The mission of the Indigenous Justice Working Group (IJWG) is to explore First Parish’s relationship to the grave injustices experienced by the Indigenous people of Massachusetts, from being displaced from their homes centuries ago to the vast health and social inequities today.

Members of this Social Justice Working Group will seek truth and raise ideas about how we at First Parish might learn about, acknowledge, and confront these injustices in order to heal and move forward together toward a more just future.


In the News

Meet Lakota YouthStay!

May 5, 2023 7:30-8:30pm (Zoom only)

Join us for a special virtual evening session where we will meet Founder and Executive Director, Joy Harris and learn about her connection to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  This led her to found Lakota YouthStay (LYS) in 2016 to provide opportunities to build friendships beyond the reservation, inspire hope and encourage cultural awareness and understanding.  Hear participants share their experiences with LYS, connecting 10 to 15-year-olds from the Pine Ridge Reservation with hosts in the Greater Boston area for 9 days of discovery and exploration through engagement in shared activities of interest. Discover how you might become a host for Lakota youth! Learn about One Spirit, their partner in SD, which provides the tools & employment to citizens to bring healthy food, youth programs and cultural support to the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Please email the Indigenous Justice Working Group via IJWG@firstparish.info for the Zoom link.

 

Land Acknowledgement 

March 1 and March 29, 2023 – Land acknowledgement workshops in collaboration with Silvermoon LaRose and Lorén Spears, assistant and executive directors at the Tomaquag Museum.
Click to learn more!

This year First Parish will be engaged in a process of developing a land acknowledgement, a statement that recognizes that the land on which our congregation is located was stolen from the Indigenous people who first inhabited this area and our commitment to work for reparations, right relationship and justice in regard to Indigenous people. This is part of an ongoing process informed by the work of the Indigenous Justice Working Group, IJWG. Read Full Article Here.


The Supreme Court has a rare chance to protect Native American families – The Boston Globe

Hats Off to a Determined Woman Who Scored a Win for Native Americans – South Dakota Searchlight

13 years ago, Blackfeet Tribal member and banker Elouise Cobell finally won a class-action lawsuit against the government, which settled the case by paying out $3.4 billion to Native American citizens and tribal nations.

The case was one of the largest class-action suits in U.S. history, and the presiding judge issued a blistering judgment against the Department of Interior. He called Interior a “dinosaur” agency that allowed “outright villainy” to persist.

‘More than just objects’: Barre museum returns items believed to come from Wounded Knee

Indigenous and Black Communities Find Common Cause for Land Justice


Get Involved!
The IJWG offers events throughout the year for those interested in learning more about the history of First Parish in relation to the Indigenous people of what is now called Arlington, the experiences of Indigenous people in North America, and the efforts to address ongoing injustice and inequities. If you are interested in engaging more deeply in this work, helping to guide our efforts, and developing programs and stronger relationships on behalf of First Parish, please email IJWG@firstparish.info.

IJWG meets virtually on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 8PM.


“Stories of Inspiration” by Jennifer Davis-Kay on behalf of the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness

 

Caring for Our Elders
At MCNAA, we believe in taking care of our community, and we particularly look out for our elders, many of whom live alone. We value our elders as mentors, teachers, and keepers of wisdom and cultural knowledge. Our elders are proud of their independence, and it can be hard for them to ask for help. In addition, our people often don’t qualify for the assistance that is available. One of our elders in Amesbury lives in a 100-year-old family home heated with wooden pellets. He couldn’t get any federal or state assistance for heating because those funds are earmarked specifically for gas or oil. We were able to locate a source for these pellets, and we raised funds to get this elder a three months’ supply. Not only did he receive the heating fuel he needed, it was offered in a way that acknowledged and affirmed his way of life and preserved his dignity.

 

Culturally Sensitive Mentoring
Through fundraising and a small grant, we were able to offer $10K in college scholarships this year—but simply getting our students on campus is not enough. Statistically, of all cultural and ethnic groups who enter college, the highest dropout rate is among Native Americans. We’ve learned that once our students arrive at college, they’re basically left alone, unable to find culturally relevant help or resources. We cannot overestimate the importance of seeing models of success who look like you. To foster retention, MCNAA has worked to find Native professionals in the community—educators, archaeologists, historians, and so on—who will pair up with a student during the year to serve as a mentor and coach. We try to match students and mentors according to interests, and we also make sure that each professional is able to really connect to a young person. This is a relatively new program we are very excited about. 

