Witness and Roots of Injustice
A program of Truth and Healing

by Buffy Curtis
Mohawk Valley Meeting


“I’m shocked!” “I’m hurting.” ”I feel so confused and guilty.” “I’m honored to be here!” “This is so hard but hopeful!” ”This must be done everywhere!”


After spending 60 minutes standing, listening, being moved and removed, these are a few of the many comments that are shared in the circle as part of this experiential exercise on Indigenous/settler history. Entitled “The Roots of Injustice; Seeds of Change. Seeking Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” this exercise was introduced to Quakers by Paula Palmer of Boulder Meeting in 2013. A US adaptation of the Kairos/Canadian educational project of their national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this exercise has now touched the lives of thousands of people. Since being trained in 2015, Liseli Haines and I have followed this calling and ministry of truth telling among Friends in NY and from VA to Michigan and even a Meeting in Canada. It was a natural progression of steps following our experience and work with the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign and of learning that our lives and home sit directly in the middle of Haudenosaunee territory, helping us to begin to understand many things.


500 years of mostly unknown history about the systematic, attempted elimination of the Indigenous peoples of this continent is a powerful, painful lesson. The process of walking onto the blankets, shifting one’s identity from colonizer to native person, then slowly but systematically watching your lands shrink and neighbors disappear becomes a lesson that touches body, mind and soul. Learning about the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, a collection of papal bulls of the 1400s, provides knowledge of the legal precedent for justification of this domination and genocide. Current in US and world laws today, it has been cited in Supreme Court decisions as recently as 2015. It’s not just old history.


This workshop is part of a process of helping Friends with our ongoing work towards truth and understanding; getting to the roots and impacts of our roles as colonizers and settlers. When talking about “Truth and Healing,” truth must come first—hopefully creating the paradigm shift of consciousness required for the next steps.


Are we willing to step onto the blankets? Are we able to listen deeply to our history and therefore, our possibilities to heal? Can we bravely and collectively take responsibility for what is calling us? As we stand together in this Light we come to the understanding that this is not just about Quakers and not just about our Indigenous neighbors. This work is about the whole—all of Creation.