Conflict Resolution 1

How can I work through conflict with my Quaker community? What is the conflict? How resolved?

Fundamentally, what is the relationship between spirituality and how we live our lives?

I agree with my friends Alton and Foxy Onefeather, “Earth is my church”.

Alton and Foxy Onefeather

That is why I’ve had lifelong tensions with Quakers about burning fossil fuels. I was able to live without a car in Indianapolis because of a city bus system, bicycling and running. With no mass transit in rural Iowa, Friends do what they can. It is humbling to now live in a small city with no public transit, to need to use a car sometimes.

Unresolved conflicts have an immediacy by definition. Something is being done now that causes conflict. Our spirituality guides us through our own conflicts. But what do we do when we see others acting in ways we disagree with? How do we deal with what our ancestors might have done?

How we live our lives should be an example. We hope this might encourage others to change. But need to consider we might be wrong. We can discuss our differences but should not try to force change. I’ve done that.

Several weeks ago I felt a strong leading to stop attending my Quaker meeting. It has been difficult. I didn’t want to.

I’ve been praying about why, and when I can return. Historically Friends who had strong leadings, for example about enslavement, worked within Quaker communities.

My current conflict is an overwhelming grief at news of the discovery of the remains of hundreds, soon to be thousands, of Native children on the grounds of residential institutions of forced assimilation. I feel this in ways I would not have several years ago, before I was blessed to begin to know and work with my Native friends. I have spoken to each of them about Quaker involvement in forced assimilation early in our relationships. We could not have moved into deeper relationship if this truth was not spoken.

One of my good friends told me he is trying to not let rage get in the way of his mourning. I have met his son and cannot imagine their discussions about this.

As I was praying about conflict, I remembered Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo. I’m surprised how the following gets to the root of the conflicts I feel now.


  • Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
  • Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
  • Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
  • The land is a being who remembers everything.
  • You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
  • The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.
  • As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
  • By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
  • Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
  • You must speak in the language of justice.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

To this day we have not come to grips with fundamental injustices our country was built on, the cultural genocide and theft of land from Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans and the legal justifications of bestowing rights and privileges on white land-owning men. The consequences of these injustices continue to plague our society today. And will continue to impact us until we do what is necessary to bring these injustices to light and find ways to heal these wounds.

Several Friends recently assisted Boulder Meeting Friend, Paula Palmer, to lead workshops and discussions as part of her ministry “toward right relationships with Native people.” Part of the tragedy of the theft of Native land is that some Native people don’t have the concept of land as property, belonging to a landowner. Rather they have a spiritual connection to Mother Earth, that the land is sacred and not something that can be claimed as property by anyone. Being forced to leave their land broke their spiritual bonds with the land.

Native people have asked us to begin work toward reconciliation and healing. The first step needed is truth telling, recognizing that injury or harm has taken place. One of the important parts of holding “right relationship” workshops is to determine which Native nations were on the land before white settlers arrived.

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2019

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