsustainable. A radical solution was needed.

As the title of his autobiography — Battlefield and Classroom — suggests, Pratt transposed the Indian wars from the frontier to the boarding school. By removing Native children by the hundreds and then thousands from their families, he thought he could break the resistance of intransigent Native nations. Between 1879-1900, the Bureau of Indian Affairs opened 24 off-reservation schools. By 1900, three-quarters of all Native children had been enrolled in boarding schools, with a third of this number in off-reservation boarding schools like Carlisle. 

A U.S. military victory seemed unlikely. Tactics shifted to starving out the militant Lakotas by killing off the remaining buffalo herds, a primary food source, making reservation life not a choice but a necessity for survival. The next step was to undermine customary authority by weaponizing Native kinship systems against reservation leadership. “Carlisle was established to intern, so to speak, the children of leadership,” says Ben Rhodd, “to hold them as hostage, so that their fathers would not be so warlike and resist.”

Pratt’s success at Fort Marion convinced Indian reformers in Congress to authorize the Indian Bureau to turn the old Carlisle cavalry barracks into the first federally run off-reservation boarding school. It was a peculiar assignment: an active military officer overseeing a school administered by the civilian-run Department of the Interior, which itself managed wildlife and Indians. And the first class would be drawn from those most responsible for Custer’s crushing defeat, the Lakotas. In 1879, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Ezra Hayt ordered Pratt to recruit first from Pine Ridge and Rosebud, “because the children would be hostages for the good behavior of their people.”

The U.S. stole generations of Indigenous children to open the West. Indian boarding schools held Native American youth hostage in exchange for land cessions by Nick Estes, High Country News, Oct. 14, 2019

Residential schools were established in an attempt to erase Indigenous people, our culture and our very existence, from our own lands. We lived on these lands long before the arrival of European settlers and well before countries like Canada and the United States existed. Relocating Native nations to remote areas and taking our lands was and is a grave injustice in and of itself. Taking children away from their families and trying to wipe away our native language and our very identity, often by force and violence, is a hate crime. These hate crimes can never and should never be forgotten. There are many Native people around the world, including many Senecas, who still carry the scars and terror of those days. Discoveries like the one at the Kamloops site re-open those wounds.

The terror our people face hasn’t ended. Today, countless Indigenous individuals are murdered or go missing across Indian Country. Our communities have long been the targets of violence, abuse and neglect. It must end.

We pray for the children whose bodies were discovered last week, for their families, and for all Indigenous people who have been the victims of violence and abuse, and for those who remain missing. They will never be forgotten and we will always fight in their memory.”

Seneca Nation statement on discovery of remains of more than 200 Indigenous children at Kamloops Residential School site
Discovery a gruesome reminder of the treatment and terror that generations of Indigenous people suffered at the hands of settlers on our own lands by PRESS POOL, Indian Country Today, June 2, 2021

Lakota People’s Law Project The Tragedy of 215 (lakotalaw.org)

With a heavy heart but with clear eyes, I write to you today as Lakota Law’s newest team member. Global Indigenous communities are mourning over the recent discovery of a mass grave containing the human remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential school in Canada. This discovery is not the first and will not be the last. Residential and boarding schools occupy a long and bloody, but recent, chapter in the story of Turtle Island’s colonization. The last school didn’t close until 1978.

This reality is not isolated to Canada. America has and will continue to discover similar tragedies. I therefore ask for your solidarity. Please sign and share our petition to Congress and the president. Tell them to form a Truth and Healing Commission today. America must begin to confront its own history of genocide and Indian boarding schools.

We did not stumble upon this undertaking. Our work grew from the same sense of urgency — shown to us by Lakota grandmothers as their grandkids were being stolen by the state — that you are now experiencing as you read about the children found in a mass grave at The Indian Residential School at Kamloops. This “breaking news” is an all-too-familiar reality for Indigenous children and families. Generations of Native communities have suffered from the deadly and traumatizing boarding school experience.

