Re-Learning What We Thought We Knew

Indigenous people and settlers share a history — some of us are survivors of that history, some of us benefited from it, and some of us carry both survival and benefits through our ancestors. This deep historical conflict divides all our relations from one another and ourselves. To heal and move forward from this history, we need to know what happened so that we can better recognize our responsibility to decolonize our minds, our hearts, our language, and our actions.

Here are some introductory resources about our shared histories. These offer good places to begin the conversation toward truth and healing.


The Land You Live On – An interactive map – a resource for North Americans and others to learn more about local Indigenous territories and languages.  Comes with a Teachers’ Guide. (Interactive internet resource.)

Canadian Friends Service Committee publication on Territory Acknowledgment

The Canadian Friends Service Committee has created this 2-page guide to support conversations about the places where we all live, work, play and worship, and to answer questions about how to (and how not to) acknowledge the Indigenous peoples who have roots in those lands.

Example: Berkeley Friends Meeting (Vine Street Meeting) has been developing a close relationship with the Ohlone in the East Bay area. The meeting placed a permanent plaque near the entrance of the meetinghouse, acknowledging the first people who made their homes in that place. How did they get started?


This November, Try Something New:  Decolonize Your Mind.”  In this short blog, Mary Annette Pember (Ojibwe), an award-winning journalist, talks about decolonizing our minds. “Make no mistake,” she writes, “decolonizing the mind is not without risk or discomfort. To decolonize is not only an act of humility and acceptance; it requires the courage to take responsibility for our role in this great, relentless process that is our life on Earth. ” Short blog– a good discussion starter. 

Remaking History:  The Real Story is Bigger and Better: In this 15-minute Tedx talk, Kevin Glover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, introduces an eye-opening and wall-dismantling way to look at building right relations among Native and non-Native people.  Good discussion or series starter. Available on YouTube link above. (Short film.)

Two Rivers:  A feature documentary about a couple in Washington State who sought out the descendants of the original people of the lands where they were living.  A very encouraging film that helps a local group of non-Indigenous people imagine how they might reach out to become acquainted with Indigenous people in their area. Released in 1996 by Greenleaf Street Productions; available on DVD for about $15 at link above.

Finding What’s True

Thriving in Indian Country:  What’s in the Way and How Do We Overcome?  Anton Treuer (Ojibwe), frames a way to think about race, class, wealth, and many other things that we believe divide us from each other.  His presentation is warm and positive, as well as truthful and challenging.  This brief video, a Tedx talk  available on YouTube, could begin a group conversation on acknowledgment, and a deeper exploration of the hard facts of colonization, genocide, and the future trajectory for indigenous people on this continent.

National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).  If you visit Washington, don’t miss this Smithsonian Museum.  But the NMAI also offers excellent on-line education resources, such as the new Dialogue Toolkit for teachers (or discussion leaders) introducing material about Native peoples.   (Both a place and a toolkit.)

Honor the Treaties – a 15 minute photo-essay by Aaron Huey who spent 7 years on Pine Ridge Reservation learning about the true causes of poverty and violence there. (Short film.)

“All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths about Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dino Gilio-Whitaker. The authors of this book reveal the mythology and explore the roots of each myth.  Might be interesting for each group participant to read and report back on one or two of the myths.


Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change – Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples: This 2-hour experiential workshop for adults traces the historic and ongoing impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery. The goal of the workshop is to raise the level of knowledge and concern about these impacts, recognize them in ourselves and our institutions, and explore how non-Indigenous people can begin to take actions toward right relationship with Native peoples. Offered by Paula Palmer of Boulder Meeting and a network of facilitators, in partnership with Friends Peace Teams.

Re-Discovering America: Understanding Colonialization:  A 1-hour program for middle and high school students. In this interactive exercise, students symbolically experience the colonization of North America as the Native peoples and the European colonists experienced it. They hear the voices of Indigenous leaders and European popes, monarchs, presidents, generals, and Western historians as the story unfolds. Also offered by Paula Palmer, in partnership with Friends Peace Teams.

Next steps

For those interested in learning a little more

Touring DC:  Elizabeth Rule (Chickasaw), assistant director of George Washington University’s AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy created a free mobile app –a Guide to Indigenous DC — to “reframe the colonial narrative” in Washington D.C., according to an Indian Country Today report. With the help of scholars, local community members and historians, Rule designed the app to feature 17 sites of significant moments in Indigenous history – both recent and long ago — around the city.  The app works on iPhones currently; an Android version is in the works.

Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Road with an Indian Elder, by Kent Nerburn. This book reveals honest grappling with the truth about us and all we have  believed in till now, as told by a Lakota elder named Dan.  Part of a 3-book series used in Native American studies programs and spiritual learning programs.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles Mann. Groundbreaking work of science, history and archaeology. The book is available on Amazon and in local libraries.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, a book by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation). “As a botanist, Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. Following Potawatomi traditions, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert). The book is available on Amazon for about $10.50 (Kindle) or $15 (paper). Also from Milkweed Editions, a group that publishes “life changing” books, for $18.

The Canary Effect:  A one-hour documentary directed by Robin Davey and Yellow Thunder Woman, telling the harsh story of abuses and genocide of Native people, including boarding schools, forced marches, starvation, and military attacks,  and the continued effects of the policies and action of the US government. Available on DocumentaryTube at the link above.