Table of Contents

First Nations Toolkit

Solidarity with First Peoples Study Guide

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

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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...

First Nations: Session 2


Advance Preparation: Please read Chapters Four, Six, and Eight of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (“Bloody Footprints,” “The Last of the Mohicans and Andrew Jackson’s White Republic,” and “Indian Country”).


Opening Words

From “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways,” by Louise Erdrich

Home’s the place we head for in our sleep.
Boxcars stumbling north in dreams
don’t wait for us. We catch them on the run.
The rails, old lacerations that we love,
shoot parallel across the face and break
just under Turtle Mountains. Riding scars
you can’t get lost. Home is the place they cross.


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

  • Of the stories Dunbar-Ortiz includes in the chapters you read for today, which were familiar and which unfamiliar to you, based on your previous knowledge of U.S. history?
  • Which of these stories stand out to you most? Which ones surprised or disturbed you?
  • Did you learn anything about famous figures in American history that you didn’t know before?

Dunbar-Ortiz argues that the United States carried out a genocide (or series of genocides) against Indigenous peoples. As she writes in the introduction: “[A] colonizing regime institutionalizes violence. The notion that settler-indigenous conflict is an inevitable product of cultural differences and misunderstandings, or that violence was committed equally by the colonized and the colonizer, blurs the nature of the historical processes. Euro-American colonialism […] had from its beginnings a genocidal tendency.” (p. 8). Now that we have read further in the book, we have a better understanding of what she means.

Before trying to decide whether you agree or disagree with the charge of genocide, please identify the feelings that arise for you in thinking about it. Go around the circle and invite each person to name one or several feelings; sit with this naming in silence for a few moments.

  • Do the stories of violence you have read in these chapters change your broader understanding of U.S. history?
  • When you thought back to the stories from these chapters that most surprised or disturbed you, what common threads do you see among the ones you found especially jarring?
  • Is there anything you think the author is missing or leaving out? Any other perspectives you feel ought to be included in this discussion?

Dunbar-Ortiz cites an article from the early twentieth century by L. Frank Baum, in which he calls for a genocide against Indigenous peoples, writing: “Having wronged [them] for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe [them] from the face of the earth.” (Quoted on p. 156.)

  • What thoughts and feelings arise for you in reading this quotation?
  • Why do you think Baum’s recognition of past “wrongs” led him to want to pursue further atrocities, rather than to work against them?

Please listen together to Bob Marley’s classic song “Buffalo Soldier,” which is mentioned by Dunbar-Ortiz.

  • What is your understanding of the song’s meaning, in light of your reading for this week? What history is Marley drawing on in his lyrics? What do you think Marley saw in the image of the “Buffalo Solider”?


After discussing the song, please have someone read aloud the following quotation, from p. 151:

“In 1875, Captain Richard Henry Pratt was in charge of transporting seventy-two captive Cheyenne and other Plains Indian warriors from the West to Fort Marion [….] After the captives were left shackled for a period in a dungeon, Pratt took their clothes away, had their hair cut, dressed them in army uniforms, and drilled them like soldiers. ‘Kill the Indian and save the man’ was Pratt’s motto. This ‘successful’ experiment led Pratt to establish the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1879, the prototype for the many militaristic federal boarding schools set up across the continent soon after […. I]n the US boarding schools the children were beaten for speaking their own languages, among other infractions that expressed their humanity. Although stripped of the languages and skills of their communities, what they learned in boarding school was useless for the purposes of effective assimilation, creating multiple lost generations of traumatized individuals.”

International law today speaks of cultural genocide as a distinct type of crime against humanity.

  • What feelings arise for you in considering the idea that actions like those described above constitute a cultural genocide, carried out by the U.S. government against Indigenous people?
Closing Words

From “The Human Spirit” by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley

The human spirit has enormous resilience.
But it is pushed to the limit by grief […]

We pray for strength, for
a few more morsels of faith
a few more nuggets of time […]
and little spaces in our days and nights when we can touch another soul, and be held in someone else’s embrace.

Help us to find the hope that lies
beneath what our eyes can see and our ears can hear.
Help us to hold fast to the belief
that there is still goodness in this world.
Help us to respond out of love rather than out of fear.
Help us to trust again, knowing that
‘the arc of the moral universe is long’ and that it does indeed ‘bend toward justice.’
Mend once again our brokenness, and guide us toward the path of peace.

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