We should not be surprised that countries founded on the ideals of the Doctrine of Discovery — an ideology that supports the dehumanization of those living on the land and their dispossession, murder, and forced assimilation — would have so much to answer for.

I have written an article to attempt to explain this history and its present-day implications for allies. This is not an easy read. It was not an easy write. I wrote it to eliminate the need for any other Native person within our network to suffer by having to explain this senselessness. 

Wado — thank you for reckoning with the harsh realities we Indigneous People continue to endure. 
Sarah Rose
Social Media Coordinator
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Posted in decolonize, Indigenous, residential schools, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Atrocity

Atrocity  a shockingly bad or atrocious act, object, or situation

Atrocity | Definition of Atrocity by Merriam-Webster

A few days ago I wrote “I’ve been sitting here for a long time, hoping the Spirit would show me what to write, what to say about the unmarked, undocumented burial site, with the remains of 215 Indigenous children, that was recently discovered at a former residential school in British Columbia. I honestly can not comprehend how these things happened. And continue to happen today when Native children are taken from their families by government social services.”

The horror is compounded by having some idea of how many of these atrocities occurred across the lands called the United States and Canada. Knowing the numbers of those subjected to, severely damaged from, killed, or committed suicided as a result of these atrocities are much greater than we yet know. And the damage impacts subsequent generations, those living today.

I’m still waiting for the Spirit show me the way, to tell me what I can do.

I am so stricken by these atrocities that I don’t know if I can face my Native friends.

Posted in First Nations, Indigenous, Quaker, residential schools, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where are the Children Buried?

Those who are affected by tragedies like this should be the ones to tell the story.

Following is a press release from the Kamloops Indian Band related to the unmarked burial sites of Kamloops Indian Residential School students.

And the Introduction to the report referenced in the press release, Where are the Children buried? “This report addresses the question where deceased Indian Residential School (IRS) students are buried.”

Also, the Executive Summary of Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 4

Finally, here is a link to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and Calls to Action. Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf (trc.ca)

Kamloops Indian Band
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement from the Office of the Chief, Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir

5 pm, May 31, 2021, Kamloops – As the last logs go on our sacred fire, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude for the outpouring of support to our community. Thank you for helping us bring to light such hard truths that came from the preliminary findings regarding the unmarked burial sites of Kamloops Indian Residential School students so that we may begin the process of honouring the lost loved ones who are in our caretaking. We love, honour, and respect these children, their families, and communities. 

To the Prime Minister of Canada and all federal parties, we acknowledge your gestures, but as a community who is burdened with the legacy of a federally mandated Indian Residential School, Canada must face ownership and accountability to Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc as well as all communities and families. Our community is still gathering all the facts in this evolving tragedy. We will keep you informed as more information comes to light.  

We have heard from many survivors, from our own community and beyond. They are finally being heard after so many years of silence and disbelief about the deaths of children in the residential schools. No words are sufficient to express the comfort and love we wish to extend to survivors and intergenerational survivors. We see you, we love you, and we believe you. We are thankful to the many who are working hard with us to ensure supports are there as you come to terms with these latest findings as well as your own truths and traumas.  

We are deeply disturbed to learn that the Saint Joseph’s church was vandalized. The church was built from the ground up by Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc members. We understand the many emotions connected to a Roman Catholic run residential school. At the same time, we respect the choices that Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc ancestors made, over a 100 years ago, to erect this church.  

Regrettably, we know that many more children are unaccounted for. We have heard that the same knowing of unmarked burial sites exists at other former residential school grounds. It was something that the TRC raised in the early days of their work. However, it was not part of their original mandate. The TRC sought for it to be included and were turned down twice by the federal government. That said, the TRC was nonetheless able to do some important work on the topic and we encourage you to revisit Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 4 (see Executive Summary below)  

For further important context, we also direct your attention to the report “Where are the Children buried?” completed by Dr. Scott Hamilton. The report “addresses the question where deceased Indian Residential School (IRS) students are buried. This is difficult to answer because of the varying circumstances of death and burial, coupled with the generally sparse information about Residential School cemeteries. It requires a historic understanding of school operations that contextualizes the patterns underlying death and burial.”  

