Tensions between Native peoples and Christian religions

There is growing sorrow and anger in Indigenous communities now. Related to the awful and expanding discoveries of the remains of children, thousands of them, found on the grounds of former Native residential schools.

A good friend told me he is trying to not let rage get in the way of his mourning. I know his son, and can’t imagine the conversations they might have had about this news.

It is so traumatic to imagine the terror of the children, who had to know about at least some of these deaths at their school. To have been abused in so many ways. Punished if they spoke their language. Not even be allowed their practices that might give comfort. Alone, isolated from their families. Knowing they could die themselves.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Tuesday that she is launching the Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive review of the “devastating history” of the U.S. government’s policy of forcing Native American children into boarding schools for assimilation into white culture.

Deb Haaland Launches Review of ‘Devastating’ Native American Boarding Schools. The Interior Department probe will identify Indigenous children who died at schools the U.S. government forced them into for assimilation into white culture By Jennifer Bendery, HuffPost, June 22, 2021

Quakers were involved in some of these schools. Not to say they mistreated the children. But the concept of trying to assimilate Native children into white culture is by definition cultural genocide.

What is our accountability today?

From our twenty-first-century vantage point, we know (or can learn) how Native people suffered and continue to suffer the consequences of actions that Friends committed 150 ago with the best of intentions. Can we hold those good intentions tenderly in one hand, and in the other hold the anguish, fear, loss, alienation, and despair borne by generations of Native Americans?

Native organizations are not asking us to judge our Quaker ancestors. They are asking, “Who are Friends today? Knowing what we know now, will Quakers join us in honest dialogue? Will they acknowledge the harm that was done? Will they seek ways to contribute toward healing processes that are desperately needed in Native communities?” These are my questions, too.

Quaker Indian Boarding Schools. Facing Our History and Ourselves By Paula Palmer, Friends Journal, October 1, 2016

I belong to the spiritual communities of Quakers and of my Native friends. There is great tension between these communities. The article below, “why we’re burning Bibles” describes a Native view of Christian religions. This was written by the Great Plains Action Society, where I have many friends. I am sure some Friends will object to these ideas. But we don’t have the right to pass judgement.

This is a confusing time for me. I’ve been learning and telling others about the Native boarding schools for years. I have spoken about this and apologized to each of my Native friends for the Quaker involvement in the residential schools.

Below is an Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK in which I write more about these things. My Native friends tell me the best way I can help them is by teaching others about the concepts of LANDBACK. So I’ve recently created the website LANDBACK Friends. There is a lot of information about the Native boarding schools there.

When I began to learn of the verification of the remains of Native children at those schools, I wondered how that might affect how Native peoples view Quakers, view me now. I am touched by them telling me I am still welcome to work with them.

Native organizations are not asking us to judge our Quaker ancestors. They are asking, “Who are Friends today? Knowing what we know now, will Quakers join us in honest dialogue? Will they acknowledge the harm that was done? Will they seek ways to contribute toward healing processes that are desperately needed in Native communities?”

Paula Palmer

Why We’re Burning Bibles

Stand with First Nations Peoples on Cancel KKKanada Day and burn your bibles for the rape, torture, and murder of Indigenous children. Use #bibleburner and post your video or pic online or on the event page.

In the wake of over 1300 unmarked/mass graves that have recently been uncovered on reservations such as the Cowessess and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations in Canada, we demand truth, justice, and healing from genocidal policy set forth by the US and Canada that allowed Christian clergy to neglect, rape, torture, and murder Indigenous children. We also demand redress and reparations to the fullest extent as we know that there are thousands of Indigenous children also buried here in the US—and the search hasn’t even begun.

For now, we will start by expelling the codified christian text that is the blueprint behind our genocide. The Christian bible has proven to be the deadliest of all human-made weapons. It has been the permission slip for all of the atrocities following colonization. The cost of building the global Christian Empire is an ongoing and immeasurable loss that we can never truly have a full accounting for, as the newest discovered mass graves of our relatives painfully remind us today.

