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Timeline of Unitarian Universalist Relationships with Native American Peoples and Nations

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This is a living and evolving document.  If you have material you feel should be included, please let us know at harvardsquarelibrary@gmail.com

Our timeline includes only those persons, institutions, and organization explicitly self-identified as Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist.  

Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and Others founded

November 8, 1787

The Society’s object was “the dissemination of Christian knowledge, and the means of religious instruction among all those, in their country, who were destitute of them.” The goal was to “civilize and Christianize” Native Americans, as well as economically disadvantaged whites and, after the Civil War, African Americans.  The Society assumed that assimilation into mainstream white culture was morally improving.  When writing the history of the Society, Samuel Atkins Eliot noted that many of the original members were liberal Christians who later declared themselves Unitarian after the split in the Congregational Church in 1819.

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American Unitarian Association Accepts Charge over Colorado Reservations

November 8, 1870

In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant invited Protestant denominations to take over the management of American Indian reservations and agencies. His hope was that this move would cut down on reported government corruption while simultaneously helping to “civilize” the Indians. The American Unitarian Association (AUA) accepted charge of the district covering the Colorado reservation occupied by various tribes of the Ute, consisting of about 8,000 people.  Eventually the mission was moved to Montana, and established as The Montana Industrial School for Indians. Read the UU World account of this history here. The most complete history can be found here:  Dana Capasso Stivers, “The Montana Industrial School for Indians at Romona Ranch,”…

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Eliot Appointed to Bureau of Indians

November 8, 1909

In 1909 President Taft appointed American Unitarian Association President Samuel Atkins Eliot to the Board of Indian Commissioners.  In that capacity Eliot gave addresses such as his speech “From the Scalping Knife to the Can Opener” which argued how only assimilation to white culture would save Native Americans from their own “barbarism.”   Eliot believed that liberal Christianity was an appropriate vehicle for teaching native character: “he must be…

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GA Calls for Support for Indian Rights

June 20, 1970

Indian Rights 1970 Business Resolution The 1970 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges support of the independent, indigenous organizations: In opposing the continued exploitation of the Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts; In demanding an end to the continued encroachment by ranching, mining, lumbering, and hydro-electric interests upon their human rights, ancestral homelands, and water resources; and In insisting upon adequate reparations for past and present injustices perpetrated upon them.

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GA Abhors Violence at Pine Ridge Reservation

June 28, 1975

Native Americans 1975 Business Resolution BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1975 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association abhors the violence presently taking place at the Pine Ridge Reservation aggravated by the neglect of the US federal government in dealing with the fundamental issue of self-determination of Native Americans; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the UUA and its member churches and fellowships be urged to sponsor ongoing educational programs about and leading to effective action concerning the plight of Native Americans; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That we urge each individual Unitarian Universalist to promote social justice for all Native Americans through contact with his and her political representatives at all levels of government.

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GA Opposes Extradiction of Dennis Banks

June 26, 1976

Opposing Extradition of Dennis Banks 1976 General Resolution Dennis Banks is acknowledged by many Native Americans to be a militant leader in the struggle for justice in the cause of Native American rights; and . . . has publicly stated that he will be killed if he is returned to South Dakota; . . . The 1976 General Assembly of the UUA request that both Governor Brown and Governor Straub grant asylum and refuse to extradite Dennis Banks to South Dakota and that members and societies be urged to communicate the same request to these two governors.

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LaDonna Harris Offers Ware Lecture at General Assembly

June 23, 1980

LaDonna Harris, President of Americans for Indian Opportunity, is a statesman and national leader who has devoted her life to building coalitions that create change. She has been a consistent and ardent advocate on behalf of Tribal America. In addition, she continues her activism in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, the women’s movement and world peace. Raised in Indian country on a farm near the small town of Walters, Oklahoma, during the Great Depression, she spoke only Comanche when she entered grade school, and because…

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GA Calls for Justice for Indigenous Peoples

June 26, 1993

Justice for Indigenous Peoples 1993 General Resolution The UUA encourages its member congregations and individual Unitarian Universalists to work beyond 1993 in their own regions to: learn from indigenous peoples about the richness of their cultures and about the problems and issues they face; support local indigenous peoples’ political action committees in their struggles for social justice and religious freedom; and act individually and through coalitions to respect and support indigenous peoples in preserving their cultural pride and heritage and in protecting their natural resources.  

