Decolonizing Quakers

Working toward Right Relationships with Indigenous Peoples

We are a working group of North American Quakers seeking to learn and share the truth of the history that Quakers and Indigenous Peoples have lived through on this continent. We want to acknowledge the wounds resulting from this history for all peoples impacted, and to engage in actions that move toward justice and recognize the dignity of all. Read more.

The Stories We Weren’t Told

Many Quakers have learned that our Quaker ancestors and predecessors had good relationships with the Indigenous peoples who were on this continent when Quakers arrived from England and other European lands. We have read about how William Penn was respectful of the Native people and offered to pay “rent” for the land occupied by the new settlement that became Philadelphia. We have heard about Quaker missionaries who went out to “help” Native children learn the ways of European Christians.

There are threads of truth in these stories and others that we tell ourselves, but those small threads are too weak to tie together a benign story. As we look with open eyes at the history that white, European, Christian settlers and Indigenous peoples walked through since the time of “first contact,” we can’t help but see a different picture. In truth, we must acknowledge that Quakers participated in — and sometimes led — attempts to force Indigenous people to assimilate into an inflexible mold that fit the vision that Quakers shared with other white, European, Christian settlers.

This website offers resources to help all of us set aside the myths that come between us — as settlers and Indigenous peoples –and to find joy in knowing all our relatives better and more honestly.

How Do We Start?

Once we know the real story, we will probably want to do what any family would do, having discovered that one branch of the family was treated abominably by other branches in previous generations:

We will want to find each other, if we can. Descendants of colonizers and settlers will want to apologize and figure out together with our relatives how we can make it right.

Learn about the history that Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestors experienced, especially in your local area. (Check with tribal sources, local historical societies, and see Resources).

Learn about the impact of boarding schools and other attempts to force assimilation on Indigenous children and their families and their descendants, and how you can contribute to healing from that trauma.

Check on the news that affects Indigenous people where you live.

Explore ways to change how history is unfolding now. Find Steps Toward Change.