Working Toward Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples

A six-part webinar series

Beginning on August 10 and continuing on the second and fourth Mondays of August, September and October, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time (U.S. and Canada). Co-sponsored by Pendle Hill, Decolonizing Quakers, Canadian Friends Service Committee, and Friends Peace Teams/Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples

A 2018 Pendle Hill conference helped broaden and deepen a conversation about the Quaker role in the genocide of Native Peoples and about ways of moving toward right relationship—awareness, acknowledgment, apology, and reparative work. A group of Friends convened to form a steering committee for a continent-wide organization that would continue the explorations and the work identified at the conference, now calling itself “Decolonizing Quakers.”

Originally planned as a conference for May 2020, the webinar series is intended to further the goals and intended action steps of the 2018 conference — with re-organized format that accommodates pandemic realities. 

Background: As more and more people confront how deeply white supremacy is embedded in our culture and institutions, focus has largely centered on the systemic racism visited on Black people.  Yet we know that European settler colonists brought a racialized world view with them when they came to exploit the land and peoples of North America.  The nation states of North America are built on the so-called Christian Doctrine of Discovery, which purports to justify the theft of land and resources and the enslavement or destruction of many Nations, including the theft and enslavement of Africans from their homelands and the actual and attempted genocide of Indigenous Peoples.

Quaker descendants of European settlers benefitted and continue to benefit from this oppressive history. Quakers individually and corporately also played a direct role in the attempted cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples. Among other things, they ran and supported Indian Boarding Schools, which were designed to “civilize” Indigenous peoples by separating children from their families and communities and erasing their native language, customs, and culture.

Resources will be posted to enable registrants to prepare for the webinars and to reflect upon afterwards.  In the week(s) in between the webinars, participants may choose to form discussion or study groups around the topics presented in the webinars or to use the materials to enhance attention to the issues in their local meetings or congregations.

Sovereignty and Tribal Government Relations in the United States and Canada

August 10, 2020 – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

This series of webinars seeks to involve both Canadian and United States participants.  Although both the United States and Canada share some of the features of a settler-colonial history and government, there are significant differences, as well.  This first webinar is designed to familiarize participants in the series with historical and governmental differences between these nations and how they affect existing relations with Tribal Nations and the sovereignty and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples.  This understanding will establish a framework for future webinars.

Implementing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

August 24, 2020 – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

After decades of incredible work among Indigenous Peoples and those in solidarity, including Quakers, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.  Acknowledging that colonization and dispossession from their land denied them their rights to self-determination as peoples, the Declaration is most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the world, and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous Peoples.  Canada and the United States originally voted against the resolution and were among the last to adopt it, and it is not legally binding on the nation states who adopted it, but rather, requires them to implement the principles of the Declaration through legislation and policy-making.  Two experts on the UN Declaration will address its development, application, and legal effects, as well as actions being taken (especially in Canada and the United States) to implement it by governments and at the grass roots.

Cultural Appreciation vs. Appropriation/Misappropriation

September 14, 2020 – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

How can non-Natives respectfully honor and appreciate the culture and traditions of Indigenous Peoples?  A panel of Indigenous people from different traditions will explore ways that settler-colonists and their descendants have tried to erase the culture of Indigenous Peoples and then appropriated (misappropriated) mythologized elements from a mythic past in ways that wound and offend Indigenous people today.  Harm can arise from misguided attempts to honor a tradition that may have a deep meaning for a non-Native person, as well as from commercialized images and actions based on stereotypes.  The panel will offer some guidance on the difference between respectful appreciation and offensive misappropriation of Indigenous Peoples’ cultures.  Clue: it is not the intent of the appropriator, but the impact on Indigenous Peoples of the choices that are made by non-Natives.

Solidarity, Guidance for Engagement

September 28, 2020 – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

How can descendants of settler-colonists stand in solidarity in struggles of concern to Indigenous Peoples?  Two indigenous leaders who work closely with non-indigenous people offer them some guidance about developing relationships with indigenous persons and Indigenous Peoples as foundational for further engagement in struggles led by the indigenous.

Healing from Intergenerational Trauma

October 12, 2020 – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

The trauma inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples through the many ways that settler-colonists and their descendants attempted to erase them and their culture over the centuries is passed from generation to generation.  High rates of domestic violence, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse are some of the ways that this trauma manifests among indigenous people today.  Elicia Goodsoldier is among the indigenous leaders helping today’s indigenous youth heal the wounds of intergenerational trauma and break the cycle for coming generations.  Before healing can take place, the depth and the breadth of the historical and ongoing injuries need to be acknowledged.

Truth, Conciliation, and Healing

October 26, 2020 – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

The enormity of the depth and the breadth of the intergenerational trauma inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples and people is hard to fathom.  Yet some experiments in truth-telling and listening are opening the way for healing and further reparative action.  In this webinar we will hear from participants in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission about these processes, the lessons being learned, and some of the fruits of the work these processes have begun.