Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples

Let’s Try New Forms of Engagement

Dear Friends,

As we’re all adjusting to the difficult circumstances of these times, I hope you are managing as well as possible. This time may bring many things: suffering and grief, slowing down and reflection, creativity and play, self-assessment and planning, connecting and re-connecting, new skills and new opportunities to help (or be helped).

For those of us who facilitate Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples (TRR) workshops, our calendars for the next few months are suddenly empty! I’m tentatively scheduling public programs starting in August, and we’ll see…. In the meantime, this hiatus is a good time for us to:

  • Read books that will inform our work. On my own list are: The Sea of Grass by Walter Echo-Hawk; Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich; There There by Tommy Orange; The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement by Andres Resendez; Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philips’ War by Lisa Brooks).
  • Review, revise, and update our Toward Right Relationship website and program materials. It’s great to actually have some time to do this!
  • Use Zoom to kick off a series of teleconferences around topics that concern our TRR community — stay tuned!
  • Do a better job of keeping you all informed about the TRR work that you support through your donations — starting here:

In January, I asked for special donations to make it possible for me to participate in the 2020 Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute in California. Your donations opened the way for a very valuable learning/sharing experience: Thank you! The Institute’s theme was “Unsettling Histories/Decolonizing Discipleship/hukisunuskuy.” Our Native hosts were the Ventureno Chumash people for whom hukisunuskuy means “promising to do something together.” In addition to our Chumash hosts, Native elders from Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the U.S. guided and co-facilitated the gathering of about 90 people. Four TRR workshop facilitators participated and several others who are familiar with our work.

Over four full days, with guidance from the Bartimeaus team, we met in small groups to share and deeply reflect on our families’ settler stories. The Indigenous facilitators emphasized that they believe it is very important for non-Native people to dive deep into these questions:

  • Day 1: Where did your people come from and what did they carry with them?
  • Day 2: Where did your people come to in North America, who did they displace, and what impact did their settlement have on the land and populace?
  • Day 3: What are pressing issues of Indigenous justice where you now live? How can you work to improve relationships and solidarity with local native communities?
  • Day 4: Memos to self: what are your next steps?

I had been doing this introspection myself for some time (reflected in my article in Friends Journal), but the group process took me deeper. Now I am thinking about ways to incorporate some of these group processes into TRR presentations.

In the mean time, I invite you to sit with the four questions yourself. Take time for them one by one. You might need to do some research, contact family members, read old letters or diaries. You might need to re-think the stories your family tells: what do they reveal about your family’s values? what’s missing from them? why? How do you carry these stories, consciously or unconsciously, with you today? How do you want to write your own place-based story, and how does your story intersect with the stories of Native peoples? What do those connections mean, and where might they lead you?

If you’d like to share your experience engaging with these questions, please feel free to write to me.

Thanks again for walking this path with us, for giving financial support for our Toward Right Relationship work when you can, and for all the ways you care for our world. -Paula