TRR Facilitator Kody Hersh

A banner that says, “Honor the Treaties” is being held up by people standing in a large tree. There is a crowd of marchers below, some holding signs and some taking photos of the banner.

“Rise with Standing Rock: Native Nations March on Washington,” March 2017.

Kody Hersh: A smiling human leans against a railing outdoors.

Outside Knox United Church, Kenora, Ontario, on a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation in 2019.

The first time I remember hearing a land acknowledgment was in 2015. It was the first night of a ten-day delegation along the U.S./Mexico border, led by Christian Peacemaker Teams. Our group had flown from across the continent to meet in Tucson, Arizona and learn about border militarization and migrant solidarity. We began by naming the Tohono O’odham people, whose traditional territory has been split by the colonially imposed border.

Hearing that Indigenous land acknowledgement made me suddenly aware of the absence of such acknowledgement in other contexts in my life. The lack of recognition felt like an injustice, and a loss.

Since that land acknowledgement first planted a seed in me, I have had the opportunity to learn from others further on the path about how to engage the truth of colonization in a way that builds hope and relationship rather than guilt and despair. I have gotten to organize kitchen supplies and collect jail support paperwork at the Standing Rock water protector camps, hear stories about resistance to logging from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) partners in the Anishinaabe community of Grassy Narrows, and have many conversations with other settler people about how we can live responsibly on this land. I have also served with CPT in Colombia and Palestine, which has helped me begin to understand how interconnected the struggles of Indigenous peoples are around the world.

I first encountered the Toward Right Relationship workshop “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change” in 2016, when I was working with a group of Quaker high schoolers in the Philadelphia area. We invited a local TRR facilitator to lead the workshop after our youth expressed a desire to learn more about Indigenous issues. I was so impressed with how the workshop engaged our participants in emotional, physical, and spiritual learning about the human impact of colonization. I watched it draw people into the story, and leave them at the end feeling personally committed to ongoing learning, action, and transformation.

Since then, becoming a TRR facilitator has given me the opportunity to bring the work of Indigenous solidarity home to my own communities, and engage them in questions that have become hugely important in my life.

In May 2020, I volunteered to help TRR facilitators figure out how to offer our workshops via Zoom. Since our in-person workshops involve so much physical movement and interaction, this was an exciting challenge. I am so grateful to have gotten to be part of the team doing that work.

I believe that addressing the past and present injustices of colonization is some of the most important work we can do right now for the healing of the world. It matters for the well-being of Native people — and for the rest of us, as well. As colonizers, my ancestors traded deep relationship with land, culture, and community for power over others. That rupture lives on in me, unless I actively and continuously work toward its healing. It is reflected in the brokenness of my country and society, and in our broken relationship with the planet.

I am so grateful we have the “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change” workshop as a tool for inviting ever-widening circles of people into the work of building right relationship.

Kody Gabriel Hersh (he/they) is a Quaker youth worker living in Orlando, FL, traditional and unceded territory of the Timucua, Seminole, and Miccosukee. He is a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Turtle Island Solidarity Network, and a TRR facilitator.