Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples: Local Discernment and Action

At New England Friends' Annual Sessions in 2020, we engaged with our need to work in a more focused and intentional way towards right relationship with Indigenous Peoples in our region. Friends approved forwarding a Letter of Apology to Native Americans as well as a set of recommendations for further action to local meetings for reflection. Both documents are available on the engagement resource page here. At Sessions in August of 2021, New England Friends approved the Apology, which will be distributed to local Indigenous communities by the Right Relationship Resource Group.

Since August 2020, a number of local Friends meetings have begun engaging with the Apology and their own relationship to Indigenous Peoples in their area. Below you will find minutes, statements, and public actions by local meetings which we hope serve as a source of inspiration and fruitful connection.

If your meeting has been engaging with the Apology and would like to share your discernment or actions, please contact the Yearly Meeting Right Relationship Resource Group.

Local and Quarterly Meeting Minutes

Friends Meeting at Cambridge (MA)

July 2021

Cambridge Friends are actively in discernment about adopting a land acknowledgement practice for meeting events. The draft land acknowledgement currently under consideration can be read here and the preamble can be read here.

Concord (NH) Meeting

July 6, 2021

Concord Friends approved of the Apology while "being clear that this is only a first step in an
ongoing process
".  Read more about the reflection and learning that Concord Friends have been engaged in here.

Weare/Henniker (NH) Meeting

Weare/Henniker Monthly Meeting considered the Apology and captured their reflection is a minute:

 We are not opposed to the apology, but feel this is just one step. Based on our experience working with the local Abenaki, we find it far more important to build up relationships with them and work together to learn more of the correct history and to improve the future, rather than focusing on the mistakes in the past and thinking we have solved the issue.  Working in a positive, relational way, improving the future is more important than just apologizing over the past actions of our ancestors. There is much we are learning from others, not assuming we know all the answers. 

Monadnock (NH) Quaker Meeting

June 2021

Monadnock Friends approved moving forward with action steps that arose from meeting discussions about Right Relationship in occuring recent months.  Those approved next steps are:

  • Posting a road sign (or amending the current Meetinghouse road sign) acknowledging this as traditional native land, and a house plaque that provides more in-depth native land and history acknowledgement.  
  • The First Day Education committee is approved to take up the project (with the children of the meeting) of creating and placing a geocache that acknowledges the indigenous history of the Abenaki people in this region and the lasting impact of colonization in our country.

Hanover (NH) Friends Meeting

June 20, 2021

We united in approving New England Yearly Meeting’s draft Letter of Apology to Native Americans, as well as the Peace and Social Concern’s request that the statement include an additional request that NEYM continue the work of Minute 2013-52 to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. We expressed our tremendous gratitude for the movement of the Spirit on this matter, channeled through the work of many people in our community and especially Peace and Social Concerns. Much good work still awaits us, of course.

Framingham (MA) Friends Meeting

June 20, 2021

Framingham Friends Meeting endorses the Apology to the Indigenous Peoples of this region which New England Yearly Meeting Sessions last year asked monthly meetings to deeply engage with and which is being shepherded by the Right Relationship Resource Group.  At our "First First" program after meeting on June 6, we heard the history of the white colonial settlers' treatment of the indigenous Nipmuc people who lived on this land and of the devastating impact of the King Philip's War of 1675-76 on them and other indigenous peoples.   As a consequence of this war, the indigenous population was devastated leading to the further expansion of white settler colonialism that ultimately became the basis of the country that 100 years later declared its independence from Great Britain.  We see in this history the origins of white supremacy that haunts us as a nation to this day.  We understand the need to look within ourselves and our lifestyles for the seeds that continue to perpetuate this white colonial mindset and commit to taking steps to repair the damage that continues to be done, as witness the impact on the Nipmuc people today of not having federal recognition of their tribe.

Beacon Hill (MA) Monthly Meeting

June 6, 2021

The Beacon Hill Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends unites with the draft New England Yearly Meeting Apology to Native Americans and urges its approval at NEYM Sessions in August 2021. We also charge the Working Group on Right Relations of BHMM with bringing forward concrete and meaningful measures, informed by consultation with local Indigenous people, that we might take as individuals or collectively that will make this Apology more than words on a page. Read the full minute here.

