Stop Whitewashing Genocide and Slavery

Bring back critical race theory and remove monuments to white supremacy in Iowa. July 4, 2021. 1 – 3 pm. West terrace Iowa State Capitol

May be an image of 3 people and text that says 'XSTOP WHITEWASHING WHITEV GENOCIDE & SLAVERY DEFENID BRING BACK CRITICAL RACE THEORY & REMOVE MONUMENTS Το WHITE SUPREMACY IN IOWA July 4th, 2021 pm-3pm West Terrace Iowa capitol 1007 E Grand Ave Des Moines, IA GreatPlains Action Society cči DSM BLM COLLECTIVE HMH Put Your Logo Here'

Stop Whitewashing Genocide & Slavery!!!
Bring Back Critical Race Theory & Remove Monuments to White Supremacy in Iowa!

We have an event planned for July 4th at the Capitol Complex and we would love to see a mass turnout to support the BIPOC struggle in Iowa. If your organization would like to join our coalition and co-host, hit me up ASAP and send me your logo.

Don’t be a bystander to white supremacy. Fight back!

Join us on “Fourth of He Lies” to demand that the Iowa legislators remove whitewashed monuments to white supremacy in Iowa. Organizers will present a petition demanding that all racist, misogynistic, homo/transphobic, whitewashed historical depictions be removed from all state grounds and facilities. These monuments fall into the realm of hate propaganda and make folks feel unwelcome in public spaces. So, we need legislation that removes all monuments, murals, and depictions of white supremacist persons, acts, and ideologies from all Iowa state grounds and state-funded institutions.

In response to police brutality and racial injustice, monuments to white supremacy are being removed all over the country but People of the World Majority are being forced to put their safety on the line to carry out this long-overdue purge. Folks have been shot, arrested, and targeted. We are an Indigenous-led coalition who do not want any more People of the World Majority to put their bodies on the line so this is a permitted event with the intent of making the state–the colonizers–do their job.

To start, we insist that the following statues and mural be removed from the Iowa State Capitol Building and grounds.

On the West Lawn, there is a 15-foot bronze statue on a large pedestal that stands in front of the Iowa State Capitol Building. According to the Iowa State Government website, the statue depicts “The Pioneer of the former territory, a group consisting of father and son guided by a friendly Indian in search of a home. The pioneer depicted was to be hardy, capable of overcoming the hardships of territorial days to make Iowa his home.” The father and son settler invaders are standing tall and proud, looking west, as the “friendly Indian” sits behind them in a less powerful, dejected position.

Inside the capitol is a piece that overwhelmingly encompasses this sentiment called the Westward Mural, which covers a massive wall. The artist writes that “The main idea of the picture is symbolical presentation of the Pioneers led by the spirits of Civilization and Enlightenment to the conquest by cultivation of the Great West.” He also speaks about overcoming the wilderness with plowed fields–as if the current Indigenous inhabitants, such as the Ioway and the Meskwaki, had not already created capable and efficient land management systems.

On the South Lawn, there is a Christopher Columbus Monument that was celebrated in 1938 by five thousand people who showed up for the dedication of the statue on Columbus Day. The statue was put up just a couple years after the Columbus Club of Iowa successfully lobbied to have Walker Park renamed to Columbus Park and have a Columbus monument placed there.*This is a peaceful event led by Indigenous Folx. Please do not take actions that will put Brown and Black folx in jeopardy.

Great Plains Action Society

Some of my photos from last year’s event
Monuments 7/4/2020 – LANDBACK Friends

Line 3 6/23/2021

There is an urgent call to support the Red Lake Treaty Camp in Minnesota Line 3 where Enbridge is moving in heavy machinery to prepare drilling at Red Lake River without a required tribal monitor present. Indigenous leaders have been exercising their treaty rights there to oppose the construction activities. They received notice this morning from the state that the camp may be evicted by the end of the day.

  • Show up at the Red Lake Treaty Camp, answering the call to help them move the camp (see Taysha Martineau’s livestream). See information on how to get to camp here. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Call on Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and Gov. Tim Walz to demand that activities be stopped until Enbridge can adhere to their legal requirements – 651-201-3400
  • Call, email Margaret.Anderson.Kelliher@state.mn.us, or tweet @MAKMinnesota at MNDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher 651-366-4800 asking her to reconsider evicting the Red Lake Treaty Camp.

Our communities are still mourning

Trauma is passed from generation to generation. The recent documentation of the remains of 215 Native children at a boarding school in Canada has re-opened deep wounds in Native communities.