(Link to report here https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/AAA-Hamilton-cemetery-FInal.pdf)  

We ask all Canadians to reacquaint themselves with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and Calls to Action – upholding the heavy lifting already done by the survivors, intergenerational survivors, and the TRC. In addition, to show your solidarity, we encourage you to wear an orange shirt and start conversations with your neighbours about why you are doing so.  

Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc is now accepting donations that will automatically be deposited into a separate account set up for this initiative. The email is: donations@kib.ca There is no other fundraising initiative that Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc has authorised or is participating in at this time.  

Media – please respect our need to attend to our loved ones, to the ceremonies and protocols required at this time. Defer from visiting our community until further notice. We are grieving these lost children that are in our care. During this time of pandemic, we do not wish to have a tragedy upon a tragedy. We are concerned for the well being of all with the growing crowds that are coming to our community. We have yet to suffer a loss due to COVID-19 and we also want to ensure that anyone who comes to our community is not put at risk either.  


Following is the Introduction to the report referenced above.

Where are the Children buried?


Dr. Scott Hamilton
Dept. of Anthropology, Lakehead University
Thunder Bay, Ontario
shamilto@lakeheadu.ca

Introduction

This report addresses the question where deceased Indian Residential School (IRS)
students are buried. This is difficult to answer because of the varying circumstances of death and burial, coupled with the generally sparse information about Residential School cemeteries. It requires a historic understanding of school operations that contextualizes the patterns underlying death and burial. When documentation is insufficient, this historical perspective also aids prediction which former school sites are most likely to be associated with cemeteries. Also important is identifying the locations of the former schools as precisely as possible (an issue complicated by the fact that some schools were rebuilt in various locations under the same name), and then seeking out physical evidence of a nearby cemetery (or cemeteries). In some cases information is readily available, but in others there was little to be found in the available archival documents. In those situations attention shifted to an internet-based search, coupled with examination of maps and satellite images. This report concludes with recommendations how to address the gaps in our current knowledge about school cemeteries, and how best to document, commemorate and protect them.

Where are the Children buried?

Executive Summary

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials Project” is a systematic effort to record and analyze the deaths at the schools, and the presence and condition of student cemeteries, within the regulatory context in which the schools were intended to operate.

The project’s research supports the following conclusions:

• The Commission has identified 3,200 deaths on the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission’s Register of Confirmed Deaths of Named Residential School
Students and the Register of Confirmed Deaths of Unnamed Residential
School Students.
• For just under one-third of these deaths (32%), the government and the schools
did not record the name of the student who died.
• For just under one-quarter of these deaths (23%), the government and the
schools did not record the gender of the student who died.
• For just under one-half of these deaths (49%), the government and the schools
did not record the cause of death.
• Aboriginal children in residential schools died at a far higher rate than school-aged children in the general population.
• For most of the history of the schools, the practice was not to send the bodies of
students who died at schools to their home communities.
• For the most part, the cemeteries that the Commission documented are abandoned, disused, and vulnerable to accidental disturbance.
• The federal government never established an adequate set of standards and regulations to guarantee the health and safety of residential school students.
• The federal government never adequately enforced the minimal standards and
regulations that it did establish.
• The failure to establish and enforce adequate regulations was largely a function of
the government’s determination to keep residential school costs to a minimum.2 • Truth & Reconciliation Commission
• The failure to establish and enforce adequate standards, coupled with the failure
to adequately fund the schools, resulted in unnecessarily high death rates at residential schools.

Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 4

Posted in decolonize, First Nations, Indigenous, residential schools, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quaker Indigenous Residential/Boarding Schools

I’ve been sitting here for a long time, hoping the Spirit would show me what to write, what to say about the unmarked, undocumented burial site, with the remains of 215 Indigenous children, that was recently discovered at a former residential school in British Columbia. I honestly can not comprehend how these things happened. And continue to happen today when Native children are taken from their families by government social services.

