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Swedenborgians in Action Against Racism
Hi everyone. This newsletter is for Swedenborgians (and friends) who want to learn how to support anti-racism. But we are not going to pretend that we are experts here; we are learning alongside you. There are lots of activists and educators who have been working in the anti-racism field for a long time. Our plan (in the words of Meera Mohan-Graham) is to Absorb and Amplify those voices, and follow their lead. So, the items in this newsletter are mostly links and excerpts pointing you towards other resources.

As we all strive to learn, change, and act together, we invite you join the Manifold Angels Facebook group for connection throughout the journey. The work is just beginning. 


This is an (approximately) bi-weekly newsletter, though the schedule may change occasionally. Some editions will be a deep dive into a particular issue (you can find links to these at the end of the newsletter). Other editions will be more personal/devotional, aiming to help build stamina and commitment for the ongoing work for racial justice. Thanks for joining us!
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SEEK TO UNDERSTAND THIS:
National Native American Heritage Month and Beyond

"What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994."


From: https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/about/

THINK ABOUT THIS

During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate Indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination, and upholding the United States’ solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.

America has not always delivered on its promise of equal dignity and respect for Native Americans.  For centuries, broken treaties, dispossession of ancestral lands, and policies of assimilation and termination sought to decimate Native populations and their ways of life.  But despite this painful history, Indigenous peoples, their governments, and their communities have persevered and flourished.  As teachers and scholars, scientists and doctors, writers and artists, business leaders and elected officials, heroes in uniform, and so much more, they have made immeasurable contributions to our country’s progress.

SEE THE CONNECTIONS

Excerpt from Indigenous communities can’t defeat colonialism without fighting anti-Blackness – Breakthrough U.S. By Charlie Amáyá Scott

In November 2017, I wrote a blog post, “Anti-Blackness in Native Communities“. It was my first real public attempt wrestling with how I, as a non-Black Diné (Navajo), benefited from anti-Blackness in, what is now known as, the US. The blog post was also me sharing what I learned years ago about Native Americans’ enslavement of Africans; a moment in history I never knew about until recently. 

Slavery was legal within what is commonly referred to as the ‘The Five Civilized Tribes”: the Choctaw, the Seminole, the Cherokee, the Creek, and the Chickasaw. For these communities, slavery was seen as a sign of civility, and sovereignty as a Nation was extended to them because of enslavement. 

Unfortunately, the reality of tribal sovereignty is entangled with anti-Blackness, especially because of blood quantum, which was/is a tool of quantifying indigeneity. For example, the one-drop rule was used against anyone with Black ancestry to showcase “impurity,” whereas for non-Black Indigenous Peoples blood quantum was used to showcase “purity.” Blackness was and is considered expensive, yet indigeneity was and is not. 

Anti-Blackness continues to exist in our communities today in nuanced ways, whether in the appropriation of #BlackLivesMatter or the continued bigotry that Black-Natives face on social media or within their own community.

UNLEARN THIS

Excerpt from The true, dark history of Thanksgiving - Potawatomi.org 

The formation of Thanksgiving as an official, United States’ holiday, did not begin until November 1863 during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln officially established the holiday as a way to improve relations between northern and southern states as well as the U.S. and tribal nations. Just a year prior, a mass execution took place of Dakota tribal members. Corrupt federal agents kept the Dakota-Sioux from receiving food and provisions. Finally at the brink of death from starvation, members of the tribe fought back, resulting in the Dakota War of 1862. In the end, President Lincoln ordered 38 Dakota men to die from hanging, and he felt that Thanksgiving offered an opportunity to bridge the hard feelings amongst Natives and the federal government.

“It was propaganda,” Dr. Mosteller explained. “It was to try and build this event so that you could have a deeper narrative about community building and coming together in shared brotherhood and unity.”

DO, and DON'T DO, THIS

The excerpt below is from a blog post on Nonprofit AF by Vu gives guidance from “a few of [their] friends and colleagues who are Native about things that they wish all of us who are not Native would do or not do.”

The tips below, in no particular order, are from Tara Dowd, Inupiaq; Randy Ramos, Colville and Coeur D’Alene; James Lovell, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe; Joey Gray, Métis and Okanagan; Vicki Mudd, nondocumented Cherokee and Blackfoot; and Miriam Zbignew-Angelova, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Sauk/Fox, and African-American and Ashkenazi. Sentences in quotation marks are from them.