Westport (MA) Monthly Meeting

May 23, 2021

Westport Friends minuted their support for the Apology to Indigenous Peoples.

Dover (NH) Friends Meeting

May 16, 2021

Dover Friends Meeting supports New England Yearly Meeting sending a letter of apology to the Algonquian peoples of the Northeast on behalf of New England Quakers. Consideration of this apology in our meeting has raised our awareness of Quaker history with regard to native peoples. We have learned hard truths about the wrongs committed and have new awareness of the privilege gained. We cannot undo that history but we can continue our learning so that we may more appropriately and fully work toward right relationship. We commit ourselves to this, understanding fundamentally, that it is a requirement of our faith if we are to live into our belief that there is that of the Divine within each, without exception. A first, small step is acknowledging Dover Friends meetinghouse is located on N'dakinna, which is the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook and Wabanaki Peoples of the First Nations past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude the land and waterways and the people who have stewarded N'dakinna throughout the generations. 

We appreciate the efforts of Friends in the Yearly Meeting and beyond in bringing this to our community for discernment and action.

Burlington (VT) Meeting

April 2021

Burlington Friends minuted their approval of the Apology as proposed.

Sandwich (MA) Quarterly Meeting

Minute of Support for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
April 24, 2021

In the Spirit of Love, Truth and Justice, we encourage Friends to support our Mashpee Wampanoag neighbors because whatever injustice affects them potentially affects all Native Peoples. As Quakers we cannot observe idly this inhumane treatment of our brothers and sisters. Read the full minute here.

Vassalboro (ME) Quarterly Meeting

Minute on the Inherent Right of Tribal Sovereignty

April 16, 2021

The complete text of Vassalboro Quarter's Minute on the Inherent Right of Tribal Sovereignty of the Wabanaki People and the Support for Bills before the Maine State Legislature that would Recognize and Implement Tribal Sovereignty is available here.

Mount Toby (MA) Friends Meeting

Acknowledgement that our Meetinghouse is Built on Colonized Ground

April 11, 2021

Mount Toby Friends minuted that they are in unity with the spirit and intent of the Letter of Apology and also their acknowledgement that their meetinghouse was built on colonized ground. Read the complete text of these minutes here.

Putney (VT) Friends Meeting

Apology to Algonquian Peoples 

November 1, 2020

As beneficiaries of colonization in New England and as members of the Religious Society of Friends in New England, we acknowledge our complicity in the treatment of Algonquian Peoples. We therefore wholeheartedly support the proposed Minute of Apology to the Algonquian Peoples by the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. We will continue as a meeting to discern ways to learn about and deepen our relationships to Native peoples and to make amends where possible and appropriate.

Concord (NH) Friends Meeting

December 13, 2020

Concord Monthly Meeting of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends honors the original inhabitants of this land and we commit ourselves towards both the education and action that will be required to bring ourselves into right relationship with the land on which we meet and the original people whose descendants continue to live among us.

Hanover (NH) Friends Meeting

July 26, 2020

Hanover Friends Meeting acknowledges that we worship, work and live on the homelands of the Abenaki people. We know this truth: that European and American colonial powers and people overran the Abenaki homeland settlements, changed the names of many places, deforested the lands, polluted the waters, and tried at times to extinguish the Abenaki. No full amends can ever be made. From time beyond memory, the Abenaki have been and still are here. We pay our respects to them and to the wisdom of their elders and their culture. May we prove ourselves worthy and faithful friends and allies.

Sandwich (MA) Quarterly Meeting

July 25, 2020

The complete text of Sandwich Quarter's Open-Hearted Plea Concerning Native Peoples and Mashpee in Particular can be read here.

Local Meeting and Groups Reflection and Learning

Friends Meeting at Cambridge (MA)

Fall 2020-Summer 2021

Cambridge Friends have further engaged by:

  • Friends for Racial Justice (FORJ) gathered people and offered context, guidance and support around letter writing to state legislators calling for changing the MA flag and seal.  
  • FORJ and Peace and Social Justice collaborated in presenting a forum with 40-some people present in early December 2020 hearing responses to the NEYM Draft Apology. This helped inform our work on the attached Land Acknowledgment and also drew in some people across FMC to be part of FMC's Right Relationship with Indigenous People's Working Group (under the care of FORJ) that will continue to deepen FMC's understanding and living into the Land Acknowledgement.
  • In the fall, FMC's First Day School engaged the young people and families in some discussion and learning around the question of state seals and mascots, both in general and in Massachusetts. 

