Some Quaker history regarding residential schools

Friends were brought in by President Grant in the hope of mitigating the evils of an appallingly evil system. The meetings that became involved — some Hicksite, some Orthodox, but none Wilburite — were required to obey the law (including the laws requiring forcible enrollment) — but, within those limits, did indeed mitigate the suffering as best they could, doing things like making sure that tribes got the supplies that Congress voted for them. (Prior to Grant’s “Quaker policy”, the agents assigned to the tribes would take the supplies for themselves instead and sell them off to white buyers.) Some individual Friends appointed to this work were strongly prejudiced regarding the supposed inferiority and savagery of the native; others were remarkably enlightened. As with every part of the human drama, it was never simple, but the meetings that took up this project genuinely struggled to do their best.

Great Plains Yearly Meeting — our neighbor yearly meeting to the west and southwest — still maintains a presence with the Osage nation, which is the last truly lively relic of that Quaker policy. I have visited their meeting at Hominy, Oklahoma, the center of that effort. There are native American members there who are fourth-to-sixth generation descendants of the original native American members of the meeting. The pastor at the time I visited, David E. Nagle, is Anglo by birth, but an adopted member of the tribe; he participates in the tribal dances (and there are photos of him doing so on FB), and he took a prominent role in the work of creating a dictionary of the tribe’s language and reviving the use of the language among its children.

Great Plains Yearly Meeting itself is a bridge-builder. It is fully affiliated with FUM, but various of its individual meetings maintain affiliations with EFI or FGC. I know of no other Friends yearly meeting that is so dedicated to maintaining *all* those connections and making them meaningful. David Nagle himself is an associate member of Ohio Yearly Meeting, our sister Conservative meeting.

–Marshall Massey

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