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Indigenous Affairs Committee

 

The Indigenous Affairs Committee works to stimulate interest in issues related to American Indians. It works with local Meetings, other Yearly Meetings, and other Friends' organizations to benefit native peoples.

Click to see the complete description of the Committee as it appears in the current Manual of Procedure.

Listed below are the current members of the Committee.

Dan Cole, Co-Clerk
Frederick Friends Meeting
Dellie James, Co-Clerk
Baltimore Stony Run
Sharon Stout
Adelphi Friends Meeting
Susan "Sue" Marcus
Alexandria Friends Meeting
Abbey Compton
Herndon Friends Meeting
Steven "Steve" Tatum
Blacksburg Friends Meeting
Kimberly Benson
Annapolis Friends Meeting
William "Bill" Mims
Langley Hill Friends Meeting
Mac Broussard
Roanoke Friends Meeting
Jana McIntyre
Sandy Spring Friends Meeting
 
Susan "Susannah" Rose
Patapsco Friends Meeting

 

Land Acknowledgement

The Baltimore Yearly Meeting office is located on Piscataway ancestral land. BYM’s summer camps are located on the lands of the Piscataway (Catoctin camp, near Thurmont, MD), the Massawomek (Opequon camp, near Winchester, VA), and the Manahoac (Shiloh camp, near Standardsville, VA). BYM honors the peoples and cultures of the many past and present Native Nations in our geographic area.


Proposal for Reparations to the Pawnee Nation

Summary: The history of Baltimore Yearly meeting (BYM) is linked to that of the Pawnee Nation. Friends from BYM established a school for Pawnee children. One purpose of the school was assimilating Pawnee children into the dominant white, Eurocentric culture of the U.S. Part of the educational process was teaching them English, resulting in the near extinction of their Native language. We have the opportunity to provide a measure of restorative justice by providing funds to the Pawnee Nation’s language program. We are following a spiritual leading in submitting this request. We deeply believe it is the right thing to do.

BYM has issued a statement of apology for its complicity in a broad scope of harms to Native people, including the Pawnee Nation. No amount of monetary reparations can ever erase the effect of these far-reaching injustices. Regardless of our forebears’ intent, they were complicit in contributing to systemic injustice. As Friends today, we continue to be complicit in perpetuating those injustices, as we have inherited the resulting benefits of inequality. There is a specific harm that we believe cries out for a more focused, constructive, and positive response to our historical wrongs against the Pawnee.

Proposal:

BYM will commit $10,000 each year for 2024 and 2025 to the Pawnee Nation’s language restoration program as direct reparations to a group harmed by ancestral members of BYM. These reparations would be limited to two years, with no further donations planned. After that, we will proceed as way opens.  A written apology would accompany the initial reparations funds.

Background: The Pawnee people originally lived in the central plains of North America, living a subsistence lifestyle sustained by buffalo and growing the “three sisters,” corn, beans, and squash. As settlers from the East moved westward, seeking lands for farms and ranches, the Pawnee were pushed into smaller areas and their sources of food were greatly diminished. Buffalo were, at times, massively slaughtered by the U.S. Army to intentionally reduce food available to Native people and to drive them to depend on the federal government.  Quakers sought to facilitate peace between whites and Indians, though they also shared many of the prejudices of white people of their times. They were patronizing towards Native people, believing that assimilation was inevitable, and that adoption of white Eurocentric culture would “improve” Native people. They rationalized that assimilation would eventually result in equal status that would justify the loss of Native cultures. When the Pawnee were forced to abandon the small area that remained of their ancestral lands in Nebraska, Quakers accompanied them to Oklahoma, “Indian Territory,” to settle on reservation lands set aside by the government for dislocated tribes. The Pawnee hoped to have the freedom and space there to live according to their traditions; instead they experienced malnutrition and disease, diminishing their numbers by one-third in the first four years.

The Critical Importance of Language: As one form of compensation for the lands the Pawnee were forced to cede to the U.S. Government, the Pawnee were entitled by treaty to education for their youth. However, because they were not allowed to receive this benefit on their own terms, they resisted. Nonetheless, over time, their children became absorbed into the culturally foreign world of white Christianity. Loss of their Native language estranged children from their parents and grandparents, compromising their survival and their identity as a people.  Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends contributed to harming the Pawnee when they participated in practices of cultural assimilation in a school they established at the Pawnee agency in Nebraska. The school promoted English and suppressed the Native Pawnee language, contributing to ongoing intergenerational cultural destruction. It was not the Genoa Indian Industrial School, a larger boarding school not affiliated with Quakers.

