The Quakers, a religious group also known as the Friends, have donated nearly $93,000 to the Alaska Native community of Kake as a gesture of reparations for the harms caused by their colonial influence in the past. The donation follows an official apology that the Quakers issued in October 2022 for their role in running boarding schools that forcibly assimilated and abused Indigenous children.
Quakers acknowledge their historical wrongs
The Quakers, who have a long history of social activism and pacifism, have been working on reconciling with the Alaska Native people for several years. In 2022, they formed a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to research and document the impacts of their missionary work in Alaska, especially the boarding schools that they operated from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.
The committee found that the Quakers were complicit in the federal government’s policy of erasing the culture, language, and identity of the Indigenous people. The boarding schools subjected the children to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and many of them died or disappeared. The committee also learned that the Quakers had a negative influence on the governance, economy, and environment of the Alaska Native communities.
Based on these findings, the Quakers issued a formal apology to the Alaska Native people in October 2022, during the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Juneau. The apology acknowledged the Quakers’ responsibility for the harm and trauma they inflicted, and expressed their commitment to support the healing and restoration of the Indigenous people.
Quakers make reparations to the Kake community
One of the places where the Quakers had a significant presence was Kake, a village of about 600 people in Southeast Alaska. The Quakers built a mission in Kake in the 1890s, before the federal government handed the Quaker building over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1915. The building became a boarding school, where many children from Kake and other villages were sent to be educated and assimilated.
The Quakers decided to make reparations to the Kake community as a way of showing their sincerity and remorse. They raised nearly $93,000 from Quakers in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, with the goal of helping to repair the damage from their colonial influence. The money was presented to the Kake Tribal Corporation on January 19, 2024, during the Kake Day celebration, which marks the anniversary of the repulsion of Russian invaders by the Tlingit people in 1869.
The Kake Tribal Corporation plans to use the money to renovate the old Quaker building, which is now owned by the tribe, and turn it into a healing center. The center will provide services such as counseling, substance abuse treatment, and cultural education for the Kake community and other Alaska Native people. The center will also honor the memory of the boarding school survivors and victims, and preserve their stories and experiences.
Quakers hope to inspire other groups to take action
The Quakers hope that their apology and reparations will inspire other religious groups, institutions, and governments to take similar steps to acknowledge and address the historical and ongoing injustices against the Indigenous people. They also hope to foster a dialogue and a relationship with the Alaska Native people, based on respect, honesty, and mutual learning.
The Quakers recognize that their apology and reparations are not enough to heal the wounds of the past, and that they have a lot more to do to support the Indigenous people’s rights, sovereignty, and well-being. They are committed to continuing their work of truth and reconciliation, and to listening to the voices and needs of the Alaska Native people.