Issue Lead: Deborah J. Cruz, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Bellingham, WA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vision: We envision ourselves as a diverse and spiritually grounded network working towards improving our understanding of and relationships with First and American Indian communities.
Mission: We strive to educate, inform, inspire and nurture the capacity of Unitarian Universalists (UUs), as well as our community allies and partners, to undertake establishing meaningful relationships with First and American Indian Nations with those Nations who are willing, in achieving an understanding of those complex issues impacting First and American Indian communities. To also collaboratively advocate for those justice actions and initiatives that impact and intersect with First and American Indian Nations’ cultural continuity and rights, under the guidance of the Nations wherever possible.
Background: The action team has its origins in the fossil fuel crises of the Pacific Northwest. Around 2010, plans were revealed for turning Cherry Point, outside Bellingham, WA into a coal storage and shipping port. Cherry Point, is not only an aquatic reserve home to several endangered species, but also sacred to Lummi Indian Nation, known to them as Xwe’chieXen. It was discovered that in order to preserve and protect these lands and waters from fossil fuel development, it would be necessary to unite the voices the Lummi Nation, the faith community, social justice organizations, environmental groups, government and municipal leaders and concerned individuals. Not only were we able to defeat the coal port, but the same collaborative effort was used to defeat many other proposed new and expansion fossil projects across the Pacific Northwest, notably in the states of Oregon and Washington. This same collaboration would extend itself out from the Pacific Northwest into Canada and across the United States. It would also extend itself outside the fossil fuel sphere into other social and environmental spheres. It even expanded into work of other oppressed communities and issues.
The JUUstice Washington First and American Indian Nations action team is the result of these collaborations. It seeks to provide the means by which individuals and groups can effectively and appropriately engage with indigenous communities. It seeks to provide an understanding of white privilege and its active and passive, systematic and institutional oppression, both historically and in contemporary times. It seeks to provide the historical context of relations with indigenous nations and the impact it has on current issues and policies in Tribal life and on Tribal rights. It seeks to aid and guide individuals and groups in protocols for engaging with indigenous communities. It also seeks to be a conduit for indigenous individuals and communities to reach out for opportunities to invite support from the greater non-Indian community.
Specifically, action team resources provide the following:
- Recommendations for educational and informational materials such as films, publications and news media resources.
- Calendaring for events and activities throughout the region.
- Networking resources with community groups, directories and networking events.
- A pathway that facilitates raising indigenous voices amongst the greater community
- More personal experience as individuals and groups, sharing their discoveries and growth as they walk through beauty, challenges and complexity of Indian Country.
- Background information, alerts and rapid response actions on social, political, legislative and regulatory issues.
It is the intention of the action team to provide the necessary education, tools, skills and connections to continue the collaborative efforts and to build a strong network for collaboration, alliances and partnerships between Indian and non-Indian communities, working to address our shared responsibilities to restore, preserve, and protect the Earth and our relationship each other and to promote a shared future of respect and well-being for all of us.