Providence (RI) Monthly Meeting

Fall 2020-Spring 2021

Providence Monthly Meeting has engaged through the following activities:

  • Friends organized a forum, Aquétuck (a Narragansett term which translates as: “Let us cease armes” as noted in Roger Williams’ 1643 Key into the Language of America), which has met this year on the evenings of the new and full moons to explore decolonization, to network, and to strategize, holding to the following insight: “We recognize that ongoing colonization means ongoing violence against Narragansett and Pokanoket people. The non-Natives among us ask, “What does it mean to lay down our arms?” 
  • At a called meeting on Sunday, February 7, along with the other monthly meetings in Southeast Quarter, we considered the draft of the Yearly Meeting Apology to Native Americans which will be brought for approval to our Annual Sessions in August 2021. This Listening Session and Worship Sharing was facilitated by Andy Grant (Mt Toby, MA, Friends Meeting), member of the Yearly Meeting Right Relationship Resource Group.
  • In the spring First Day School volunteers planted a Three Sisters garden [corn, beans, and squash] on the meetinghouse property.
  • On Saturday, March 13, 2021, we held a worship sharing and discussion session to continue discernment on the Draft Letter of Apology to Native Americans.
  • On March 28, 2021, Providence Friends, along with others from Southeast Quarter,and other monthly meetings of New England and beyond, met in a Zoom meeting with three members of the Pokanoket Tribe, headship tribe of the Ousa Mequin (Yellow Feather), member of the Pokanoket Nation, a collection of some 70 sub-tribes, clans, and bands from Rhode Island to the Cape and Islands. Our three Pokanoket speakers were: the Sagamore, Po Wauipi Neimpaug, Winds of Thunder (William Guy); the Sachem, Dancing Star (Tracey Brown-Guy), and the Tribal Council President, Running Deer (Deborah Afdasta [Weeden]).
  • Individual members and attenders of our meeting participated in the “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change: Towards Right Relationship” workshop presented by the Friends Peace Teams on July 17, 2021.
  • Along with Westerly Meeting and our Southeast Quarterly Meeting, Providence Friends intend to participate in a presentation and discussion led by the Akomawt Educational Initiative in fall 2021/spring 2022.

Westerly (RI) Friends Meeting

Fall 2020–Spring 2021

Westerly Monthly Meeting has engaged through the following activities:

  • A worship sharing and discussion session held on the Clerks Letter and addressing the Letter of Apology to Native Americans. Friends acknowledged that there was a need for further education on the concept of right relationship, and the historical and contemporary issues that have led to the proposed Apology.
  • Cambridge Friends held a forum with the theme How Do We Walk the Talk of Justice: Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. It was presented by Friends for Racial Justice and Peace and Social Justice Witness Committees of Friends Meeting at Cambridge.
  • Shared reading and discussion of Lakota Woman / Mary Crow Dog (aka Mary Brave Bird), a Sioux writer and activist who attended the St Francis Boarding School (for Indian children) and later became a participant in the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970’s. Friends specifically connected with the injustice she experienced as a child forced to leave her family, and abuse under an educational system designed to “Kill the Indian, make the man.”
  • Individual participation in Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change: Towards Right Relationship presented by The Quaker Peace Teams.
  • Plans for a presentation and discussion led by the Akomawt Educational Initiative in fall 2021/Spring 2022.
  • Westerly Friends continue to support ongoing individual education and engagement as they seek Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples and unity in support of NEYM’s Letter of Apology to Native Americans.

Cobscook (ME) Friends Meeting

Cobscook Friends Meeting has been learning about the history, culture, and life of Wabanaki peoples for more than a decade. They've participated in various efforts to address Wabanaki concerns, through Quaker endeavors as well as those sponsored by other organizations and individuals.  

