Unit 6 Destination Discussion - Lummi Nation

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


We reflected in this unit on the dangers of perceiving ourselves as “White Saviors” when we are doing justice work. In Ted Fetter’s essay on “The Utes and the Unitarians,” meanwhile, which was included in our destination reflection for Unit 3, we saw a case in which “White Saviorism” among UUs had particularly destructive consequences.

However, our UU history also includes instances of 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 in any language to detail the U.S. government’s long record of breaking treaties and committing atrocities against Native Nations. 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 that Dunbar-Ortiz holds up for special praise in Chapter Eleven.

Keeping in mind both the worst and best aspects of this history, what, in your view does this book have to say to us in our role as UUs?

Overall, where do you feel you stand in relation to the story this book tells? What does it have to do with your life and experience?

  • 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 both at times.

Please have a member of your group read aloud this quote from p. 235:

[blockquote]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.” (p. 235).[/blockquote]

  • 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 other 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?

Has this book impacted how you will approach the upcoming trip to the Lummi Nation? How so?

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


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