Language and culture are inextricably interwoven. Native people existed and cultures flourished for millennia using oral, not written, practices. By providing the education the government had promised, Friends chose to impose their own language. Friends joined our Eurocentric peers in believing that European language, in this case English, was the only acceptable means of communication. Deeming the English language to be superior to that of the Pawnee, the Friends’ actions interrupted the vital flow between generations of Pawnee. The system of transmitting cultural traditions, sacred practices, and their vast knowledge of astronomy and the natural sciences to younger generations was irreparably broken. Present day Friends in many places are finding ways to provide some sense of healing with the Indigenous peoples we have harmed. A list of some of these actions is attached to this document.

What can and should BYM do? What actions shall we take?

The BYM Indigenous Affairs Committee asks our Quaker community to act in a specific way to help restore a culture that we helped damage. We ask BYM to provide $10,000 in 2024 and an additional $10,000 in 2025 to the Pawnee Nation. It is appropriate that BYM ask or suggest that the funds be used for Pawnee Nation’s language program, though it is not appropriate to impose stipulations on the use of those funds. The Pawnee Nation’s language program teaches K-12 and college students. It is in its second year as a full-time program. Although it was started in conjunction with Indiana University, it is now completely taught and managed by the Pawnee Nation. It is currently funded by grants, which conclude at the end of calendar year 2024. This is an existing program, so there are no startup costs. We hope these modest contributions, along with an apology, will begin to rebuild relations between the Pawnee Nation and BYM.  

When Friend Martha Catlin wrote the early history of the Indigenous Affairs Committee, she communicated with the Pawnee Nation’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. Later, she sent him a copy of the published book, As They Were Led - Quakerly Steps and Missteps Toward Native Justice: 1795-1940. Friend Susan Marcus contacted the Cultural Resources Director and the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Pawnee Nation to speak in general about reparations and about the language program. They were wonderfully welcoming and were pleased that we had reached out to them. Other yearly meetings and individual Friends have donated lands or money. Some meetings’ contributions have been far more than what we propose. BYM is an old yearly meeting, though not one that is well-endowed. We believe that our proposal is workable and practical.

What Other Friends Are Doing or Have Done

Million Dollar Plus California Property Transferred from Friends to the Nisean People

The Sierra Friends Center property in the northern California mountains (home of the former Woolman School) is being sold to the Nisenan tribe, through their non-profit organization California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP). A national fundraising campaign raised $1.5 million by the end of April 2024 to complete Phase I of transferring acres to the Nisean peoples. The goal of the fundraising is to pay off the existing mortgage on the property, make some repairs, and create an endowment that facilitates the Nisenan’s management of it. The (Friends) Woolman School Board wrote on their website that “passing a small piece [the 230- property] of Nevada County land illegally taken in the past to the descendants of those people.” Click here for more information 

Alaska Friends and the Native Village of Kake

Alaska Friends paid $93,000 in reparations to the Organized Village of Kake, a tribe in Southeast Alaska that was once the site of a Quaker school for Native kids that forced assimilation of on them.  Quakers ran a boarding school for Native children in Douglas, AK from 1887 to 1912 (when the Presbyterian’s took over. Friends also ran a mission and day school in Kake, Alaska, from 1891 to 1912. They personally delivered the check on Jan.19, 2024. accompanied by a four-page apology.

“It was wrong of us to believe that Western European worldviews and practices are superior to ones that you have lived for thousands of years. We apologize for Friends who have not respected your ways of living and for Friends’ participation in forcing a Western way of life upon you.”

Alaska Friends Conference also supported five young adults to travel to Washington D.C. this Spring to lobby for a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Policy Act . The purpose of the Commission is to recommend Federal actions to adequately have our country account for and redress and heal the historical and intergenerational trauma inflicted by the Indian boarding school policies. Native News Online


Proposal for BYM to Pay Reparations to the Pawnee Nation. Click on the FAQ's below for more information.