Some of my Native friends have shared how this affects them and their families today. Many have been triggered by this atrocity. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.” Secretary Haaland says, “Our communities are still mourning”.

The following is a portion of remarks delivered by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year session on June 22, 2021. 

Another issue that is so personal to me is the devastating history of the U.S. government’s boarding school policies. Like many of you was, I was deeply impacted by the news of 215 Indigenous children found in a mass grave at a boarding school in Canada. I couldn’t help but think of their families.

Each of those children is a missing family member, a person who was not able to live out their purpose because forced assimilation policy. And did their lives too soon. I thought of my own child who carries this generational trauma with them. I thought of my grandmother who told me about the pain and loneliness she endured when the trains to curl away from her family to boarding school.

I wept with the Indigenous members of our team here at Interior. Our communities are still mourning. The federal policies that attempted to wipe out Native identity, language and culture continued to manifest in the pain our communities face, including long-standing intergenerational trauma cycles of violence and abuse disappearance of Indigenous people, premature deaths, mental disorders, and substance abuse.

‘Our communities are still mourning’: Secretary Haaland announces federal Indian boarding school initiative, Indianz.com, June 22, 2021

Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

Yesterday I wrote how the verification of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School affected my Native friends and me.

That discovery prompted Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to announce a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, for a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies.

Conclusion
Over the course of the Program, thousands of Indigenous children were removed from their homes and placed in Federal boarding schools across the country. Many who survived the ordeal returned home changed in unimaginable ways, and their experiences still resonate across the generations. The work outlined above with shed light on the scope of that impact.

Secretarial memo about the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

Following are the Press Release announcing this initiative and the related secretarial memo.

Press Release

Secretary Haaland Announces Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

Outlines Path Forward on Troubled Legacy of Federal Boarding School Policies in Remarks to National Congress of American Indians

Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov

WASHINGTON — In remarks to the National Congress of American Indians 2021 Mid Year Conference today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies.

Today’s announcement is accompanied by a secreterial memo in which Secretary Haaland directs the Department to prepare a report detailing available historical records, with an emphasis on cemeteries or potential burial sites, relating to the federal boarding school program in preparation for a future site work. This work will occur under the supervision of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

“The Interior Department will address the inter-generational impact of Indian boarding schools to shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how hard it will be,” said Secretary Haaland. “I know that this process will be long and difficult. I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace.”

Secretary Haaland recently reflected on the inter-generational trauma created by these policies in an op-ed.

“We must shed light on what happened at federal Boarding Schools,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, who also delivered remarks outlining implementation of this effort. “As we move forward in this work, we will engage in Tribal consultation on how best to use this information, protect burial sites, and respect families and communities.”

Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the nation. The purpose of Indian boarding schools was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities where their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian identities, languages, and beliefs were to be forcibly suppressed. For over 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities.

The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative will serve as an investigation about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools. The primary goal will be to identify boarding school facilities and sites; the location of known and possible student burial sites located at or near school facilities; and the identities and Tribal affiliations of children interred at such locations.

The recent discovery of 215 unmarked graves by Canada’s Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation at the Kamloops Indian Residential School prompted the Department to undertake this new initiative with the goal of shedding light on these past traumas. 

The work will proceed in several phases and include the identification and collection of records and information related to the Department of Interior’s own oversight and implementation of the Indian boarding school program; formal consultations with Tribal Nations, Alaska Native corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations to clarify the processes and procedures for protecting identified burial sites and associated information; and the submission of a final written report on the investigation to the Secretary by April 1, 2022.

The Interior Department continues to operate residential boarding schools through the Bureau of Indian Education. In sharp contrast to the policies of the past, these schools aim to provide a quality education to students from across Indian Country and to empower Indigenous youth to better themselves and their communities as they seek to practice their spirituality, learn their language, and carry their culture forward.

Space between stories, worlds

I’ve been broken by the latest calamity, the verification of the remains of 215 Native children on the grounds of what was a residential school in British Columbia. More tragic is knowing hundreds of other Indigenous children died, or were killed, in these institutions of forced assimilation in the lands called Canada and the United States.

I’ve known about forced assimilation for years. But this is raw, because I see how devastated my Native friends are. And I know Quakers were involved in some of these institutions.