 

Fostering Native Culture and Identity
To foster and promote Native American culture, there is simply no substitute for growing up in, giving back to, and living with the community. We strongly encourage active involvement in the community and the passing on of Indigenous cultural traditions. Toward this end, we offer a variety of cultural programs, open to all. Here’s one example: This past March we hosted a virtual crafting afternoon, inviting participants to learn how to make leather medicine pouches. We thought this would be both an engaging project and an opportunity to educate the community about the meaning and history of medicine pouches. We prepared 50 kits to mail to participants—and much to our surprise, we received more than a thousand requests. The workshop itself was a great learning experience, and we were inspired by the positive energy and good medicine exhibited by all. The overwhelming response to this event makes it clear to us how hungry our community is for meaningful cultural experiences, and we are eager to provide as many as we can.

 

The Complicated History of Thanksgiving 
We offer many educational and cultural resources on our website, including an essay on the Fourth of July, a day that simultaneously honors the birth of this country and celebrates the death of many tribal nations. Thanksgiving is yet another holiday on which the U.S. celebrates its history. As you gather with your loved ones to express gratitude and enjoy your own traditions, we invite you to acknowledge as well that this is a day of mourning for many Native peoples.

 

A suggested Thanksgiving blessing:

 

This Land Belongs to No One
By Hila Ratzabi
“The earth is God’s, and all its fullness;
The world and those who dwell upon it.”
—Psalm 24

 

This land belongs to no one
but God. The Earth was here
before us and will endure
after we are gone.
Let us walk gently
upon this precious earth,
taking only what we need,
leaving little waste,
nurturing the soil,
revitalizing the land
to sustain future generations.
This land we dwell on today
is the ancestral land of the Massachusett tribe.
We acknowledge their historical roots
in this place, the many generations
who were stewards of this land.
We hear the echoes of their prayers
to the Great Mother Earth
and seek to learn from their wisdom.
We acknowledge the history of pain,
disease, and bloodshed
the Native peoples’ endured
when they were colonized.
Though we can’t reverse the course of history,
let us not ignore it.
Let us look history in the eye
and accept its painful truth.
Let us honor the memory of those who died on this land,
who lost their sovereignty.
Let us honor the Native people who, to this day,
keep their sacred traditions and culture alive
and seek to reclaim, reassert, and revive their sovereignty.
Our ancestors came to this country
from [names of countries],
often enduring hardship
that laid the foundation for our freedom.
We acknowledge their sacrifices
so that we could enjoy better lives.
We are grateful for the bounty we enjoy today,
the abundant variety of foods this earth provides.
We acknowledge those who cooked this meal,
[name the cooks!]
and set this beautiful table.
We acknowledge those who planted
and harvested this food,
many of whom are immigrants.
We send them blessings for safety and freedom.
We commit to sustaining this earth
so it will continue to sustain us,
our children and grandchildren.
We commit to give more and take less
from this fragile earth.

 

Recite together:
Thank you, God, for the land that sustains us, for our family and friends, and this sacred moment we are privileged to enjoy. 

 


Additional Resources

One thing the members of the Indigenous Justice Working Group have noticed is that once we develop a lens for focusing on this work, it is everywhere: in the daily news, on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, in local events listings and Netflix offerings. We are slowly developing an already-huge spreadsheet of resources and are struggling to find time to absorb and engage with all the wonderful material available to us. Here we offer a few recommendations.

21-Day Racial Equity Indigenous Challenge: This project offers resources for reading, watching, listening, and otherwise engaging with the topic of Indigenous Justice. Design your own course of study from a menu of options, or see where the path leads you.

Coloring Pages by Hawlii Pichette, a Mushkego Cree urban mixed-blood artist and illustrator. Fun for kids, great for meditative practice focusing on the natural world and themes of Indigenous culture.

Indian Country Today offers news of Indigenous people throughout the Americas. Check out the rich offerings available on the website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to add Indigenous news to your daily feed.

The Red Nation: 10-Point Program, a demand for an end to violence against Native Peoples, from a coalition of Native and non-Native activists, educators, students, and community organizers.

Massachusetts Indigenous History Resources: Links to a variety of resources about Indigenous communities in Massachusetts, as well as documentaries, 17th century accounts, books, and more!

If you have resources to recommend to us, please email ijwg@firstparish.info.


Grounded in Our Faith

In 2020 the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, our national body, passed an Action of Immediate Witness calling on all Unitarian Universalist congregations to Address 400 Years of White Supremacist Colonialism. The efforts of the First Parish Indigenous Justice Working Group are grounded in this action and in the principles that we affirm.