Report from the 2022 Annual Meeting of the DDoD Coalition
By Jonathan Neufeld
It is important to begin this Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Annual Meeting report with gratitudes. Gratitude for the open-hearted and generous hosting of the Coalition attendees by the congregation and friends of Albuquerque Mennonite Church. The meals, homestays, tour planning, worship, your participation, and tour hosting all communicated welcome and appreciation for the work of this collective. Thank you so much for your radical hospitality. We are also grateful for the work of the Coalition Steering Committee, staff and volunteers, who labored over the work of preparing a challenging and invitational weekend steeped in prayer, with our eyes towards a multi-generational vision of justice and restoration. We are grateful for the women who collectivized their energy and passion in starting this Coalition, and their continued welcome of others to join this movement in concert with the Spirit of Life. We are grateful for the growing energy and work happening through the Repair Congregations and Communities Network, and for Katerina Gea’s connecting and organizing efforts over the past 1.5 years. We are grateful for the willingness of Sarah Augustine and ability of the Coalition to hire Sarah as the first Executive Director of the Coalition. We are grateful for Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference’s ongoing support of the emergence of the Coalition, as fiscal sponsor and human resources partner. We are grateful to First Menonite Church of San Francisco for issuing a $100K Challenge Grant to hire Sarah. This is not even close to an exhaustive accounting of the gifts that have brought us to this moment of gathering!
On Saturday morning, we began with sharing the history of the Coalition, the current Coalition structure and the story of the ongoing and invasive presence of the Doctrine of Discovery in our world. The intention of the Coalition is to be a group of people working together toward a common goal with individual people doing work, giving and receiving assistance to each other, being nimble and fluid in response to the shape-shifting structures of domination and colonization in the world. The Coalition’s efforts are housed in the efforts of committees or ad-hoc groups, which grow or decrease in number based on calls to action and having enough committed people to form a group response.
The morning continued with Sarah Augustine’s presentation of the Coalition’s 100-year vision, to align our multi-generational commitment to the multi-generational determination and grit of Indigenous resistance to domination. We are not alone, we are a product of those who have come before us and we hold up a vision for those who come after us. This vision invites us to live in reality! We live in a closed system of mutual dependence: No new water, no new air, no new earth. What we have is what we have – and what is needed is healing and restoration in order for all of life to be sustained. To live in alignment with reality is to actively reject activities of accumulation and commodification, and growth-oriented and extractive economies — and to support a reorganization of human systems. This is huge work and it is good news for all of creation! The work of decolonization affirms and aligns its efforts with Indigenous sovereign commitments, but does not shy away from taking responsibility for addressing systems created by dominant society. We can leverage access and privilege we have to reach out and form transformative relationships with those controlling the systems of death. We affirm that the Doctrine of Discovery and the logic of extraction are damaging to all vulnerable peoples and all of life. We welcome collaboration with historically oppressed groups working for liberation, and strive to serve as good partners and co-conspirators with marginalized peoples and communities.
The afternoon was rich with reporting and updates from committee, ad-hoc working groups and organizations with whom the Coalition’s goals and objectives intersect. Jonathan Nahar reflected that it is a hearty challenge to keep up with all the fronts of activity, as these groups have been so generative. Prayers, presence and support for legal action to protect Oak Flat continues. Apache Stronghold, who is spearheading the protective effort, was selected as the Coalition’s annual Repair Partner and will receive 60% of general fund donations that the Coalition receives over the next 12 months. Our relationship with Ka’Kuxtal, the Coalition’s Repair Partner for 2021-22, continues to mutually deepen. Ka’Kuxtal expressed their appreciation for the presence of the Coalition – reminding us that they are not alone in their work to protect water and life. Cultural Change Committee continues to be generative in developing resources for action, most recently publishing Stories of Repair and a Land Acknowledgement Guide in 2021. The Board Game subcommittee has a rendering of the game being developed in partnership with the TESA Collective. After game testing and refinement, the next chapter will be fundraising for production costs. The Story Sharing Committee is looking forward to listening in on the work of various working groups, to gather and share out the stories of repair for the broader church. The Salary Campaign subcommittee is working on raising 3 years worth of salary fund to ensure a solid and financially secure path in this next chapter of the Coalition’s development. There is also a Follow the Money subcommittee, seeking to engage with money-holding institutions in reviewing investment practices and their enmeshment with colonial and extractive systems.
The Coalition was grateful to receive updates from representatives of various movements and organizations that are working in concert with and beyond the Coalition in support of decolonization and solidarity. We heard from Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, Mennonite Central Committee, Turtle Island Solidarity Network – Community Peacemaker Teams, Mennonite Church Manitoba, Mennonite Mission Network, Taos Initiative for Life Together, Nuns and Nones, and the Suriname Indigenous Health Fund.
Sunday morning’s session was a time for Coalition members to seek consensus around affirming the Coalition’s Repair Partner for 2022-23 (Apache Stronghold), affirming the Committee Chairs from standing committees and the consequential make up of the Coalition Steering Committee (comprised of Committee Chairs, Staff, and Co-Conveners). Various ideas for new working groups and committees were offered to the Coalition, some or all of which may attract a participant group to give leadership and ongoing life: Follow the Money, Freelance Art, Land Repair/Land Return, POC Committee, Prayer Committee, Indian Child Welfare Act Protection Committee, and the Professional Administrative Committee. We welcome interest and participation from folks receiving this summary report.
Sunday afternoon offered the Coalition time to take a deeper dive into agenda items that would benefit from robust discussion. First, Katerina Gea talked about the exciting growth and interest in the Repair Network, which over 1.5 years has grown to 17 congregations, 4 in the process of joining, and 12 congregations exploring initial steps. Katerina connects congregations with resources, invites them to calls among Repair member communities for shared learning, meets with leadership, and accompanies congregations as they are exploring joining. The steps we invite communities to engage to become a Repair Community are:
- Education and lament
- Create (or task) a committee
- Truth-telling and acknowledgment (land acknowledgment as an opening and not an ending)
- Restitution in the budget
- Respond to calls for solidarity with Indigenous communities
- Connect the work of repair with creation care
- Commit to being contagious
This is not about fixing or helping Indigenous communities. This is for the healing, liberation, and transformation of the Mennonite church and institutions in undoing Christian supremacy and White supremacy that undergirds the Doctrine of Discovery. We are grateful for Katerina’s labor in this realm and the energy coming from the churches.
We closed out the afternoon and the weekend with a session for open agenda and brainstorming. The purpose was to identify questions and directions that the Coalition can hold in the coming months and years, including the following:
- Language that we use internally and externally around how we narrate ourselves as a coalition or organization: How language trickles down and bubbles up. Also, questions emerged about accountability and how we relate with PSMC.
- Where are we in relation to the Indian Child Welfare Act?
- How is it decided who is a partner? Do there need to be ideological or project alignments with the Coalition?
- Discernment about what reparations look like emerging from congregations, i.e. how do we equip the Repair Network for reparations?
- Is there openness to partner with and expand connections with Mennonite Church Canada and other international Mennonite bodies? How about expanded connections with ecumenical and interfaith partners?
- What are some ways the Coalition wants to impact cultural/organizational change within Anabaptist networks and MCUSA? MC USA resolution? Energy towards decolonizing theology in Anabaptist circles?
The Coalition does not take for granted all the labor, time, care, relationship and volunteerism that makes such a weekend possible and a movement to be sustained. Thank you all for your collaboration as we go into another exciting year.
In the Uprising,
Jonathan Neufeld, Steering Committee Co-chair, on behalf of the DDoD Steering Committee
Photos by Jackson Steinmetz