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GA Express Solidarity with the San Carlos Apache Regarding Mt. Graham

June 21, 1997

Solidarity with the San Carlos Apache Regarding Mt. Graham 1997 Action of Immediate Witness The 1997 General Assembly of the UUA calls upon the Executive Staff and the Board of Trustees of the Association to join with the Apache in requesting the cessation of new telescope construction on Mt. Graham and the removal of all existing telescopes from Mt. Graham, and in opposing any new or proposed construction or development to take place on Mt. Graham; and . . . calls upon individual Unitarian Universalists to educate themselves about the issues facing their own local First Nations and Native American neighbors, since sacred sites needing protection exist everywhere.

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GA Calls for Fair Treatment of Native Americans

June 27, 1998

Fair Treatment for Native Americans 1998 Action of Immediate Witness The Assembly asks Unitarian Universalists in the United States to take action to urge the United States government to begin a program of reconciliation and renewal by way of the following: holding at least one Race Initiative hearing on an Indian reservation prior to the cessation of the current…

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GA Resolution Supports Native American Treaty Rights

June 24, 2000

Economic Injustice, Poverty, and Racism: We Can Make a Difference! 2000 Statement of Conscience We, the member congregations of the UUA, hereby rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of economic justice, an end to racism, and an end to poverty. We recognize that racism is a major contributor toward economic injustice. We pledge ourselves to strive to understand how racism and classism perpetuate poverty and to work for the systemic changes needed to promote a more just economy and compassionate society. Our work for economic justice must include support for . . . respect for treaty rights of First Nations and Native American Tribes [among other items].

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GA Supports Native Communities in Removing Cleveland “Indians” Mascot

June 24, 2000

Resolution on Support for the Cleveland, Ohio, Native American Community 2000 Responsive Resolution Resolved that this General Assembly urge the Planning Committee and the Board of Trustees to consult and cooperate with the United Church of Christ’s ongoing efforts to support the Cleveland Native American community in their struggle against the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the racism implicit in the use of the symbols, names and…

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GA Resolution to End Use of Native American Imagery in Mascots

February 24, 2001

Resolution to Establish Formal Relationships with the National Coalition on Racism and Sports in Media 2001 Responsive Resolution In response to the moderator’s report, moved that this General Assembly direct the UUA’s Board of Trustees and administration to establish formal relationships with the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media as models for local Unitarian Universalist congregations to use in developing relationships with regional Native American groups working to end the use of Indian images and symbols for sports and media mascots

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GA Resolution Calls for Truth, Repair, Reconciliation

June 23, 2007

Truth, Repair, and Reconciliation 2007 Responsive Resolution In response to President Bill Sinkford’s report, moved that delegates begin this work by encouraging their congregations and the UUA to research their own and the Association’s history: to uncover our links and complicity with the genocide of native peoples; with slavery and the slave-based economy; and with all types of racial, ethnic, and cultural oppression, past and present, toward the goal of accountability through…

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UUA President Sinkford Apologies to Ute Peoples

June 23, 2009

During the opening assembly of General Assembly, UUA President Bill Sinkford issues an apology to Ute people the mistreatment of their people by Unitarians, during the time period when the American Unitarian Association had management of reservations in Colorado. Read more about it here.  

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GA Repudiates Doctrine of Discovery

June 23, 2012

The Doctrine of Discovery (English) Sobre la Doctrina del Descubrimento (Spanish) 2012 Responsive Resolution We, the delegates of the 2012 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as a relic of colonialism, feudalism, and religious, cultural, and racial biases having no place in the modern day treatment of indigenous peoples; and . . . That we call upon the United States to fully implement the standards of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. law and policy without qualifications.

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UUs partner with Lummi Nation

June 30, 2015

Building on a previously existing relationship, Unitarian Universalist partner with the Lummi Nation to protest coal terminal.  Read more about it here.  

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GA Calls for Reconsideration of Thanksgiving Day

June 23, 2016

Read about it here.  

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UUs Join Witness at Standing Rock

November 3, 2016

Unitarian Universalist clergy and lay persons join witness with the Sioux people at Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, to protest pipeline.  Read more about it here.

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