  1. Understand that being Native means different things to every person. “To some people, it means being Indian. To some, it means being Native. To some it means being American Indian. Native American. Indigenous. Alaskan Native. First Nations. Some folks exclusively use their tribe’s name.” Here’s an article, for instance, about the complexity of the term “Native American” and “American Indian.”

  2. Find out whose land you are on, and honor it. “Remember that every inch of the US land was acquired illegally so that’s the deficit that organizations need to understand as they begin working with tribal people and entities.” If you don’t know whose land you are occupying, here’s an awesome map where you can enter in your city in the US or Canada and it’ll tell you, along with links so you can learn more about the Nations or tribes whose land you are on.

  3. Never ask anyone if they’re an “enrolled member.” There is so much complexity to this question. “You may be 100% eligible and not enrolled.” Many people are from multiple tribes. Some people may not have their paperwork for a variety of reasons.

  4. Do not lightly claim that you have Native American heritage. Don’t lightly say things like you have an uncle who was a shaman or your grandmother was a Cherokee princess. “No one is a Cherokee princess. No tribes had that term in the history of Indigenous people so just stop with that non-sense. Along with this, you don’t become Native just because your DNA test says you are. Like just DON’T.” Here’s a thought-provoking article on why so many people claim to be Cherokee.

  5. Avoid sayings that diminish or disparage Native culture. As mentioned above, don’t say things like “let’s have a pow wow,” “lowest person on the totem pole,” “too many chiefs, not enough Indians,” “Indian giver,” “circle the wagons,” etc. These phrases are disrespectful, and we still use them every day. “Spirit animal” is another one; some colleagues suggest using “Patronus” instead (that’s a reference from Harry Potter.)

  6. Don’t “play Indian.” As this article states, “While minstrel shows have long been criticized as racist, American children are still socialized into playing Columbus Day celebrations, Halloween costumes, and Thanksgiving reenactments stereotype Indigenous Peoples as one big distorted culture. We are relegated to racist stereotypes and cultural caricatures.” Avoid treating Native communities and members as logos, mascots, costumes, caricatures, etc.

  7. Be where people are. Go to the reservation and Native community organizations. Visit your local Native cultural center. Learn about the culture and history.

  8. Support Native artists and businesses by buying Native. Buy art, jewelry, clothing, and other items made by Native people and communities. Do not buy “Native” items that are not made my Native Americans and that are just taking advantage of Native culture to make money; be aware of scams by non-Natives who claim that proceeds from sales are benefiting Natives. These scams are illegal according to the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 and should be reported.

  9. Invite an elder or tribal leader to do an opening prayer or invocations at large events. This is a way to honor and to bring attention to the tribes whose land the event is taking place on. But do your research first so you do it right. And make sure you honor people’s time, culture, and expertise by providing an honorarium to the leader or organization.

  10. Understand that there are over 550 tribal affiliations in the US. They are extremely diverse and have different languages and cultural customs. This is why it is important to do your research. Do not lump everyone together. A colleague mentioned, for example, being asked to represent the tribe whose land the organization was trying to honor, even though she is not a member of that tribe.

  11. Don’t assume that tribal people get money from casinos. As mentioned in this handy simple guide, “Out of more than 560 Federally recognized tribes, only 224 operate gaming facilities. About three-fourths of those tribes reinvest revenue in the community. In 2006, only 73 tribes distributed direct payments to individual Tribal members.”

  12. When disaggregating data, make sure to include Natives. Even if they are a small percentage. “I mean, think about it,” says a colleague, “They are such a small percentage of the overall population BECAUSE of the injustice done by colonization and ethnic cleansing.” It does not help to further minimize people’s existence by excluding them.

  13. Don’t expect every cultural custom will be explained to you. For example, when you are at a cultural event. As a colleague mentioned, “We don’t want to feel like an exhibit and have to explain everything going on.” Also, there might be times when people are required not to talk about something. If you work with kids, for instance, be sensitive about forcing them to share their culture. “Some things are not meant to be shared.”