The trauma for Native families has been passed from generation to generation. Some of my Native friends have shared how this affects them and their families today. The news has re-opened deep wounds in Native communities. Many have been triggered by this atrocity. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.”
[see: Time for a Reset]

I’m deeply troubled. I feel caught between my Native relatives and my Quaker community. To the extent that I’ve said I need to “step away” from my involvement with Quakers for a time. Even though I’m not sure what that means, or what will allow me to return.

What I am not getting Friends to see is capitalism is the root of the problem, for reasons I’ve explained in detail elsewhere.
[See: capitalism | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com) ]

It is frustrating to know all the work, the good intentions of Friends and others, will not lead to needed solutions as long as that work is done within the context of capitalism. [See the diagram below]

What it would take for me to return to Quaker justice work would be for Quakers to see capitalism must be abandoned. And to actively search for alternatives.

I’ve tried to explain this in An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. If you are so led, you are invited to sign the letter.


We do not have a new story yet. Each of us is aware of some of its threads, for example in most of the things we call alternative, holistic, or ecological today. Here and there we see patterns, designs, emerging parts of the fabric. But the new mythos has not yet formed.

We will abide for a time in the “space between stories.” It is a very precious — some might say sacred — time. Then we are in touch with the real. Each disaster lays bare the reality underneath our stories. The terror of a child, the grief of a mother, the honesty of not knowing why. In such moments our dormant humanity awakens as we come to each other’s aid, human to human, and learn who we are.

That’s what keeps happening every time there is a calamity before the old beliefs, ideologies, and politics take over again. Now the calamities and contradictions are coming so fast that the story has not enough time to recover. Such is the birth process of a new story.

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, Charles Eisenstein

I am in that very precious, sacred time Charles Eisenstein describes. Abiding in the “space between stories”. The teachings of my Native friends have awakened the honesty of not knowing why.

I invite you to be open to new ways of being, such as LANDBACK and Mutual Aid. And pray we can hold onto the space between stories before the old beliefs, ideologies, and politics take over again. There is an urgency to this.

It is instructive that Eisenstein is expressing the concept of Mutual Aid when he writes “in such moments our dormant humanity awakens as we come to each other’s aid, human to human, and learn who we are.

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war.

Once we envision that world our ancestors want for us, finding our role is natural.

My friend and mentor Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist

Friends express this as seeking what the Inner Light is asking of us.

I urge us to discern whether there are circumscribed limits we might not be aware of, that hold us back from venturing into a new story.


TO END RACIAL CAPITALISM, WE WILL NEED TO TAKE ON POLICING

When I joked with a friend about running, he said the only running he would be doing was from the police. Sadly, he was serious.

LANDBACK and Mutual Aid work to abolish the status quo of colonial, or racial capitalism, and white supremacy. This quote is by a good friend of mine, who introduced me to the food giveaway program I’ve been participating in for over a year.

So I work with a dope crew called Des Moines Mutual Aid, and on Saturday mornings we do a food giveaway program that was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program and has carried on to this day. Anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah.

So I get to work and I need to call my boss, who is also a very good old friend, because there is network issues. He remembers and asks about the food giveaway which is cool and I tell him blah blah it went really well. And then he’s like, “hey, if no one tells you, I’m very proud of what you do for the community” and I’m like “hold on hold on. Just realize that everything I do is to further the replacing of the state and destroying western civilization and any remnants of it for future generations.” He says “I know and love that. Carry on.”

Policing in the United States is a force of racist violence that is entangled at the core of the capitalist system. As Robin D.G. Kelley pointed out on Intercepted With Jeremy Scahill, capitalism and racism are not distinct from one another: “If you think of capitalism as racial capitalism, then the outcome is you cannot eliminate capitalism, overthrow it, without the complete destruction of white supremacy, of the racial regime under which it’s built.”

Police in the United States act with impunity in targeted neighborhoods, public schools, college campuses, hospitals, and almost every other public sphere. Not only do the police view protesters, Black and Indigenous people, and undocumented immigrants as antagonists to be controlled, they are also armed with military-grade weapons. This police militarization is a process that dates at least as far back as President Lyndon Johnson when he initiated the 1965 Law Enforcement Assistance Act, which supplied local police forces with weapons used in the Vietnam War. The public is now regarded as dangerous and suspect; moreover, as the police are given more military technologies and weapons of war, a culture of punishment, resentment and racism intensifies as Black people, in particular, are viewed as a threat to law and order. Unfortunately, employing militarized responses to routine police practices has become normalized. One consequence is that the federal government has continued to arm the police through the Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 Program, which allows the Defense Department to transfer military equipment free of charge to local enforcement agencies.