I’m glad a friend sent me the following message. I hope to stay all the way in my lane. From the recent statistics, I noticed people have been searching for things related to Quakers and residential schools from blog posts I’ve written in the past. This has long been a deep concern of mine. I see my lane being engaging with Quakers about these things. “And be ready to listen when we come full with our voice.
quaker Indigenous boarding schools.

Unless your ass is Native to Turtle Island, please stay all the way in your lane regarding the residential school remains found in Canada. We don’t need your voice, your fresh take, or your perspective on the why and the how. We can speak for ourselves. Share our words, and take a whole damn seat. This horror was not an “act of racism”, it was genocide. Genocide you benefit from daily. It was about the land, land you occupy. We deserve to have the whole conversation, on our terms. Not the ones you’re comfortable with. Not the conversation that validates your position. Let us grieve in the way we do – and be ready to listen when we come full with our voice.

Ninga Odé

The discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in British Columbia prompted outpourings of grief and questions as efforts to identify the students began.

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the burial site discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School as a mass grave. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation says the remains were found spread out; it considers it an unmarked, undocumented burial site, not a mass grave. The article has been corrected.

Discovery of remains of Indigenous children prompts grief and questions in Canada by Antonia Noori Farzan, Washington Post, May 29, 2021

In this country called the United States, there were many such residential schools, where forced assimilation and cultural genocide was government policy. Schools where more than 100,000 Native children attended, where often the same abuses and deaths occurred.

President Grant saw the residential schools as a solution to Indigenous resistance to the westward movement of white settler colonists.

Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act Fund of March 3, 1819 and the Peace Policy of 1869 the United States, in concert with and at the urging of several denominations of the Christian Church, adopted an Indian Boarding School Policy expressly intended to implement cultural genocide through the removal and reprogramming of American Indian and Alaska Native children to accomplish the systematic destruction of Native cultures and communities. The stated purpose of this policy was to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”

Between 1869 and the 1960s, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of Native American children were removed from their homes and families and placed in boarding schools operated by the federal government and the churches. Though we don’t know how many children were taken in total, by 1900 there were 20,000 children in Indian boarding schools, and by 1925 that number had more than tripled. The U.S. Native children that were voluntarily or forcibly removed from their homes, families, and communities during this time were taken to schools far away where they were punished for speaking their native language, banned from acting in any way that might be seen to represent traditional or cultural practices, stripped of traditional clothing, hair and personal belongings and behaviors reflective of their native culture. They suffered physical, sexual, cultural and spiritual abuse and neglect, and experienced treatment that in many cases constituted torture for speaking their Native languages. Many children never returned home and their fates have yet to be accounted for by the U.S. government.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

For the past five or six years I’ve searched for and found opportunities to be engaged with and learn from Indigenous peoples. This grew out of working together to bring attention to the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) in Indianapolis, beginning in 2016. I felt a deep spiritual connection from the beginning of these interactions.

I’ve struggled my whole life to try to bring attention to the dangers of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. As a Quaker I had been taught the way we create social change is by living according to our beliefs. To be an example to others. For the past forty years living without a car was my example. Much to my dismay, that didn’t convince anyone else to give up their car. So I was very grateful for opportunities to spend time with Native people, whose lives are examples of living within the ecological boundaries of Mother Earth.

I wanted to strengthen spiritual bonds between Native people and myself. Which meant trying to find appropriate ways to share my Quaker faith. I use writing on this blog as a way to explore my spirituality. But that wasn’t something Native people read, at first.

In the fall of 2018 I was blessed to participate on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. As the name implies, the idea was for a group of Native and non-native people to get to know each other, so we could work on things of common concern. It was a small group of about 15 Native and 15 non-native people. We walked and camped together over eight days, along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline, 94 miles from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa. During the hours walking together, mainly on quiet, rural roads, we shared our stories with each other. That, and the challenges of physical exertion, blisters, and walking through pouring rain, standing in a circle and offering prayers every time we crossed the pipeline, was a really effective way to create community among us. We became friends, and there have been multiple occasions since when we’ve worked together. As one example, several of us spent an hour with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff in Des Moines, talking about legislation related to Native concerns.