  • Reparations are an offering, an attempt the repair damage done. The terms "gift" or "donation" are inappropriate terminology. Reparations are actions pursued because of harms done and are intended to help right injustice. Reparations may vary with the damage done and the group for whom the reparations is intended. Because of this causality, it is not truly a gift or donation. Flip the situation. If you or we, in our ancestral homeland where we spoke our language, was/were pressured or forced to use the language of the people who conquered ours, would a contribution towards restoring our language be considered a gift?

IAC Statement of apology and action

Quaker Colonialism: Reflections on the Past and Actions for the Future

Reflections on the Past

We understand that the majority of early Friends who settled on this continent were from Western Europe and held a Western European worldview of their relationship to land, including that of property rights. This perspective, based on the “Doctrine of Discovery,” supported Christian, European conquest of those who were not European and Christian. It was also based on European legal principles of land ownership.  Friends have accepted and adhered to this framework for 400 years. 

Although many Friends who arrived in our area served by Baltimore Yearly Meeting were of modest means and saw the country as a land of opportunity for them, unattainable in their homelands, many were also wealthy members of a ruling class.  These Friends were ‘granted’ land by a sovereign, who they accepted had the power to do so under that Doctrine of Discovery. For example, William Penn was granted a vast expanse of land by a sovereign. Friends were, then as they are now, members of society, deeply entrenched in the prevailing definition of how lives were rightly ordered. Many were insensitive to the culture of those who were already living here. For some, this was a matter of language, for others it was a willful disrespect and disregard for a system which had worked for Indigenous tribes for centuries. We cannot know all the reasons for Friendly complicity regarding our system of land ownership, a concept the Indigenous Peoples didn’t share. The fact remains that we have benefitted from the imposition of that system. 

Some Friends recognized the vulnerability, poverty, and marginalization of Native peoples caused by non-Native violence and rapaciousness. However, many early Friends who sought to ameliorate such inequities did not comprehend their own biases. They felt they were acting with integrity but were unable or unwilling to see how their leadings and actions were framed within those biases. 

When Friends were asked to provide boarding schools as a means to help ‘civilize’ Indigenous children, many Friends believed they could do this with compassion. However, their inherent prejudice and their attitude assured them that these children were part of a primitive society that was savage and ignorant of a better way of life, based on Western European practices and beliefs. Other Friends, who did not participate directly in the running of these schools, benefited from the unpaid labor of the students who were forced to work during ‘outing’ periods on Quaker farms and homes. 

We are as a society only recently paying attention to the voices of Indigenous people who are sharing how the experiences of isolation and indoctrination affected them, and the lasting impact on their lives after their release from these schools. Many Indigenous students became adults who were not accepted as either truly Indigenous or members of the majority (white) culture. Cascading effects included lack of self-identity or family-sustainability, homelessness, and alienation. The traumas endured under the boarding school system reverberate through generations for many families. Indigenous communities further explain that the current adoption system echoes the family break-up patterns of the boarding school system. Again, action rationalized as being in the ‘best interest’ of a child is imposing outside values with a sense of paternalistic superiority, undermining Indigenous culture and community. Indigenous leaders are demanding to be accorded dignity and rights in the present.

An Apology and Statement of Action.

Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends admit and deplore the many harms done to Indigenous Peoples by Friends as well as other European settlers in what is now commonly known as America. We commit to listening carefully to Indigenous voices going forward and following their guidance.

Friends and Meetings without direct involvement share complicity and culpability in the unfair advantage accrued due to failure to counteract social bias, prejudice, acquisition of land through faulty treaties, and broken promises to protect Indigenous Peoples from the onslaught of immigrants invading their territory. Such advantage has accumulated through history resulting in disproportional benefit in present situations of Friends individually and collectively in our Monthly Meetings, and in BYM as a whole.

We express our sorrow as a religious community for our history of participation in cultural erasure, abuse, patronization and subjugation of Indigenous Peoples. We commit to work together with descendants bearing the burden of those harms towards revelation of avenues to atone for past wrongs and achieve right relations going forward. We understand that repair can be achieved only in gracious, respectful community with Indigenous peoples. Our attention must be ongoing, directed toward eliminating social disparity and disproportionate advantage resulting from our historic behavior.  We understand that trust must grow slowly, personally, and communally for all parties. 

Indian Affairs Fact Sheets

Proposed Minute in Support of a Truth & Healing Commission for Native Peoples

Indian Affairs Committee Annual Reports



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