What can be done to heal the damage done to native communities by colonists, including Quakers? As Paula Palmer shares, it begins with telling the truth.
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Native people say that for healing to occur—and I think what Quakers are looking for when thinking about what the world needs is healing of many kinds… for healing to occur, the first thing that needs to happen is for us to acknowledge the harm that was done.
Seeking Right Relationship With Native Americans
My name is Paula Palmer. I live in Louisville, Colorado, which is the territory of the Arapaho people. They call themselves the Hinono’eino. My meeting is the Boulder Monthly Meeting and the Intermountain Yearly Meeting.
About 8 years ago, I experienced a leading to educate—myself first, and others—about the real history of what happened here in this country, the real history of the colonization of this country and the genocide of the indigenous peoples and the ongoing consequences for indigenous people here in this country and for all of us, really. For all of us as a nation and as communities.
Seeking the Truth
The first step toward reconciliation is truth telling. This is something that’s been important to Quakers since the beginning. We were called “seekers of the truth.” We need now to be seekers of the truth. I think one of the main problems is that we as a country are in such denial about the history of this land. We just so rarely mention genocide and colonization as foundational sins of our society, and—along with slavery—these are the foundational sins of our country and we continue to be wounded by these crimes against humanity.
Working Toward Right Relationship
I ended up creating a workshop, which we’ve now taken to almost 300 churches and colleges and universities, educating and motivating people to think about the land that we live on. Think about the peoples who lived on that land before European settlement. Think about those people and reach out to them.
We start with looking at what is the source of the injustices that have been committed and continue to be committed against indigenous peoples, and we find those roots essentially in a doctrine that’s called the doctrine of discovery, which is the justification that Europeans used to conquer and take the lands of indigenous peoples all over the world.
Facing the Quaker Legacy
For Quakers, one of the periods of this history that we have to look at ourselves is the era of the Indian Boarding Schools, because Quakers took a leadership role among the different churches in collaborating with the U.S. government in the forced assimilation of native children by means of the Indian Boarding Schools. We operated something like 30 day schools and boarding schools, most of them boarding schools for indigenous children, whose purpose was assimilation.
This is part of Quaker history that I’ve struggled to face and that I’ve tried to share, I am trying to share with Quakers around the country, and asking us to ask, “what are our responsibilities and what are our opportunities?”
An Opportunity for Healing
One thing that some Quaker meetings have started doing in Canada and in the United States is acknowledging the indigenous peoples on whose land we are living and worshiping. It’s a way to begin to ask the question, “what kind of relationship might we have with the native peoples who have lived here and who are living her now?”
A young Tohono Oʼodham man said in one of our workshops, “No one here today made these things happen, but we are the ones who are living now. And we’re all in this together.” And I think that’s what we need to hear. No one here today made all of these things happen, but we are the ones who are living now. So what are our opportunities to work with indigenous peoples, to engage them, to ask them, “What would right relationship look like?”
- How much do you know about the history of the land where you live and worship? Who are the native peoples that previously lived there? How were they removed? Where are they now?
- Paula says that genocide and slavery are, “the foundational sins of our country and we continue to be wounded by these crimes against humanity.” Do you agree? How are we continuing to be wounded? What can we do to start to heal these wounds?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.