  14. If you’re at an event, be thoughtful and patient around time. Events may not start or end on time. This does not necessarily mean that people can’t be punctual. They may just value other things more highly, such as creating space to build relationships, or to be inclusive of everyone’s stories.

  15. Be sensitive during meal times. Food is a significant part of many communities and cultures. A colleague mentioned that in her tribe, elders eat first, and those who are able-bodied are expected to get plates for the elders or for mothers with small children. Be aware when you are at an event and not just jump directly into the food line.

  16. Don’t say costume when referring to native dance outfits and traditional wear. A dancer’s outfit is called regalia. As mentioned in this article on pow wow etiquette: “Often pieces of the regalia are family heirlooms. Regalia is created by the dancer or by a respected family member or friend. The feathers in particular are sacred and highly valued and cared for. The beadwork may take a very long time to complete. Sometimes years have gone into the final completion of a dancer’s regalia.”

  17. Do not assume Native Americans have high rates of alcoholism. Actually, as mentioned here, Native Americans have “the highest rate of complete abstinence. When socioeconomic level is accounted for in a comparison group, alcoholism rates are no different for AI/ANs than for other ethnic or racial groups.” Adds a colleague, “But alcohol WAS used to obtain illegal signatures for treaties and access to lands and resources that belonged to tribal people. So maybe don’t invite Natives to do ‘business’ in a bar without checking in first.”

  18. Do not tokenize people. As with other marginalized communities, they’ll know if you are only trying to look diverse, or to look good for a grant application or something. Spend time building actual relationships, and ensure people and organizations are equitably compensated.

  19. Ensure the voices of Natives are amplified. We’ve seen when non-Native journalists are paid to tell stories about Native communities and their struggles. Let’s ensure the people whose stories are being told are the ones telling them. However, we all need to do our own research and reflections so our Native colleagues are not always having to educate us…

  20. Don’t bring up the land bridge theory. Many communities are very sensitive to the theory that Native Americans came over from Asia through the Bering Strait. You can read a couple of articles from Native perspectives here and here, but it may be best not to bring it up.

  21. Check your white privilege. “Native people don’t have time or the emotional energy to labor through your hang ups around race issues or your identity crisis.” Do your work to understand your own heritage and the privileges that come with it, and understand your family’s history, including the parts that may be challenging, that may have involved displacing Natives from their land, for example.

  22. (Update). Use the present tense. Many of us make the mistake of using the past tense when talking about Native communities, and according to this article, “A staggering 87 percent of references to American Indians in all 50 states’ academic standards portray them in a pre-1900 context.” Many kids believe that Native Americans only exist in the past; they have no understanding of current Native cultures and challenges, and we adults often inadvertently contribute to this. As a colleague states, “the use of only the past tense contributes to the genocidal narrative that we’re anything but still here.”

CONSIDER THIS

Excerpt from Issues | Cultural Survival

Called Tribal Peoples, First Peoples, Native Peoples, and Indigenous Peoples, these original inhabitants call themselves by many names in their 4,000 + unique languages and constitute about 6.2 percent of the world’s population.

According to the International Labour Organization, there are approximately 476.6 million Indigenous people in the world, belonging to 5,000 different groups, in 90 countries worldwide. Indigenous people live in every region of the world, but about 70 percent live in Asia and the Pacific, followed by 16.3 percent in Africa, 11.5 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.6 percent in Northern America, and 0.1 percent in Europe and Central Asia.

There is no universally accepted definition for “Indigenous,” though there are characteristics that tend to be common among Indigenous Peoples:

Indigenous People are distinct populations relative to the dominant post-colonial culture of their country. They are often minority populations within the current post-colonial nations states. In Bolivia and Guatemala Indigenous people make up more than half the population.

Indigenous People usually have (or had) their own language, cultures, and traditions influenced by living relationships with their ancestral homelands. Today, Indigenous people speak some 4,000 languages.

  • Indigenous People have distinctive cultural traditions that are still practiced.

  • Indigenous People have (or had) their own land and territory, to which they are tied in myriad ways.

  • Indigenous People self-identify as Indigenous.

Examples of Indigenous Peoples include the Inuit of the Arctic, the White Mountain Apache of Arizona, the Yanomami and the Tupi People of the Amazon, traditional pastoralists like the Maasai in East Africa, and tribal peoples like the Bontoc people of the mountainous region of the Philippines.

