Mennonite Church USA Signs on to Amicus Brief to Support Apache Stronghold
January Newsletter and Coalition Updates
Learn about supporting Apache Stronghold ahead of appeals case
Find inspiration from congregations’ art displays
Read Jane Ross Richer’s article about the importance of protecting ICWA
Sign up for a LandBack webinar with Coalition staff
Consider joining others for Prayer and Action Hour, Coffee Hour, or a New Volunteer Orientation
Sarah Augustine and members of Repair Network congregation Shalom Mennonite Fellowship visit Ga’an Canyon at Oak Flat.
SAVE THE DATE: Week of March 20th in Pasadena
We are excited that because of the efforts of members of the Coalition, Mennonite Church USA and Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference have joined a diverse group of organizations in signing an amicus brief that will support Apache Stronghold in their upcoming 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case. Apache Stronghold is a group led by the San Carlos Apache who are engaged in a legal battle for Oak Flat, their sacred site. Mining rights to the sacred site were signed over to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of foreign mining company Rio Tinto. As we wait for the case to be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, there are several action items you can complete:
1. Pasadena Gathering: If you live near Pasadena, California, mark down the week of March 20th on your calendar! We don’t yet know the exact court date or what vigils and marches Apache Stronghold plans to hold, but we do know that we want to support them in those endeavors. Be on the lookout for more information about how you can be involved. Contact Katerina Gea at email@example.com if you can attend in person.
2. Prepare your congregations and organizations to sign on to amicus briefs for the Supreme Court! If Apache Stronghold loses this case, they will head to the Supreme Court and will need our support. If Apache Stronghold wins, there is a great chance that the United States government will appeal at the Supreme Court level, in which case we will also need amicus briefs. The timeline for these briefs won’t be known until after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case, but we want to start having conversations with our congregations now so we can be ready.
3. Pray! The Apache believe in the power of prayer. We can pray for wisdom and guidance for the Apache’s legal council, for the protection of the land, and for the safety of Apache Stronghold.
For more information about Apache Stronghold and their struggle for Oak Flat, watch this video and visit Apache Stronghold’s website.
The Art of Justice: Mennonite congregations display creations of land acknowledgment
Sunnyside Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana developed a Land Acknowledgement quilt to honor the Potawatomi peoples, who originally lived in this area before their forced relocation by the Indian Relocation Act. The design reflects the five clans: bear, eagle, turtle, fish and thunder. Potawatomi means “Keepers of the Fire.” Their historic homeland is the Great Lakes Woodlands and the quilted oak leaf along the inner border is a traditional design. The wall hanging was made in consultation with Julie Winchester-Farver, Potawatomi artist and quilt shop owner, The Quilted Oak Leaf, Dowagiac, Michigan. Julie’s input lead to the quilters crossing out the words “was once” to indicate that the Potawatomi presence is still part of the land.
“I find quilting to be a particularly powerful form of art to speak truth while building community. Quiltmaking is such a natural part of Mennonite culture and it’d be wonderful to see more churches engage in this art form with purpose beyond making something beautiful,” said Terri Geiser of Sunnyside Mennonite Church.
Rainbow Mennonite Church dedicated a piece by artist Tokeya Waci U of Lawrence, KS, which he titled “An Acknowledgment of Life” on Sunday, January 8. Commissioning artwork from Indigenous artists (and paying them well for their work!) can be a creative way of acknowledging the land where we live and worship. Acknowledgment is one small step in the larger journey of repair that we invite congregations and communities to join as part of our Coalition’s Repair Network.
Top left: Ruth Harder and Tokeya Waci U pose next to Tokeya Waci U’s art piece. Bottom left: “An Acknowledgment of Life.” Right: Sunnyside Mennonite Church’s Land Acknowledgment quilt.
Coalition sends delegates to Sacred Site Summit
Carol Rose, Sara Gurule, and Michaela Esau at the Sacred Site Summit
In December, the Coalition was represented by Carol Rose, Katerina Gea, Sara Gurule, and Michaela Esau at the Sacred Site Summit in Tucson, Arizona. The Sacred Site Summit was hosted by Apache Stronghold, a group of activists fighting for the right of the San Carlos Apache tribe to continue to hold their sacred ceremonies at Oak Flat. Apache Stronghold is currently locked in a legal battle with mining company Resolution Copper. The proposed copper mine will destroy the land and cause both environmental and spiritual harm.
