Table of Contents

First Nations Toolkit

Solidarity with First Peoples Study Guide

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

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First Nations: Session 4


Advance Preparation: Please read Chapter Eleven (“The Doctrine of Discovery”) and the Conclusion of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States.

Then, please watch this brief video on the UUA website about the Doctrine of Discovery and the denomination’s stand against it in recent years (it’s the first video on the page):

Opening Words

“Breaths”, by Birago Diop, adapted by Ysaye M. Barnwell for Sweet Honey in the Rock

Listen more often to things than to beings
Listen more often to things than to beings
‘Tis the ancestors’ breath when the fire’s voice is heard
‘Tis the ancestors’ breath in the voice of the waters.

Those who have died have never, never left
The dead are not under the earth
They are in the rustling trees
They are in the groaning woods
They are in the crying grass,
they are in the moaning rocks,
The dead are not under the earth…

Those who have died have never, never left,
The dead have a pact with the living.
They are in the woman’s breast,
They are in the wailing child,
They are with us in our homes,
They are with us in the crowd.
The dead have a pact with the living.

Listen more often to things than to beings
Listen more often to things than to beings
‘Tis the ancestors’ breath when the fire’s voice is heard,
‘Tis the ancestors’ breath in the voice of the waters.


Invite the group to share any thoughts and feelings that came up for them after the previous session.


Please ask one or several members to read the following paragraphs aloud to the group:

As we move into the concluding session, we can start to ask where we find ourselves in this story as a religious movement. Much of what we find will not be comforting. As we saw in the previous section, the UU tradition has a history of being complicit with the U.S. government policies Dunbar-Ortiz describes in her book (as do many other denominations). Ted Fetter’s essay on “The Utes and the Unitarians” acquainted us with a case in which UU actions toward Indigenous peoples had especially destructive consequences.

However, the story is not all negative. Our UU history also includes occasional steps taken toward working alongside Indigenous peoples as genuine allies. The 19th century Unitarian writer Helen Hunt Jackson, for instance, was one of the most prominent advocates for fair dealings with native peoples among white Americans in her time. Her book A Century of Dishonor (1881) was among the first to detail the U.S. government’s long record of breaking treaties and committing atrocities against Native peoples.

In more recent history, the Unitarian Universalist Association has joined a number of other religious organizations in publicly repudiating the “Doctrine of Discovery”—an action which Dunbar-Ortiz holds up for special praise in Chapter Eleven.

  • Keeping in mind both the worst and best aspects of this legacy, what do you feel are the most important things this book have to say to us as a faith community?
  • Where do you feel you stand in relation to the overall story this book tells? What does it have to do with your life, experience and understanding?
  • What are some of the places in the book where you felt you could see yourself, or could identify in a particular way with the people and events described? Such identifications might be comfortable, or painful, or sometimes both at once.

Please have a member of your group read aloud this quote from near the end of Dunbar-Ortiz’s book:

The late Native historian Jack Forbes always stressed that while living persons are not responsible for what their ancestors did, they are responsible for the society they live in, which is a product of that past. Assuming this responsibility provides a means of survival and liberation.”

  • How do you understand this statement, in light of the history recounted in this book?
  • Does the statement accord with or contradict our UU Purposes and Principles?
  • What connections do you see between the final portion of Dunbar-Ortiz’s book and our UU heritage?
  • In what ways might our UU heritage hinder our justice struggles, and in what ways can it help us or provide us with positive guidance?

Do you think you have been changed or given new direction by reading this book? If so, how?

Closing Words

We suggest you invite members of your group to take turns reading the stanzas of this poem, a work that pushes back against the myth that all elements of Native culture have been eradicated or damaged beyond retrieval.

“the two worlds of the red nations” by Carol Lee Sanchez

‘For those who live/in the two worlds:/There are so few of us, let us/be good/to one another’. – from Caroll Arnett [Gogisgi], “South Line: Poems”

-there’s no such things as Indians
in north America-
that professor sd to me.
-not like they were, they’re
all gone, you know.

(sun dance pole / sweat house pit
four corners marked and colored true
above, below and middle place
corn mother dances green today)

i paused to think what he might mean
and he continued on:
-panama has real ones, still wild
and primitive, not contaminated yet.

(white deer dance / bear dance / eagle dance songs
whale blow / raven step and seal feast
wind spirit whistles / koshare clowns)

-i’ve spent three summers there (he sd
-to study them. they’re pure.
up here, well, they’re Americans
like the rest of us. no pure
culture to be found.

(morning star and mountain ways / stomp dance
circle dance / northern and southern styles-clock
and counter clock / up river salmon ceremony / root
digging songs / yei be che huuhuuhuu / shalako blessing)

-they dress and drive and eat fast food, the same
as us. oh-there’s remnant bits of this and that,
a few folks speak their native tongue

(blue jeans / cowby shirts / ten gallon hats
fry bread / navajo tacos / corn-venison-mutton stew
lambing-sheep camp-sheering time / cowboy boots)

-but all in all that’s not enough to say
there’s any indian culture left
in north America (he sd

(basket / rainbow / corn and butterfly maidens
acorn mash and corn meal grinding songs
strawberry festival and ribbon shirts / pinon harvest)

five centuries fall away unnoticed
spring plant to harvest to hunt to
silent winter sleep.

long-time stories still live around here
sweet sage, tobacco, cedar and corn pollen
still offered around here.
old time spirit talk and medicine songs
still sung around here.

five centuries, now, we walked in two worlds
weaving new stories into baskets and blankets
adding ribbons, beads and bright colored threads
to things we use and wear: work copper, gold
silver, nickel and brass in indian fashion.

five centuries living and dying unnoticed.
five centuries walking silent and hidden.
five centuries in-between “the two worlds”.

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