Resource: Respect and Justice for Indigenous Peoples

Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Recent History

Patricia R. Powers has now published Respect & Justice for Indigenous Peoples: A Quaker Advocacy Group’s Experience Recounted (1940 to present). The book is available only on line, in order to facilitate reference to the many sources and resources listed in the text.

Baltimore Yearly Meeting formed a Committee geared to Indigenous concerns in 1795, only a few years after European settlers established a nation that became the United States on this continent. Particulars of the activities of volunteers who served on that Committee after 1940 are recorded here for posterity. A companion volume, As They Were Led: Quakerly Steps and Missteps Toward Native Justice – 1795 – 1940, was published last year in paperback, and is available from Quaker Heron Press, Quaker Books (FGC), Pendle Hill, other independent booksellers, and Amazon.

In recounting the story of the committee work of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Indian on right relations with Native people, Respect and Justice for Indigenous Peoples calls Quakers advocates and other social justice activists to an honest review of the action (and non-action) of Quakers in the mid-Atlantic region. In 1887, for example, Quakers were strong supporters of the “Dawes Act,” which broke up tribal land holdings into small properties for individual Native families, and allowed the rest of the land to be sold off. Decades later, Quakers castigated the federal government for failing to keep track of (and pay) the royalties due to these individuals and their tribal nations for mining and oil rights on the lands that remained to them.

In the 1950s, Quaker advocacy opposed the building of the Kinzua dam and the flooding of Seneca lands, and supported important legislation establishing the Indian Child Welfare Act in the 1970s. However, from 1819 through as late as the 1960s, Quakers also supported and participated in the establishment of boarding schools to help achieve assimilation of Indigenous children.

The story of the work of this committee is varied and detailed and leaves the reader with many questions to consider about the integrity of current actions of Quaker communities. In the end, the author grapples with “the question of whether a group from the dominant population, with all its settler-colonialism history, can attain the cultural humility to contribute actions valued by Indigenous communities.”