At the Summit, the Coalition delegates had the opportunity to listen to Indigenous leaders talk about the adverse effects of mining, the ways the Doctrine of Discovery informs many laws that harm Indigenous peoples, and the necessity of preserving all people’s right to practice their spirituality, whatever form that spirituality may take. The Summit reminded attendees of the power of unity, and that there is hope for change.
Director of National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition speaks at Repair Network Call
At our Repair Network call on January 24th, we welcomed new Repair Network members Boulder Mennonite Church and Assembly Mennonite Church, welcomed prospective members, shared challenges and celebrations from our local work, and highlighted calls to action from our Coalition’s Indigenous partners like the Apache Stronghold.
Deidre Whiteman, Director of Research and Education with the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), joined us for the second hour to share more about their work toward a Truth and Healing Commission on Native American Boarding Schools. Their work to address the harms of Boarding Schools, tools of assimilation of Indigenous children, is directly connected to our Coalition’s support of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which helps prevent the ongoing assimilation of Indigenous children through foster and adoptive placements.
“In Canada, prior to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), 30% of people knew about the Indian Boarding Schools in that country. After the TRC, 70% knew the truth about the abuses and tragedies which took place in their country’s history. In America, we estimate less than 10% know about the US Boarding School Era.
“In Canada, the government and church denominations brought forth all their boarding school records for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the U.S. we are still seeking records that identify all details about the schools and fate of Native American students taken into federal custody for Boarding School attendance. It’s time the U.S. Government fully acknowledge the impact of this country’s Boarding School Policy.” — from the NABS website.
The work of prayer is multilayered. In our group we strive to not only hear the Spirit and bring our heart’s burdens to that healing place, we also try to lift each other up as we pray for the work of the Coalition. I have been the recipient of those prayers recently and am grateful for the healing grace which is evident as I continue to heal from a bout with long Covid exacerbated asthma. I’ve had a thought about the role of prayer in promoting hope and gratitude. They seem to be inseparable. When I have neglected the practice of “gratitude prayer” I find my hope flagging. Perhaps this is a common experience of people who work so hard at the on-going project of Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.
In our group we pray for all the projects which the Coalition supports. We pray for the people who are learning and growing and strengthening their desires to heal from injustices. We pray for those who desire to set right the wrongs of the past, that they will seek humility and right relationship as they grow and learn. We pray for guidance and protection in our action and choices. Praying is the action of fire in our hearts helping us to keep the sparks of hope and gratitude alive. It’s not magic, or something unseen to “believe” in – it is real work and real Spirit with real results even if we cannot “see” immediate outcomes. Our work of prayer is not confined to our meeting time – we are praying constantly!
My prayer is that our group of “Prayer First Responders” will grow in strength and that more souls will come on board. I know without a doubt that when we pray together, we are joined by Spirit. All our ancestors rejoice in the work we are striving to complete together. If we do our work “on this side” they are able to do their work “on the other side of the camp” (as an Indigenous Elder once said to me). We meet the second Thursday of every month and welcome new participants. If you are interested, you can email Katerina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Annie Wenger-Nabigon
Free Webinar: The Land Back Movement
Katerina Gea and Sarah Augustine of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery will join Angie Comeaux of Hummingbird Springs Farm for a webinar about the Land Back movement. The webinar will take place February 8 at 1:00pm EST. This monthly installment of Creation Justice Webinars is co-hosted by the Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt who serves as the Minister of Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ and the Rev. Michael Malcom who serves as the Executive Director for Alabama Interfaith Power & Light and the People’s Justice Council.
Goshen College Students start Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Group
Know any students at Goshen college? Encourage them to attend to first meeting of One Circle, a new group on campus that aims to promote Indigenous solidarity. We are so proud of students Arleth Martinezand Manny Villanueva for taking the initiative to start this group. The future is bright!
Our next coffee hour is on February 22nd at 9 a.m. PST.
The next volunteer orientation will be Thursday, Feb. 16th from 4:00-5:30 PST. Join this Orientation for new volunteers interested in getting involved in the Coalition and potential Repair Network members. We’ll share about the story of how we started, our structure and approach to decolonization, how we work with Indigenous partners, and ways to get engaged!