Youth Racial Justice Group

June 15, 2021

The middle school (JHYM) and high school (Young Friends) Racial Justice Group began considering the draft letter of apology in March, recognizing the depth of care and work represented in the writing of it. One of the adult coordinators offered a “teach” about Indian Quaker Boarding Schools with resources from Paula Palmer, so that youth would have the background to have a meaningful conversation. The group's discernment process included a session with an open conversation about the content of the draft letter, a second session to consider what makes a true apology, and third session to dive deeper into how the group saw the letter living into a true apology. This document was created by the youth in this group to communicate their feedback to the Friends drafting the letter.

Portland (ME) Friends Meeting

April 18, 2021

Portland Friends Meeting has conducted two listening sessions on the draft of the NEYM Apology to Native Americans. A total of 45 members and attenders (including one from Texas) participated in these sessions. 

Concord (NH) Friends Meeting

January 24, 2021

On the recommendation of the local Sagamore, Concord Friends read and discussed Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimerer as a way to understand the world view of Native Americans. As the book is subtitled Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, they realized they would learn not only a philosophical approach life but also an approach to Earth care from the Native American perspective. Sara Smith writes, "The reading itself was deeply appealing, and the chance to learn from a new perspective, one that is more wholistic and full of loving care, called to us deeply. Our first meeting was a mix of curiosity from those who were new to the book, and joy of sharing such a meaningful experience by those who were familiar with it. We hope others will read it too. It is rare to find a book so enjoyable and one that is spiritually meaningful in a new way."

Public Action

Mount Toby (MA) Friends Meeting

July 2021

At the July Meeting for Business, the Mt. Toby clerk was charged to write a letter to their state legislators and the local newspapers urging support of a bill now before the Massachusetts legislature prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by public schools.

The letter below was sent to five state senators and eight state representatives (each of whom have at least one town in their district that’s home to a Mt. Toby member or attender), as well as three newspapers (Hampshire Gazette, Greenfield Recorder, Springfield Republican). 

Mt. Toby Meeting of Friends (Quakers) urges the Massachusetts legislature to adopt S.294 and H.581 -- "An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth."

We affirm Indigenous identities in our communities today and the vibrant cultural legacy they carry forward. We acknowledge that our meetinghouse is built on colonized ground -- originally the land of the Pocumtuck -- appropriated through a series of actions intended to destroy, seize, or diminish Indigenous people, culture, and resources. As we consider how profit and harm still derive from these and like events throughout the region, we have commited ourselves to the long journey of truth-seeking and relationship building. We humbly recognize that there is much practical and spiritual labor yet to be done. Our support of this legislation is one next step in carrying through on our intentions to do that labor.

Winthrop Center (ME) Friends Church

April 2021

Winthrop Friends have prepared a land acknowledgment statement to be used at public events held in the meetinghouse.  A shorter version is being prepared for a permanent marker to be placed at the meetinghouse. 

Winthrop Center Friends have also contacted Harvard and its Peabody Museum concerning the repatriation of tribal ancestors and their funerary belongings. Details can be found at The Association of American Indian Affairs, which is circulating an article collecting organizations’ and individuals’ comments to send on to Harvard.  https://www.indian-affairs.org/harvard.html

Winthrop Center Friends are also actively following guidance from the Wabanaki Alliance on actions they can take, individually and where appropriate as a meeting.  So far, this has included supporting a proposed amendment to the current “Settlement Act” is a key piece of legislation we can support in order to redress the inequity of Maine tribes being treated differently than those in other states.  

Winthrop Center Friends has provided spiritual, emotional, practical and financial support to a book project by one of our members, Shirley Hager. Her book, co-authored with both Wabanaki and non-Native individuals, is The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations, and has just been published by the University of Toronto Press.

Northampton (MA) Friends Meeting

December 16, 2020

The clerk of Northampton Friends, of behalf of the meeting, wrote a letter to the local paper asking to change the image on the Massachusetts state flag, which is a sword over the figure of a Native American and the Latin motto which translates to "by the sword we seek peace." See the full letter to the editor here

Friends Meeting at Cambridge (MA)

November 2020

Cambridge Friends were present both in person (around 6 people) and online (15 or more) at the historic and particularly powerful 2020 Day of Mourning held by the United Native American of New England, a witness they hope more Friends Meetings will join as requested by Native peoples in coming years.