TO END RACIAL CAPITALISM, WE WILL NEED TO TAKE ON POLICING By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout, June 20, 2021

Police brutality cannot be separated from the lethal nature of white supremacy

TO END RACIAL CAPITALISM, WE WILL NEED TO TAKE ON POLICING By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout, June 20, 2021

But even more important, imprisonment is the punitive solution to a whole range of social problems that are not being addressed by those social institutions that might help people lead better, more satisfying lives. This is the logic of what has been called the imprisonment binge: Instead of building housing, throw the homeless in prison. Instead of developing the educational system, throw the illiterate in prison. Throw people in prison who lose jobs as the result of de-industrialization, globalization of capital, and the dismantling of the welfare state. Get rid of all of them. Remove these dispensable populations from society. According to this logic the prison becomes a way of disappearing people in the false hope of disappearing the underlying social problems they represent.

Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy

it is racism that is the trigger that disproportionately escalates police encounters with people of color. However, even more sadly, it is systemic racism that normalizes it, or legitimates it, making it largely acceptable to white American eyes and consciences. For it is not only the police who have this problem, but our entire society.

Armed Racism Keeps No One Safe By Robert C. Koehler, Common Wonders, 4/17/2021

For the past several months I’ve been attending Zoom meetings with a group of Quakers, mainly younger Friends, about abolition of police and prisons.

This same war of conquest is currently using the mass incarceration machine to instill fear in the populace, warehouse cheap labor, and destabilize communities that dare to defy a system that would rather see you dead than noncompliant. This is the same war where it’s soldiers will kill a black or brown body, basically instinctively, because our very existence reminds them of all that they have stolen and the possibility of a revolution that can create a new world where conquest is a shameful memory.

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war.

Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist

Our very existence reminds them of all that they have stolen and the possibility of a revolution that can create a new world where conquest is a shameful memory

Ronnie James

People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all? This change in society wouldn’t happen immediately, but the protests show that many people are ready to embrace a different vision of safety and justice.

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police, Because reform won’t happen By Mariame Kaba, The New York Times, June 12, 2020

The challenge that Kaba and other abolitionists are posing does not advocate for liberal reforms. Their call is to advance a radical restructuring of society. Central to their call for social change is that such a task be understood as both political and educational. This necessitates the development of political and pedagogical struggles that take seriously the need to rethink the attack on the public imagination and attack on critical agency, identity and everyday life. Also at stake is the need to identify and reclaim those institutions, such as schools, that are necessary to produce and connect an educated public to the struggle for a substantive and radical democracy. The current crisis cannot be faced through limited calls for police reforms. It demands a more comprehensive view not only of oppression and the forces through which it is produced, legitimated and normalized, but also of political struggle itself.

TO END RACIAL CAPITALISM, WE WILL NEED TO TAKE ON POLICING By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout, June 20, 2021

We each have skills and resources we can utilize towards the abolition project. Some of us can use the halls of the system to make short term change there, others have skills that produce food, provide medical care, or care for our precious youth, some are skilled in the more confrontational tactics needed. Once we envision that world our ancestors want for us, finding our role is natural.

Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist

Once we envision that world our ancestors want for us, finding our role is natural.

Ronnie James

Moral Injury

I’ve been praying and writing about this unsettled time for me. I know there are other members of my Quaker faith community who also feel this way. As I try to explain here, Spiritual discernment to leave Quakers, I was led to temporarily distance myself from Quakers. I didn’t have a clear understanding of why that was necessary, what distancing myself meant, and what would need to happen for me to return to Quakers. What I had no doubt about was the spiritual message that was what I must do.

Over the past six years I’ve been led in multiple ways to connect with, become friends with, Native people. I recently wrote I have a spiritual bond with this new community. Multiple Spiritual Communities. This has opened a whole new way to see my Quaker community.

There is a tragic history between these two communities. Beginning in the mid 1800’s, Quakers and other denominations took on the role of forcefully assimilating Native children into White culture. The stated reason was to help those children learn how to live in the white world that was enveloping them. The more sinister reason was to quell the resistance of Native nations to being forced off their lands. (see: Much worse than I realized )

The recent verification of the remains of 215 Native children on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia was devastating news to Native peoples in Canada and the US. Many have been triggered by this atrocity. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.”