GO WIDER

Excerpted from a UN Human Rights Council Addressing the Legacies of Colonialism Can Contribute to Overcoming Inequalities Within and Among States and Sustainable Development Challenges of the Twenty-First Century | OHCHR press release.

There was an intrinsic link between colonialism and racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Colonialism was an unjustifiable evil that violated human rights and impeded their full enjoyment.  Combatting racism and racial discrimination meant acknowledging and addressing the legacy of past transgressions.  Many countries suffered from historical inequities that, decades and even centuries later, still cast long shadows over the present day.  All parties should commit to addressing the negative legacies of colonialism as a precondition to achieving sustainable development.  This was required to promote the enjoyment of human rights, including the right to development.

SUPPORT THIS

Decolonizing Wealth Project We envision a world where racial equity has become a societal norm, and new systems and ways of being ensure everyone can live their best lives, thrive in their cultures, and bring about healing from generations of colonial trauma.

Indigenous Environmental Network Established in 1990 within the United States, IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN’s activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities. 

Red Road Institute is a 501c3 organization dedicated to defending the rights of Tribal Nations & Indigenous Peoples by demanding the United States live up to their own laws.

Illuminative  is a Native woman-led racial and social justice organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of—and challenging the narrative about—Native peoples.

Indigenous World Indigenous World Organization is a non-profit charity organization dedicated to fostering the cultural, social and economic advancement of global Indigenous communities.

FOR EDUCATORS

Excerpt from Teach Indigenous History - Red Road Institute 

Georges Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

If the United States wants to find a path of healing, the road toward reconciliation will not begin with new laws but with an accurate portrayal of our history. If we want a real community in this nation, we must start with creating a shared memory.

There are 574 federally recognized indigenous nations within the boundaries of the United States. They have their own governments, jurisdictions, and economies with treaty rights and responsibilities in their historical territories.

Most students in the United States don’t know much about these nations, and this must change. 

We ask you to support that your state works with Native Nations to develop a curriculum of real indigenous history. Students must be taught about treaties, land rights, water rights, and the fact that tribes are still fighting to be recognized and respected.

Native Knowledge 360° - Interactive Teaching Resources

Long Term Effects of Colonization and Colonialism | Learning for Justice Learning for Justice seeks to uphold the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center: to be a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements and advance the human rights of all people.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Celebrating Native Americans Today and Everyday: Resources for Native American Heritage Month | Cultural Survival Includes suggestions on how to decolonize Thanksgiving; podcasts, films, and publications to check out; organizations, businesses and movements to support; and more.

Celebrate Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month | PBS We celebrate by listening and learning to Indigenous and native voices from across the continent. You can learn more about the diverse experiences of Native Americans and Alaska Natives with this collection of documentaries.

FROM THE SPIRIT

I will not turn for home until I know we leave no one behind. I will go and search again, seeking any straggler who might not have kept the pace, any elder who moves a little more slowly, any person with a burden that weighs them down. I will seek some sign of them in the shadows. I will wait beside the road with a light to guide them to me. I will not care who they are, where they are from, or how they believe: I will wait to make certain they are safely home before the darkness can overtake them. I will do this because I remember, long ago, when I struggled to keep up, someone waited for me. Compassion begins in a memory.

written by Steven Charleston, a Native American elder, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, and an Episcopal Church bishop https://www.stevencharleston.com

Photo by Artem Lysenko

PREVIOUS ISSUES
Police Brutality
Intersectionality and LGBTQ Rights
White Privilege/White Fragility
Voting Rights and Voter Supression
Indigenous Rights
Racism in Education
Racism in Healthcare

Images of God

Anti-Racism Resources for Kids
Black History Month
Intersectional Feminism/Anti-Asian Racism
Environmental Racism
Microaggressions
Critical Race Theory
Immigration Rights and Xenophobia
Restorative Justice
Civic Engagement
Interfaith Advocacy
The War on Black Trans Women

Just a note: the various viewpoints included in these newsletters (either by authors of content or the organizations they represent) do not necessarily represent the viewpoint or position of the Swedenborgian Church of North America (SCNA). The editors present them in the spirit of learning and reflection. 

(Editors: Rev. Shada Sullivan and Lori Gayheart)

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