Another result of becoming friends has been the opportunity to share my blog posts on Facebook groups that some of my new friends do read. Likewise, now I know where to find their writings. Indigenous Led | Great Plains Action Society is one. These became one way to continue to remain in touch with each other.

I hope it gives you some context for the subject of this blog post, the Quaker Indigenous Residential/Boarding Schools. The schools are referred to as either residential or boarding schools. Not nearly all of those schools were run by Quakers, but for several reasons many were. If you haven’t looked into this yourself, I imagine you think, as I did, that these schools were helping Native children learn how to adapt to the White society that had taken over their lands. Unfortunately that could not be further from the truth.

Quaker Indigenous Boarding Schools

More than 100,000 Native children suffered the direct consequences of the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation by means of Indian boarding schools during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their bereft parents, grandparents, siblings, and entire communities also suffered. As adults, when the former boarding school students had children, their children suffered, too. Now, through painful testimony and scientific research, we know how trauma can be passed from generation to generation. The multigenerational trauma of the boarding school experience is an open wound in Native communities today.

What does this history mean to us, as Friends, today?

This question is not for me to answer, but to pose to Friends for individual and collective discernment. It is clear that Quakers were instrumental in promoting and implementing the forced assimilation of Native children. Through a lens of European Christian superiority, Quakers tried to remake Native children in their own image. In their writings, I found no appreciation for what the children would lose in this process. “For their own good,” the children would be raised by Quaker teachers (removed from their own families and kinship relationships), receive English names (lose their family lineage), speak English (lose their Native languages), wear “citizens’ dress” (lose the beautiful and skillful art and handiwork of their tribes), become farmers and homemakers (lose the hunting and gathering knowledge of the land and ecology), and aspire to European lifestyles (lose competence in their own cultures and pride in their Native identities).

From our twenty‐first‐century vantage point, we know (or can learn) how Native people suffered and continue to suffer the consequences of actions that Friends committed 150 ago with the best of intentions. Can we hold those good intentions tenderly in one hand, and in the other hold the anguish, fear, loss, alienation, and despair borne by generations of Native Americans?

Native organizations are not asking us to judge our Quaker ancestors. They are asking, “Who are Friends today? Knowing what we know now, will Quakers join us in honest dialogue? Will they acknowledge the harm that was done? Will they seek ways to contribute toward healing processes that are desperately needed in Native communities?” These are my questions, too.

Paula Palmer, Facing Our History and Ourselves, Friends Journal, October 1, 2016

So what do we do as 21st-century American Quakers? How do we bring our values of peace, community, and equality to the truth of what our ancestors did? Palmer is working on that, too.  Learning our part is surely the first step; owning it, the second.  And after that, we must work to make sure we aren’t doing it again with our missions and projects on reservations and elsewhere in the US and beyond in South America and the Great Lakes region of Africa. And more to the question of what do we do in our everyday lives; we each seek the Light of God in our prayer and meditation and in the silent expectant waiting of worship with Friends.  And then we bravely do as we are led.

Quaker Indian Schools: A Legacy We Need to Heal,  AUGUST 8, 2016 BY MOLLY WINGATE, Patheos.com

Hopefully that explains why I felt there was one thing I had to do as I began to develop these friendships. I had to confront, within myself and then with my new friends, Quaker history related to Native peoples. Quakers were among those who taught at the Native boarding schools that were created to assimilate native children into White culture. Forced assimilation, since these children were often forcibly removed from their families. All kinds of significant trauma occurred. Trauma to the children and to their families and communities. And that trauma has been passed from generation to generation. Examples below illustrate what Paula Palmer said above, that the “multigenerational trauma of the boarding school experience is an open wound in Native communities today.”