The concept of moral injury is helpful for me in the context of the tragedies of the Indian boarding schools and my relationship with my Quaker community.

Moral injury is the social, psychological, and spiritual harm that arises from a betrayal of one’s core values, such as justice, fairness, and loyalty. Harming others, whether in military or civilian life; failing to protect others, through error or inaction; and failure to be protected by leaders, especially in combat—can all wound a person’s conscience, leading to lasting angerguilt, and shame, and can fundamentally alter one’s world view and impair the ability to trust others.

Moral Injury, Psychology Today

Moral injury refers to an injury to an individual’s moral conscience and values resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression, which produces profound emotional guilt and shame, and in some cases also a sense of betrayal, anger and profound “moral disorientation”.

Definition

The concept of moral injury emphasizes the psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of trauma. Distinct from psychopathology, moral injury is a normal human response to an abnormal traumatic event. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the concept is used in literature with regard to the mental health of military veterans who have witnessed or perpetrated an act in combat that transgressed their deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Among healthcare professionals, moral injury refers to unaddressed moral distress leading to the accumulation of serious inner conflict that may overwhelm one’s sense of goodness and humanity. It is important to note that, despite the identification of moral traumas among both veterans and healthcare professionals, research has remained oddly independent between these two groups, and as such, the terminology is not uniform.

Moral injury – Wikipedia

Enslavement, colonization and forced assimilation

Quakers were among those involved in enslavement. There were also Quakers among the white settlers who colonized native lands. In addition, Friends were involved in the forced assimilation, the cultural genocide, of native children. There are many Quakers who don’t want to deal with this today. Suggesting this was in the past, or we don’t have a responsibility for what our ancestors did.

Unfortunately those traumas are passed from generation to generation. Influence both those who experienced the trauma, and those who caused it, today.

Economic injustice and Mutual Aid

The moral injury I’ve been experiencing for the past several years.is related to economic injustice. I believe it is immoral for an economic system to deny access to basic necessities for those who don’t have money to pay for food, shelter, clothing, medical care and/or education. Those who don’t have money through no fault of their own. The COVID pandemic and it’s economic impact have resulted millions more falling into economic insecurity.

I’ve been blessed to learn about and participate in Mutual Aid. The concept that everyone in a community can work together to find solutions to problems that affect the whole community. With Mutual Aid there is no vertical hierarchy. Rather a flat hierarchy where every contributes to the work. Where survival needs are addressed immediately. Work that helps satisfy people’s desire to be involved in meaningful work.

I feel disappointment that Quakers as a whole do not see the urgency to create Mutual Aid projects. Do not see the moral imperative to leave an unjust system, and create one that is just.

Multiple Spiritual Communities

I recently wrote Spiritual discernment to leave Quakers. After that, though, I admit I thought, ‘what have I done? What now?’

I am a bit off balance. Writing helps me find my way through things I don’t have a good understanding of. I try to be spiritually aware as I write. But especially in this case, what follows is definitely work in progress.

It’s a paradox to distance myself from Quakers while at the same time wanting to continue to work with Friends to disavow capitalism, white supremacy and the vast tapestry of damage that comes from them. When I need spiritual support.

Recently I became aware I have a spiritual community with my Native friends, too.

In 2016, I felt an immediate spiritual connection the first time a group of Native people joined a gathering in downtown Indianapolis, to bring attention to the dangers of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Retiring to Iowa in 2017, I was led to a number of opportunities to form friendships with Native people. In the years since, these friendships have deepened. There have been numerous occasions for us to work together. Get to know each other. The photo below is from the beginning of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in the fall of 2018. A small group of about 30 Native and non-native people walked and camped together over eight days, for 94 miles along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline. The intention of this sacred journey came to fruition as we shared our stories, walking down empty gravel roads through rural Iowa. We began to know each other, to establish trust. Along the way my friend Donnielle Wanatee said, “we are a tribe.” Many blog posts, photos and videos of the March can be found here
First Nation-Farmer Unity – First Nation peoples and farmers working together (firstnationfarmer.com)

This quote by some of my friends speaks to storytelling and Mutual Aid.

Truthsgiving is an ideology that must be enacted through truth telling and mutual aid to discourage colonized ideas about the thanksgiving mythology—not a name switch so we can keep doing the same thing. It’s about telling and doing the truth on this day so we can stop dangerous stereotypes and whitewashed history from continuing to harm Indigenous lands and Peoples, as well as Black, Latinx, Asian-American and all oppressed folks on Turtle Island.

