1. Background
  2. Native Americans

What You Can Do

as an Ally with Native Americans

By Ruth Flower, November 18, 2016

The beginning is knowing -- really knowing -- and acknowledging the history we share as Indians and non-Indians on this continent. Useful action flows from that place of recognition of how we stand with each other. Here are three sets of recommendations for your next steps.

Ideas from FCNL:

  1. Learn more about the history that has shaped all of our lives—a history that allowed some to be the takers, some to benefit from the taking, and some to be “removed” and “assimilated.”

  2. Learn more about what is happening in your region in the lives of the descendants of those whose land was taken, whose culture was assaulted. What do they face now? What are their goals?

  3. Listen to native leaders – youth and elders – as they determine their own way forward. Discern whether there is a service you can perform, a gift you can offer.

  4. Use your voice through your own networks to challenge closed and hateful rhetoric about native peoples in your area. In personal conversations, in formal discussions, in letters to local papers, and on line or in social media, offer the views of an ally and help other listeners to hear a more inclusive story.

  5. Develop and use your connections with decision makers – in school boards, state legislatures, and Congress. As sovereign nations, most tribes relate directly to the federal government, though they are clearly affected by decisions of states and local governments. Congress and the administration hold a trust responsibility toward tribal governments. Your representatives in the House and Senate should know that the tribes in your area have allies beyond their own communities, who expect government-to-government relations to be respected. Your voice is very important in this role.

  6. Listen for opportunities to support federal legislative policies and programs that tend to heal and mitigate the damage done by our histories. Support, for example:

  • indigenous language preservation and teaching,
  • protection of rivers for fishing and wilderness for hunting,
  • schools operated by tribes, from pre-school through college,
  • loans and investments for tribally-determined economic development,
  • capital for housing, health centers, and other community structures, and
  • technical assistance and funding for tribal justice systems, including “healing to wellness” programs.

For educational resources and news of opportunities to support healing legislation (and to resist harmful proposals), request the monthly Native American Legislative Update from FCNL.

Actions requested by Canadian Yearly Meeting

This year, Canadian Yearly Meeting minuted its commitment to seeking reconciliation with First Nations people. The minute acknowledges, "that part of our journey is to decolonize our own thinking and sit in the discomfort and pain of confronting where we need to deepen our understanding, bear witness, and transform our behaviour."

The minute also asked Friends’ Meetings to take specific actions:

  1. Continue to educate themselves, including children and youth, about the doctrine of discovery, the ongoing effects of colonialism, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, residential schools and their legacy (including the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] Report), the history of the land on which they live, and reconciliation efforts;

  2. Formally acknowledge the traditional territories where their Meetings are located and engage in processes of reflection on the meaning of this;

  3. Find out about current concerns of Indigenous Peoples from those territories, including land appropriation or resource development, with which the Meeting could be engaged;

  4. Investigate projects of cultural revitalization that Indigenous Peoples are involved in and discern if there is an appropriate role (including funding) that Friends can play;

  5. Uphold and support individual Friends involved with grassroots Indigenous rights and provide spiritual support to Friends led to this work. This might include offering committees of care and approving minutes of support; and

  6. Report back annually through Canadian Friends Service Committee, which will collate this information and report it. 

======================================================================== Recommendations from indigenous leaders in the prayer camps of the Standing Rock Sioux:

  1. Allies who join with those who are present in the prayer camps should support the protectors in prayer and in service to the Earth, asking not “what can we do” but rather “how can we serve”? Allies should be open to guidance on how to fit in and support this movement.

  2. There is a need for immigrant legal assistance for indigenous peoples journeying from all over the world to stand with the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota.

  3. There is also a need to defray the cost of legal representation for the increasing numbers of protectors who are being arrested.

  4. There are requests for material aid in the form of wood, wood stoves, sheds, and fresh food, especially meet and winter structures.

  5. Allies should be humble – there is a lot to learn from what is happening and how it is happening.

  6. Support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request that the U.S. Department of Justice should stop all development at the pipeline site, to keep all citizens – protectors and law enforcement – safe. The Department of Justice should be enlisted and expected to investigate the tactics and abuses of law enforcement agencies at the site. (For the full text, see AFSC’s report: “We Are Our Own Medicine.”)

Ruth Flower

  • Annual Meeting 2018 Keynote Speaker, Consultant, Native American Policy

Ruth’s work with FCNL began in 1981, when she joined the staff to lobby on domestic issues. After a decade with the American Association of University Professors, she rejoined the staff in 2006 to lead FCNL’s domestic lobbying team. Her leadership on lobbying and in coalitions has spanned issues from health care and federal budget priorities to immigration and the death penalty. In 2016, the Coalition on Human Needs honored Ruth at its Human Needs Hero Reception. Most recently, Ruth has worked with FCNL to launch the Native American Congressional Advocacy program.