To stand with Native American people in their struggle for self-determination, AFSC chose first and foremost to be present and listen. We quickly saw that Native people were struggling not just for equality, but for sovereignty, and our support opened the way for other faith-based groups to endorse this goal. 

During the fishing rights battles in the Pacific Northwest in 1960s and 70s, AFSC published the book “Uncommon Controversy,” which championed Native respect for the environment and helped shift public opinion in favor of Native rights. We also supported the Plains Tribes when strip-mining threatened their land. Through the work of Wayne Newell—a Passamaquoddy activist and educator—we backed the land-claims of the Wabanaki in Maine. During the early 90s, our work grew to include partnerships with the Mohawk and the Sioux Nations. Often, we assist Native communities in their efforts to serve their youth by keeping languages alive, renewing rites of passage, and reclaiming pride in their heritage.

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  • Two people stand together, singing, one playing a drum.
    Wayne Newell, educational activist and scholar of Native traditions, worked with AFSC in the 1960s to overturn massive misappropriation of Native lands in Maine. Photo courtesy: National Park Service.
  • Two people working with fishing nets in a river.
    When tribes along the Columbia River staged “fish-ins” in the 1960s to protest limits on their fishing rights, AFSC’s ground-breaking study “Uncommon Controversy” helped build their case.
  • Young woman is held by a policeman wearing helmet.
    AFSC supported the “fish-in” civil disobedience and a challenge in the courts, until the landmark 1974 Boldt Decision upheld tribal fishing rights.
  • Man kneels in a small boat.
    In the 1980s, the Mohawk tribe’s livelihood was decimated by industrial contaminants along the St. Lawrence Seaway. AFSC helped establish an aquaculture project that preserves some fishing in safe waters.
  • Two adults sit with four children.
    In the early 90s, AFSC supported the Sioux Nation against municipal sludge and toxic-waste dumping. Today, family gardens and drip irrigation promote agriculture and health on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
  • Man speaks while seated next to another man who is listening.
    Gerald One Feather, president of the Oglala Lakota at Pine Ridge, worked with AFSC from 1988-2003. He played a key role in reviving Lakota language and traditions.
  • 13 people sit and stand in a canoe.
    The annual Pacific Northwest Tribal Canoe Journey, supported by AFSC, brings elders, youth, and families together to find healing and unity through culture.
  • Young adults participate in an activity where two lines of people, each person holding the one in front of them, walk towards each other.
    In the early 2000s, the Service Committee sponsored several gatherings of tribal youth to encourage shared learning and renew a sense of identity.
  • Two people hold a sign that reads "Wabanaki Idle No More"
    In 2012, indigenous people needed to push back once again against infringement of their sovereignty in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Two girls site next to one another and hold chicks.
    To address food insecurity among Native Americans, we support projects such as this chicken-raising program for children in Maine.
  • Photograph of woman looking at camera.
    The work of Denise Altvater, AFSC staff member, helped establish a truth and reconciliation commission that’s helping to heal deep wounds after decades of Wabanaki children being forced into white foster homes.
  • Colorful mural depicting Native American arts and culture.
    AMERINDA, a Native people’s arts organization, created this mural for AFSC in 2000 to celebrate our support for their goals. The artist, David Bunn Martine, named the work “Peaceful People and the First Nation.”