Truthsgiving

Mutual Aid

One way I have continued to learn about Native peoples has been becoming involved in Mutual Aid, which includes Indigenous people. One of the basic tenants of Mutual Aid is everyone comes together to work on the needs of the community. I am so grateful to have become part of Des Moines Mutual Aid. One of the many things I love about my Mutual Aid community is how our spirituality is fundamental to the work we do together, even if the words aren’t spoken.

Those who know me are probably surprised not to see photos of my Mutual Aid friends. That is because police scan social media photos and videos to identify people to subsequently arrest. Not that Mutual Aid is illegal. But Des Moines Mutual Aid folks work closely with Des Moines Black Liberation, and show up at public events. There has been a great deal of unrest in a few cities in Iowa related to George Floyed and police violence.

I admit there have been times when I wished our Quaker communities did more work like my Mutual Aid group. This diverse group of friends embrace the idea of a horizontal hierarchy where everyone has a voice. And are so gracious with those who come in need of food, for example. We know this hunger is the result of the capitalist economy, not the fault of the people needing food. And know we may at some point find ourselves in need of food. We look forward to being together each week. And to be doing work to immediately address survival needs. Something is right when such a diverse group works with such enthusiasm. Several people have told me our Saturday mornings are the highlight of their week. Mine, too.

See: “mutual aid” | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

Forced assimilation and genocide

Over the past several years the horrors of the Native residential schools have become more widely known in White communities, and among white Quakers. My Friend Paula Palmer’s ministry about this has been teaching Quakers about the forced assimilation of Native children. Her research into Quakers’ role in this can be found in her article in Friends Journal, which has a telling title. Quaker Indian Boarding Schools. Facing our History and Ourselves – Friends Journal And is the best resource I have found on this subject.

I can not feel the depths of the trauma of my Native friends, which has been triggered yet again, this time with the verification of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in British Columbia. 

But I do see, hear, sense the signs of their utter devastation. Up close and personal as they say. Our spiritual connection is one dimension of this. One of my best friends told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning”.

So we have this situation where both my Native friends and I know of this terrible history, and Quakers having some part in it. I’ve written a lot about talking about the residential schools with my Native friends. Spiritual discernment to leave Quakers | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

I didn’t know if I could face my friends after this latest atrocity, and had been writing about it on my blog.

When I shared some of this on social media, including stepping away from Quakers, some people talked about it being a privilege to walk away. I responded, “reading the comments on walking away, I have a different perspective. What caused me to, at least temporarily, disengage from Quakers was when I saw how traumatized my Native friends were about the remains of Native children at the residential school in Canada. I didn’t feel I could continue working with them, and I see them every week, if I didn’t do something beyond just words, to indicate I recognized their pain, and acknowledged my ancestors’ role in those schools. In any case, I was following a strong spiritual leading I was given.”

One of the many gifts my indigenous friends have given me, is to read some of what I write. So they can continue to talk with, mentor me. A close friend had read of my outrage and sorrow about this latest atrocity. About my turmoil of continuing to work with Mutual Aid. So, even in the midst of his mourning about the children, he took the time and effort to help me.

“Thank you friend. I don’t know what you can do. The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest.
You’re a good relative Jeff. To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.
I wish you the best. I imagine its a hard struggle.”

That is just one of many examples of how my friends have supported me. I am realizing as I work through this, I am truly blessed to be part of the spiritual communities of both Quakers and Native peoples. What a blessing!

So, rather than completely leave Quakers, I am now feeling I can continue to work with Friends to the extent I maintain my spiritual integrity with myself and my Native friends. That means I must conscientiously object to any practice of Friends that continues to support colonial capitalism and white supremacy and all the evil manifestations of them.

Of course I am living within systems of colonial capitalism and white supremacy. It will take time to extricate from that. But what I have done and practice is to begin to intentionally extricate myself. You can begin to do so now as well.

I will continue to work with my Mutual Aid friends. And as my Native friends have asked, teach others about the concept of LANDBACK, and find ways to support that. I will seek to find ways to continue to work with Quakers.

To begin that work, I recently created the WordPress site LANDBACK Friends. And the associated Facebook group, LANDBACK Friends.

On the LANDBACK Friends website is an Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. You can begin your LANDBACK journey by signing that epistle if so led. And if you would like to join the email group related to LANDBACK Friends, you can enter your email address at the bottom of the letter.

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.

Read and sign the Epistle – LANDBACK Friends