The Toward Right Relationship project offers this workshop in response to calls from Indigenous leaders at the United Nations and the World Council of Churches.The 2-hour exercise traces the historic and ongoing impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery, the 15th-century justification for European subjugation of non-Christian peoples. Our goal is to raise our level of knowledge and concern about these impacts, recognize them in ourselves and our institutions, and explore how we can begin to take actions toward “right relationship.” We provide a Resource Kit with suggestions for continued study, reflection, and action.
In the Doctrine of Discovery, we find the roots of injustice. In the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we find the seeds of change. How can we nurture these seeds to bring forth the fruits of right relationship among all peoples?
Through this program, in one class period, students symbolically experience the colonization of North America as the Native peoples and the European colonists experienced it. During a 25-minute participatory exercise, students hear the voices of Indigenous leaders and European popes, monarchs, presidents, generals, and Western historians as the story unfolds. They learn about the Doctrine of Discovery and how it was employed to take lands away from non-Christian peoples. They learn how this Doctrine continues to violate the rights of Indigenous peoples in our country and around the world. And they learn how Indigenous peoples organized to claim their rights through passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The exercise is followed by a 20-minute response period, when students share what they learned, how they feel, and what they think about the reality of Native peoples in our society today.
This program is a valuable hands-on supplement to lessons in history, civics, diversity and inclusion, racism, social justice movements, current events, and to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day (Oct. 12), United Nations Day (Oct. 24), and Human Rights Day (Dec. 10).
Native American organizations are asking churches to join in a Truth and Reconciliation process to bring about healing for Native American families that continue to suffer the consequences of the Indian boarding schools. With support from Pendle Hill (the Cadbury scholarship), Friends Historical Library (the Moore Fellowship), the Native American Rights Fund, and other Friendly sources, Paula Palmer researched the role that Friends played in implementing the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation of Native children.
During her tenure as Pendle Hill’s 2016 Cadbury Scholar, Toward Right Relationship project director Paula Palmer is conducting research on the role Quakers played in conceptualizing, promoting, and carrying out the forced assimilation policies of the last two centuries. This policy was succinctly expressed by Merrill E. Gates in 1891: “We are going to conquer the Indians by a standing army of school teachers.”
Native Americans continue to suffer the consequences of forced assimilation by means of Indian boarding schools. They are asking the churches to contribute toward healing processes by doing research on our roles during the Indian boarding school era. Truth-telling is a first essential step in the truth, reconciliation, and healing process that they envision.
The intention of Paula’s research is to lift up the history of the Quaker Indian boarding schools so that Friends can reflect on its consequences for Native American communities and its meaning for the Religious Society of Friends today. What role will Friends today play in the movement for truth, reconciliation and healing?