As we mourn the loss of our loved ones and relatives, murdered and discarded after being violently stolen from us, we don’t forget the who or the why. For over 100 years the churches have used these schools to destroy us, to “kill the indian to save the man”.

This has never been a secret.

This is why we reject the entire premise of the Christian faith and its supportive texts. The Bible remains a supportive tool to persecute Indigenous people. Rejecting this tool is vital to the continuation of supporting Indigenous people and our livelihood. We ask our supporters to join us in burning the Bible as an act of solidarity and to send a message to Christian faiths that we will no longer allow this tool to exist in our spaces.

Why We’re Burning Bibles


An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

Dear Friends,

The measure of a community is how the needs of its people are met. No one should go hungry, or without shelter or healthcare. Yet in this country known as the United States millions struggle to survive. The capitalist economic system creates hunger, houselessness, illness that is preventable, and despair. A system that requires money for goods and services denies basic needs to anyone who does not have money. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected. Systemic racism. The capitalist system that supports the white materialistic lifestyle is built on stolen land and genocide of Indigenous peoples, and the labor of those who were enslaved in the past or are forced to live on poverty wages today.

Capitalism is revealed as an unjust, untenable system, when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores, but men, women and children are going hungry, living on the streets outside. White supremacy violently enforces the will of wealthy white people on the rest of us.

It has become clear to some of us who are called Friends that the colonial capitalist economic system and white supremacy are contrary to the Spirit and we must find a better way. We conscientiously object to and resist capitalism and white supremacy.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices. 
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement

Mutual Aid

How do we resist? We rebuild our communities in ways not based upon money. Such communities thrive all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always lived this way. Generations of white people once did so in this country. Mutual Aid is a framework that can help us do this today.

The concept of Mutual Aid is simple to explain but can result in transformative change. Mutual Aid involves everyone coming together to find a solution for problems we all face. This is a radical departure from “us” helping “them”. Instead, we all work together to find and implement solutions.  To work together means we must be physically present with each other. Mutual Aid cannot be done by committee or donations. We build Beloved communities as we get to know each other. Build solidarity. An important part of Mutual Aid is creating these networks of people who know and trust each other. When new challenges arise, these networks are in place, ready to meet them.

Another important part of Mutual Aid is the transformation of those involved. This means both those who are providing help, and those receiving it.

With Mutual Aid, people learn to live in a community where there is no vertical hierarchy. A community where everyone has a voice. A model that results in enthusiastic participation. A model that makes the vertical hierarchy required for white supremacy impossible.

Commonly there are several Mutual Aid projects in a community. The initial projects usually relate to survival needs. One might be a food giveaway. Another helping those who need shelter. Many Mutual Aid groups often have a bail fund, to support those arrested for agitating for change. And accompany those arrested when they go to court.


The other component necessary to move away from colonial capitalism and white supremacy is LANDBACK.

But the idea of “landback” — returning land to the stewardship of Indigenous peoples — has existed in different forms since colonial governments seized it in the first place. “Any time an Indigenous person or nation has pushed back against the oppressive state, they are exercising some form of landback,” says Nickita Longman, a community organizer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The movement goes beyond the transfer of deeds to include respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water. Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.

Returning the Land. Four Indigenous leaders share insights about the growing landback movement and what it means for the planet, by Claire Elise Thompson, Grist, February 25, 2020

What will Friends do?

It matters little what people say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words.  Thus, we Friends may say there should not be hunger and poverty, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that leaves many without basic necessities and violently enforces white supremacy, our example will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions.  Let our lives show that we oppose the capitalist system and white supremacy, and the damages that result.  We can engage in efforts, such as Mutual Aid and LANDBACK, to build Beloved community. To reach out to our neighbors to join us.

We must begin by changing our own lives if we hope to make a real testimony for peace and justice.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and sisters and brothers.

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