Many Quakers are very uncomfortable about examining this history. One reason is it doesn’t fit with the idea of Quakers doing good in the world. But that is the reason I’m bringing this up now. Too many times Quakers and other social justice people have used the approach of implementing a solution they have come up with, often with little or no input from those they want to help. And they think they should lead the implementation their solution. That approach never works, and the Native residential school is an example of the grave dangers of that approach.

At first I wasn’t sure how much my Native friends knew about the indigenous boarding schools. Which shows my ignorance because they not only knew about those schools, but had their own experiences today related to the trauma that originated in the past. So there was no way we could get to know and trust each other if I didn’t acknowledge that somehow.

The following story occurred during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March that I mentioned above.

It didn’t take too many hours of getting to know Matthew when the Spirit led me to say to him, “I know about Quakers’ involvement in the Native boarding schools. I’m sorry they did that.” I was apprehensive about whether I should have said that, whether that was appropriate or could pull up bad memories. We continued to walk side by side. All I noticed was a slight nod of his head. He always smiles, and that didn’t change.

One of the next times we walked together, Matthew shared a story with me. He had been living at Standing Rock for about six months, when he learned a new rope was needed to ferry people back and forth across a narrow channel of water. He offered a rope so the ferry’s operation could continue. He went on to say his mother called him after she recognized the rope while watching a TV news story. She was very upset because that brought back terrifying memories of how the Native families would try to help their children escape when white men came to kidnap them and take them to a boarding school.

After the March I realized there were several other Native friends who knew I was a Quaker, but with whom I had not shared an apology like the one above with Matthew. I felt I needed to do so because we continued to work on things together, and I sometimes shared a Quaker perspective with them.

One of my friends said “Awww Jeff… as long as you acknowledge it and learning how to be an ally then that’s all we can ask.”

Another told me, “thank you. My grandmother grandfather and aunt were in boarding schools. The trauma is horrific and it still resonates within the generations afterwards. Because, as you know, the institutionalized racism and frontier culture still exist.”


One of the reasons this is so much on my mind is because I’ve been hearing Indigenous Youth for the Wet’suwet’en speak very eloquently in their public gatherings. For the past several months I’ve been learning all I can, and writing about the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their courageous actions to keep pipelines like the Coastal GasLink pipeline from being built on their incredibly beautiful lands. And I have been surprised at how often the Native residential schools, and forced assimilation, have been spoken about.

We’ve had to fight for over a hundred years. And despite the residential schools despite the epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis. Despite the enfranchisement. Despite the reserve. Despite all the assimilatory policies of Canada that have existed up until the modern day, our system of governance and the Wet’suwet’en system of governance has persevered and they have remained strong as is demonstrated by the five clans of the Wet’suwet’en when they evicted Coastal GasLink from their territories.

Kolin Sutherland-Wilson

Victoria Redsun says it is difficult to be a young, Indigenous person in an urban environment right now.

“We see our people on the streets and hurting,” says Redsun who adds that residential schools are still fresh in her memory and the issues around violence and genocide against Indigenous women is still happening.


I am “inconvenienced” by the Wet’suwet’en protests. I live close to Clark and Hastings , am dependent on public transit, walk slowly, and use a cane. So when the buses are rerouted it is quite inconvenient for me. But , I need to talk about scale and proportionality here. Yes it is a drag and inconvenient for me, but it is far more “inconvenient” to have a pipeline you did not agree to traversing your land. It is far more inconvenient to have to live with boil water advisories. It was far more inconvenient to have your children forcibly removed and sent to residential schools, and it is totally inconvenient to have your unceded land stolen.
So while walking the extra way to or from the bus stop (and finding it) is inconvenient and not easy for me it is nothing in comparison to what Indigenous peoples and especially the We’tsuwe’ten are facing.
And, the courage of the protestors give me convenient hope.

MArion Pollack February 25 at 3:48 PM

Posted in #NDAPL, decolonize, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, First Nations, Great Plains Action Society, Indigenous, Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized, Wet’suwet’en | Leave a comment