Recent First Nations Blog Posts
The UU College of Social Justice was jointly founded in the summer of 2012 by the UUA and UUSC, so this year we are celebrating a big anniversary. We are grateful for all of our alumni and supporters who have made our work possible! In honor of of all of you and our...
by Angela Kelly Ready or not, here we are, on the eve of an Inauguration so many of us are dreading. We are painfully aware of the threats posed by the incoming President to the rights, safety, and dignity of so many, to the future of our planet, and to values we...
First Nations: Session 1
Advance Preparation: Please read the Author’s Note and Introduction to An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.
Also, please visit this on-line resource: http://www.native-languages.org/states.htm, which shows the pre-contact homelands of the Native Nations in what is now the United States.
Click on your home state, and take note of which Nations were living in the area you now inhabit. You can also use this resource to find the websites of many contemporary Native Nations’ tribal governments, and learn more about their history and present lives.
By Thich Nhat Hanh
Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion,
let us fill our hearts with our own compassion—
towards ourselves and towards all living beings.
Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be
the cause of suffering to each other.
With humility, with awareness of the existence of life,
and of the suffering that is going on around us,
let us practice the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.
After a brief pause, please invite participants to introduce themselves. Ask them to share their name, where they come from, and, if they would like, something about their family’s past or ancestry.
What feelings arose for you in visiting the online Native Nations page, and seeing a familiar landscape peopled with names that may be unfamiliar to you?
- Does this exercise alter the way you think about the place you live? If so, in what way?
- Do you know anything about the current life of the Native communities in your home state and their struggles? Have you had experience working alongside them in the past, or can you imagine ways to become an ally going forward?
Dunbar-Ortiz states that the perspective that informs her book does not arise primarily out of her academic training, but rather from her life experience.
- What perspective do you bring to thinking about the history of the United States and its relation to Indigenous peoples in the Americas?
- What do you remember about the things you were taught or told about how our country was founded? Try to recall not only things you may have learned in history sections of your class rooms, but what was absorbed through children’s books or stories, family accounts, TV shows and movies.
- In what ways have all of these things shaped your perspective and assumptions about how our country was founded?
Please have someone read aloud the following two quotations, from the Introduction to Dunbar-Ortiz’s book:
Multiculturalism became the cutting edge of post-civil-rights-movement US history revisionism. For this scheme to work—and affirm US historical progress—Indigenous nations and communities had to be left out of the picture. As territorially and treaty-based peoples in North America, they did not fit the grid of multiculturalism [….] The multicultural approach emphasized the ‘contributions’ of individuals from oppressed groups to the country’s assumed greatness.” “According to the [national] origin narrative, the United States was born of rebellion against oppression—against empire[…]. The narrative flows from that fallacy: the broadening and deepening of democracy; the Civil War and the ensuing ‘second revolution,’ which ended slavery; [….] It’s a narrative of progress. [….] After the 1960s, historians incorporated women, African Americans, and immigrants as contributors to the commonweal. Indeed, the revised narrative produced the ‘nation of immigrants’ framework, which obscures the US practice of colonization, merging settler colonialism with immigration to metropolitan centers during and after the industrial revolution. Native peoples, to the extent that they were included at all, were renamed ‘First Americans’ and thus themselves cast as distant immigrants.”
In the context of doing anti-racist and immigrant justice work within and outside of Unitarian Universalism, we have sometimes employed the concepts Dunbar-Ortiz criticizes here, such as multiculturalism and the idea of the United States as a “nation of immigrants.”
- What experiences, if any, have you had doing multicultural or anti-racist work in the past, whether in a UU context or outside it?
- How does Dunbar-Ortiz’s critique of multiculturalism sit with you, in light of your experience? What feelings arise?
- Are there lessons we might draw from this critique for future anti-racism efforts? Is there anything this critique leaves out or gets wrong, in your view?
From “The Legacy of Caring,” by Thandeka
Be still my inner self
let me rise to you
let me reach down into your pain
and soothe you.
I turn to you
to renew my life
I turn to the world
the streets of the city […]
This common world I love anew
as the life blood of generations
who refused to surrender their humanity
in an inhumane world
courses through my veins.
From within this world
my despair is transformed to hope
and I begin anew
the legacy of caring.